Sunday, September 18, 2005


Sunday morning and the experience continues. Had my first session of speech therapy on Friday – I'm about where I was with my hearing aids as far as sentence recognition. There's plenty of room for improvement. Right now deep vowels give the most trouble, especially when paired with soft consonants. So, for example, "word" might as well be "herb" or "blerb" but I can tell chicken "shit" from chicken "salad."

Read this weekend an essay by Oliver Sacks on a blind man given the gift of sight after fifty years of cataracts. Sacks makes the point over and over that sight is not what you see. Sight is the brain's ability to make sense of what the retinal nerves are seeing. This point transfers directly over to hearing. Deaf children who are implanted in their first few years have, with training, the ability to hear within normal range. Their brains can learn how to get as much information from the mutterings of 20 or so electrodes as normal hearing people get from 30,000 hair cells. Pretty incredible. On the other hand, deaf children who grow up dependent on sign gain visual acuity far beyond the norm as larger parts of their brains are requisitioned by sight. That's cool too.

The third group, deaf children who grow up in between the two worlds (aka the sortas), tend to be extremely handsome though prone to messiness. Science can't yet explain this.

Anyway, there've been some questions in the comments section and in email so I thought I'd run through them quickly:

Can I hear on the telephony?

Nope. That's still probably a ways off. (A ways is longer then a bit, less then far.)

Does hearing all these new loud noises lead to fatigue?

Yes, but nothing like the fatigue of straining to understand people without hearing aids, so its cool.

Would you ever use this blog to announce that you are single, healthy and have all your hair?


How strong is the implant magnet?

Pretty weak. I tried to stick a variety of refrigerator magnets to my head this morning without any success. The danger with having a strong magnet is that it might pull the implant (the transmitter part not the electrode coil) right out of my skull. Seems like that could be painful, but might be a cool bar trick.

Are you going to get a second implant?

I get this question a lot – I guess it must seem unbalanced to have one ear turned on, the other ear deep asleep. Bilateral implants are getting more and more popular these days, but they are not a huge improvement on having just one implant. You don't hear twice as much with a second implant. To put a number on it, you hear maybe twenty percent more and can locate sounds better. At this point, one implant gives me plenty and I have no desire for a second one. In ten years though, I'm sure science will have come out with a combined implant/GPS system/x-ray vision/garage door opener or maybe even the ability to regrow inner ear hair cells so maybe then…

But ten years…I mean, who knows what direction freedom will have marched by then?

How, if you've never heard a scratchy voice before could you tell that Rebecca has a scratchy voice?

At first, she sounded like she had a bad sore throat. It took a while to figure out what I was hearing when she spoke. When I made the connection, it was obvious. A lot of new sounds over the last week have been like that. I'll hear a noise and then spend five minutes walking around the room trying to figure out what it is. Generally, it's a computer, an a/c or a ceiling fan -- I had no idea these things make so much noise. In its own small way, this is very similar to how infants learn to hear the world.

So how is Sam doing?

Good question. Unfortunately, he's been locked in the bathroom since Thursday so we'll never know.

Thanks again for all your support and interest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Josh

I found your blog via Michael Chorost's website. You really made me laugh about this "comfortable and not too loud" thing. Do you use Auria? I use Auria and have recently been activated on 2nd September 2005 and doing really well. I don't have a blog as not sure how to go about it. I might set up my own website since I'm a software test engineer when I'm not looking after my 9 months old baby.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Josh said...


I'm not sure what you mean by Auria? Is that like auto sensitivity? I'm on a nucleus 24...I'm still trying to expand the dynamic range so I haven't done so much programming yet so far as noise and whisper programs.

5:24 PM  

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