Sunday, September 04, 2005

Turn on, turn off, wax on, wax off

Greetings, my partners in the great American crime.

Haven't felt up to blogging this last week, as I got caught up in the decline of our civilization, forgetting that this decline has been ongoing pretty much since the civilization's started. I mean that what rises must fall with the notable exception of certain greenhouse gasses. Still, these are strange days. I'm finding watching hours of US Open tennis is a good respite from the news, though I recommend changing the channel when they ask the players what they think of what's happening outside the baseline.

"What do you think of this tragedy?"
"Me hit ball."
"Excuse me?"
"Uh, me hit ball hard? Yes?"

Strangely enough, President Bush said the same thing at a news conference last week. But probably best not to go there...So, keeping in mind that in the grand scope of things this bionic blog isn't worth a hill of beans, and I don't much like beans unless they're doused with hot sauce – it still is my hill, and, more importantly, ma insists, so I will continue…

Thursday I was turned on. The implant was powered up and we started testing the boops and the beeps, at which point I keeled face forward onto the audiologist desk. Becky was there filming, she can attest to this – the new stimulus instantly brought on vertigo and headaches. This subsided somewhat and after a couple of hours I left the office with the implant set very low and not mapped at all. Not mapped meaning that the settings weren't individualized for me because I couldn't withstand enough sound to do that. Now three days and one more mapping session later, I am still on the same page pretty much – the device can't be programmed because I can't withstand enough sound.

So the first step of learning to hear with the implant will be a slow one of learning to withstand sound, which I am doing by wearing the implant at a louder volume each day. I feel I've made some progress on this point, but can't really tell yet. It's tough work, sorta like playing chicken with my head: seeing how far I can go before it hurts. I notice that this isn't so different from working through a six-pack so I might look into combining the two. There is the small possibility that I won't be able to withstand louder sounds despite all these efforts, in which case y'all just have to like me for my looks.

I have time on my side as well as well-paid doctors and a compassionate and skilled camera crew, so I do feel that I should be able to adjust eventually and begin to wear the implants without headaches. Once I reach that point, we can being mapping to improve the sound quality. Right now everything sounds a little like the noise from outer space that scientists in sci-fi movies are trying to decipher. ("Their coming! You hear that?" "That's the microwave. Your burrito's ready.") Still, despite the slow start, when I have the implant on a couple sounds are coming through more cleanly then I've ever heard them before: my fingers hitting the keyboard for one, 'sh' and 's' sounds, and the heavy hush of a loud exhalation. The noise that I do hear is also evolving pretty rapidly – my brain makes more sense of it every day; so that every day more things are like I remember. Water in the sink for example now sounds like water in the sink, not a TV on a dead channel. Voices are still just the idea of voices at this point, not even close to being discernable. Again,it will take time and mapping to get them to where they make sense, at which point I will have to adjust all over again to the sad fact that no one really has anything interesting to say.

For diversion, I went to the US Open yesterday and saw about 50 six foot blonde and tan Russian teenager amazons run around and sweat in their underwear. I recommend it. Also paid about six bucks for an ice-cream bar, but that's par for the course. Saw some amazing tennis matches though I have to say I wonder about the legitimacy of a sport where the best player in the world would be solidly beaten by a wall.

My next mapping will be this Thursday instead of in two weeks, as the audiologist and I are eager to see if the sensitivity will have faded enough to begin programming. I promise to be more prompt with my updates, though when the news isn't good, it occasionally tends to be bad. But freedom's on the march.

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