Tuesday, February 08, 2005

(The Day After) Hook-Up Day

hook-up day was quite the day, to say the least! when my husband and i showed up at my audiologist's office, another woman working there (i can't remember her name, so we'll call her "Sally") asked me if she could observe. i assumed she was in training or whatever so i say i don't mind if she joins us. now it's hubby, my audiologist, Judy, and "Sally" watching...

the first thing Judy tells me is to take off my right hearing aid (from my unimplanted ear). then she makes me promise not to wear it while i'm getting used to my CI. i was expecting this, but still ask how long i would have to go without it. Judy tells me maybe 2 weeks... it all depends. she says, 'if you don't wear your hearing aid and just practice hearing with your CI, you will make both our lives easier.' i get it... and am prepared (or so i think).

the next thing Judy does is plug the speech processor into her computer so she can hook it up to the programming software. the magnet is attached to my head and the microphone is looped over my ear. then Judy starts programming the first map, which is determined by setting each of the 22 electrodes inside my cochlea. first, she tests the T-levels (threshold) to be loud enough for me to be aware of a sound... and then she tests the C-levels (comfort) so the sound is not too loud as to cause discomfort.

as Judy goes through the T-levels it takes a while b/c my tinnitus is acting up and i am having trouble distinguishing between the beeps from the computer and the beeping in my head. the mapping for the C-levels seems to go by much easier. it was even fun testing how loud i could handle the beeping! even though the tinnitus is annoying, i think i manage just fine. i must mention that during this whole process, i can't hear a THING (except for all beeping), so being able to lip-read Judy is a relief!

as soon as Judy is finished with the map, she says to me, 'okay, i'm going to turn you on now.' earlier, before we started, Sally told me she was amazed at how calm i looked. i explained to her, 'i know what to expect because i've done so much reading and research about it.' she was still surprised that i wasn't more nervous. i then said to her, 'it's all a mask... i'm freaking out inside, actually.' maybe my calm demeanor came from the fact that i thought i knew what to expect, but i definitely was NOT prepared for what i heard when Judy switched the processor on...

it was SOOO squeaky and "squeal-ey" and uncomfortable! i was taken aback at how AWFUL everything sounded. i looked at Judy and simply said, 'I DON'T LIKE IT.' she looked so heartbroken, IMO. i know she wasn't taking it personally, but my reaction was obviously not pleasant. i asked for a tissue and then the tears started to fall. i was crying and crying because i just couldn't STAND the horrible noises i was hearing. my poor husband was holding my hand and telling me something to calm me down, but i obviously wasn't making any sense of it. even the man i married sounded absolutely dreadful...

well, it took me a few moments to realize that the *ghastly* squeaky sounds i was hearing were actually VOICES. Judy and Kathleen (another audiologist who came to observe the "moment of truth") were talking to me... and it sounded TERRIBLE. i honestly hated it. even though i *knew* i wasn't supposed to expect people's voices to sound natural, i definitely didn't expect them to be so DISTURBING! the best way to describe the way everyone sounded was like "Mickey Mouse on speed." i can't think of anything worse than that...it really was NOT a fun sensation.

even though i didn't have my hopes up (or at least i don't think i did), i was not expecting to DISLIKE the sounds i was hearing. i even hated the sound of my OWN voice. imagine hearing yourself talking as if you inhaled too much helium. THAT is what i sounded like to myself. granted, at least i *was* hearing things, even if i didn't necessarily enjoy them, but what made the initial turn-on even more traumatic was the tinnitus. i told Judy that i kept hearing an incessant squealing sound that would not go away. i heard this squealing *on top of* all the squeaky Mickey Mouse voices... it was just icky. well, when Judy turned off the processor to adjust the map, i STILL heard the squealing. Kathleen explained to me that it was my tinnitus i was hearing, and not any other noise from the outside. i was *not* happy about this at all.

well, after i calmed down and let the sound 'wash over me like a wave' (Kathleen's words), i eventually stopped crying. having my husband there with me also helped me calm down. little by little, i was starting to make out some words being said. i did not understand specific words at first, but could discern speech. then Kathleen stood behind me and started talking about the scab on my head from the incision (it hasn't fallen off yet and is really gross). i actually understood Kathleen saying, 'blah blah blah... scab fell off... blah blah blah' and i was SO surprised! even Judy's eyes popped out of her head. i guess that's a good thing, huh?

as i type this, i am at the end of my 2nd day wearing the processor and things are MUCH better. i don't want to skip too far ahead by saying that other voices sound better and that my own voice isn't as awful, either. there is *so much* i am still absorbing... so much i'm still figuring out... so much i am still trying to make sense of... and the adventure has JUST started! at least sounds are making more sense to me today than they did yesterday, so i feel much better.

i'll keep posting more 'CI moments' on here, but right now, it's just TOO overwhelming to include it all in one entry. my ear is very tired - as it should be from a long day of listening - so i must go to sleep...

g'night all!


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