Thursday, September 08, 2005

Good news

Yep, the title ain't lyin. Went in for mapping today and was actually able to withstand enough volume to start the mapping process. Wearing the implant non-stop last week even though it was just a jumble of static got my brain used to the idea of what sound would sound like from here on out. Sound doesn't sound like sound (I like that sentence), but it is something, and it no longer gives me headaches. It's pretty hard to describe. We did the beep boop test and there, in the middle of my brain, appearing like faces in a dream, were beeps and boops.

The thing that was causing my headaches the first week of the implant, close as we can tell, is low frequency sound. Low frequency is where my hearing was worst, so in effect, I'd never heard those sounds before. My brain didn't know what to do with them. I still can't hear them really, it's more like I can feel them. It will take time for my brain to read them as sound.

As Michael the Mapper summed up: "Your brain can't yet understand sound at that level. All these years you haven't heard low frequency sound and you've instead used your body to feel it."
"That's why I can dance so well, baby."
"My name is Michael, not baby."

But this made sense. Deep voices through the implant sort of disappear when I listen to them, they become a physical sensation, not an auditory one.

Right now I'm at the NYU library and the world is astonishingly loud. But Mike has programmed this loudness so it is not causing headaches (knock on wood) and eventually we will be able to slowly increase my tolerance of the sounds that do cause headaches (knock again).

So what does what I'm hearing sound like? Well, voices are still just the idea of voices, but now I can guess how many syllables are in the idea. I got about six or seven out of the ten colors Mike said while covering his mouth. But I wouldn't say I heard them clearly. I heard something, like a long gleep from a spaceship from Alpha Centurion and then I sort of puzzled over it.

"Mike, did you just say white?"

Strange. With a hearing aid, I always felt like I was taking in input from afar, studying it in some antechamber and then bringing it into the living room and taking a guess at what it was. With the implant, the information just pops up out of the fireplace and sits on the couch uninvited.

Another reason I had so much trouble last week was that for the last three years I've rarely worn my hearing aids for more than an hour or two a day. Them things hurt. I'd been taking the implant off every couple hours or so to give my ear a break, but Mike explained why I shouldn't do this.

"Your brain needs to learn to interpret this new information. You need to wear the implant twelve to fifteen hours straight a day."
"Twelve to fifteen hours?"
"What if I'm on the subway?"
"Keep it on."
Then he remarked, "You know, I think part of why you're having trouble adjusting is that you are an amazing lipreader. You're great at it, the best I've ever seen."
"You have a great stick resting in your jeans?"
"That's not what I said."
"Yeah, I know."

I shook his hand then and went outside and walked/rode the thirty blocks to NYU trying to make sense of new stimuli. I could pick out bus brakes pretty quickly, car horns, and elevator dings. I heard the ding when I slid my metrocard through the subway gate. That thing dings? (I think that will be my slogan for the next week). Why does it ding? The light goes on. Sheesh, there's a lot of noise in the world.

When I arrived at the NYU library after my first walk in the new world, a comely young woman with a clipboard came up to me.
"Would you like to give a donation to Greenpeace for cleaner oceans?" she said. Her voice came through the white noise as clear as a yellow comerant landing out of a white cloud. I almost gasped.
"Wow, I've never heard you before," I said and walked inside.


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Blogger UncaJonny said...

I am glad that you are back on schedule and making so much progress. Yes, the world is noisy - the city more so. Up here in the middle of the night,
the primary sound is the chirring of the cicadas - they sound like distant, rhythmic ducks.
As to favorite sentences,
I've always been partial to "What noise annoys an oyster?"

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Blogger rebecca said...

YEAH JOSH! I am so thrilled for you.

though i agree that these people shouldn't be "commenting" on visiting their sites. now that you can hear, you're going to have to learn to consciously ignore. it's a skill. you'll pick it up.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is terrific news, I am so excited for you. How is your little brother doing? (from the other Rebecca in the family)

12:21 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

It's interesting to see someone else describe 'feeling' a sound. I have high frequency loss and sometimes can’t hear a noise but can feel its grating affect – oh, headaches…

8:18 PM  

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