Category Archives: November 12, 2013

Can I hear you now…? Yes I can!

Today was the Big Day; D-Day or Device-Day. Roxanne and I went to the audiologist’s office for our 1:00 PM appointment. I must say, the past couple of day’s I’ve felt rather anxious and excited about getting the device turned on; not knowing what to expect. And this morning I was on pins-and-needles waiting to get the device turned on…

My audiologist, Rosie Christal did a great job today! She first sat me down and communicated with me by typing in very large font on a computer screen on what we were going to do. She explained via computer text to not expect a lot today and that the voices will likely sound like Darth Vader, Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. She then said that time and patience were on my side. I mentioned in my last post that I would go in today with no expectations.

The first step was to snap the external headpiece magnet (Image 1) to the implant magnet located under my skin (Image 2). Some people only require one or two magnets; others require a couple of more. Well in keeping with the “Chris is just not normal” theme, Rosie had to insert five magnets in the headpiece in order for the two magnets to snap together. Why? Apparently I am thick-headed, thick-skinned, or what have you. But having thick hair in that area was not a major factor… Another audiologist, Morgan Hahn, was there to assist. Morgan has done a great job over the years fitting me with the latest hearing aids and helping me keep my sanity. For those of you with hearing problems and are thinking of getting a hearing aid (or two) please talk with your audiologist (this is not an advertisement). Like Morgan and Rosie, I bet they will be able to do magic for you.

Microphone, processor and headpiece

Image 1. External microphone, processor and headpiece


Image 2. Advanced Bionics Implant placed under my skin: small magnet on right; receiver-stimulator on left next to wire that goes to cochlea

My Advanced Bionics cochlear implant device (note thick head)

My Advanced Bionics cochlear implant device (note thick head)

Once the magnets were in place Rosie told me that I was going to spend the next 20 minutes or so calibrating each of the 16 electrodes individually and that I should listen for a beep and let her know when it was very soft, soft, medium, loud or very loud for each electrode. I heard my first beep and it was crystal clear! It was absolutely wild and said as much. We went through all the electrodes with me relaying how loud the beeps were.

Roxanne told me a funny thing on the way home about this part of the testing. During the testing she was talking with Rosie and asked if each of the electrodes was a different pitch and Rosie replied that they were but that they didn’t expect me to be able to distinguish between the pitches. Just after Rosie said this I exclaimed “It’s so cool to hear the different pitches” not knowing that they were just then talking about that very thing!

Next Rosie asked that I compare two pitches and let her know if they were the same or if one pitch was louder than the other. This process was a little more complicated since different pitches sound different anyway and it was difficult to tell which was actually louder.

Finally Rosie said she was going to turn on all 16 electrodes at a low volume and talk to me. She turned the device on and began to talk to me and… I could hear her! Not a mechanical Darth Vader, Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse sound but a female voice, albeit a muffled female voice, like I had cotton in my ears. She continued to talk to me and I heard what she said! she also explained that my ability to lip read also helped me understand what she was saying; which was true. However Morgan, who was standing behind me, started talking and I could hear most of what she said! at this point I exclaimed, “this is really kick ass!” I know I still have a long way to go over the next three months with sound improvement but what I heard today far exceeded my expectations (Oh, wait, I didn’t have any exceptions…).

I also heard Roxanne speak from her chair and the amazing thing was that I could distinguish voices. Rosie had a higher pitched voice while Roxanne’s was a lower pitched one. Being able to distinguish voices and tell whether they are male or female is apparently pretty darn good for the first day.

Rosie then spent some time giving me instructions about the device, the remote control, batteries, battery charger and then programmed the device with 5 settings for use in different environments. I was particularly interested in the remote control. I asked if it was possible to mute individual people. Not possible apparently. I thought I was being funny but Roxanne was not smiling. Now she didn’t think I wanted to mute her did she!?

You need to understand that I am not hearing through my ears but through a computer device with electrodes going to my cochlea that then send signals directly to my brain. Is this not cool? Is this not science fiction made fact?

Great job Rosie!

Great job Rosie!

As I left the clinic I looked around, hearing dings of elevators, humming of traffic, papers ruffling, keys jingling. I felt a little like Rainman with all the stimulus…

Roxanne and I picked up Ethan and went out to dinner (Sushi – sorry girls, next time!). The most wonderful thing happened at the restaurant tonight. Ethan and I were talking about movies and he mentioned that he and a friend just saw “Ender’s Game.” We talked for a while and he proceeded to tell me about the movie and how it compared to the book, etc. He then paused, looked at me and said, “Dad, do you know this is the longest I’ve talked with you at one time in over a year without having to repeat myself?”

Tomorrow morning Roxanne and I go back to see Rosie for more fine tuning. I’m signing off now so I can talk with Roxanne and hear what she has to say!