As many of you know, Wednesday was flip-a-switch activation day. The afternoon was spent testing each of the 22 electrodes in the implant to be sure they worked and then testing my range of soft and high decibel sounds. From that, a Map was created (that’s what they call the programs they put on the implant).
Since my left ear hasn’t heard sound for 30 years, its tolerance range was very narrow. Part of what I’m supposed to do is stretch that range so it can tolerate a bigger range of sound.
I don’t really know how to explain what it sounded like when it first turned on. It was almost like a really loud squeal of noise. Like a one-note loud train, maybe. It did not sound like real “sound.” I could not distinguish words or even tell a voice apart from paper shuffling. They said that was normal.
I’m supposed to wear the implant by itself, without my normal hearing aid on. It’s similar to how you train a lazy eye to see. You put a patch on the good eye and force the lazy eye to work harder and straighten out. By wearing just the implant, the brain is working hard to figure out what all this new sensation is.
Thursday, day two, showed a problem. I wore the implant all day, but that evening I developed what I’m calling “magnet friction.” I don’t know how to really explain it except that the magnet inside my head felt hot. It was heat pain. It made me feel sick and gave me a really bad headache. I took the implant off to recover and emailed my audiologist to see what she suggested.
She actually had me come back in Friday morning and meet with her and the surgeon again. They both checked me out and said nothing appeared wrong physically. They’d never actually heard of my problem before either, but they did not discount it. They said maybe it was nerve over stimulation or something. They also said that it’s really impossible for the magnet to heat up. And it doesn’t contain parts that can melt and spill into my head (whew, that took care of one nightmare, haha).
So, Friday evening I tried wearing the implant for a few hours again. Two hours later I was feeling the same heat pain as previously, and took it off. I should note here, that on activation day, the implant magnet was not sticking to my head well. The implant comes with a #2 magnet, and they went up to a #4 to get it to stick to my head. With this in mind Friday evening, I decided to try my backup processor which still had a #2 magnet in it. It was a little loose, but I have not felt that same heat pain as before. So, I’m feeling much more confident about that, and hoping the headaches lessen more as time goes on.
Now, about the sound itself. After wearing the implant off and on for 5 days now, there’s no noticeable change. It’s all loud noise still. I did do one vocabulary test where someone else reads one of three words on a sheet of paper. Those words could be, for example, BOY, SHORTCUT, and DEMONSTRATION. Even though I can’t discern the actual word that is spoken, I can tell what is being said by the syllables in the word. I hear the electronic pulses that make up the syllable and know what is being said.
That’s something I guess, but so much less than I was hoping for. I realize it takes time, and I’m being impatient and impractical, but I really had hoped that the learning part would go much faster than it has. Ask me again in another month if I still feel this way 😉
For now, I’m just wearing the processor and trying to get my brain to recognize it as intelligent sound. Wish me luck!