Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Music

Aight, people have been complaining (you know who you are you people) “Where be the blog? Why not write the blog, J? Bloggie bloggie blog?”

Well, I had my reasons for not writing. Work, school, this book I’ve been revising -- I was afraid of sounding like a broken record also. Afraid of boring y’all. I mean, here I was living in miraculousness, making one astonishing auditory improvement after the next, floored by a world I never would have dreamed possible – a world where a sense is taken away by masked gunmen and then returned unharmed, improved even; a world where loved ones fade to complete silence and then come back into life shimmering with the joy of their resuscitation, and my mind reels like a sugar-addicted child as another and another precious note of the daily symphony – ticking clocks, whispering lovers, creaking floorboards, hissing radiators, groaning refrigerators, clickclacking high heels, and the six hundred different daily delineations of ding – is revealed...all of this, I mean…big deal right? How long before the Daily Show on?

But ma insists I post. So.

Much to cover. I was remapped last Thursday. This time the change in the program was subtle. The main thing we did was tilt the implant’s program, meaning that low frequency sound was made softer and high frequency was made louder. Ninety percent of the sound of language is in low frequency speech – that’s where the vowels are. Ninety percent of the clarity of language is in high frequency – the consonants. Tilting the implant map a.k.a. emphasizing the consonants, has given voices a sharpness that was missing.

“How’s that?” said the audiologist after setting the program. (Sad to say, it was not Michael Jackson. He had been called away by an emergency. Or maybe he was just playing doctor? I apologize.)
“Nice,” I said. “How many different ways can you program this thing?”
“We haven’t even scratched the iceberg.”
”Scratched the iceberg?”
“You could come here every day for a year to reprogram the implant and we wouldn’t come close to running out of programming options.”

Meg, the audiologist, went on to explain that even though I had moved past great jumps to subtle improvements my hearing still had a lot of room to improve. My dynamic range – meaning the range from the lowest sound I could hear to the loudest I could withstand – is now only 30 decibels. Eventually that could be more than doubled. For the normal ear the dynamic range is around 100 decibels. The larger the range, the richer and sharper sound is.

Another nice thing about the implant - it eliminates the lean-in. With hearing aids, you always find yourself leaning forward to catch people’s voices. It becomes second nature, this constantly being bent halfway across the dinner table. Obviously, sometimes leaning in has benefits besides clearer hearing (“I can’t hear you….wait, let me get closer…closer…maybe…maybe your shirt’s in the way?”) but it is hard work. With the implant, the lean-in is obsolete. The implant microphone is strong enough to pick up a ticking clock from 20 feet away and a fridge powering on down the hall. The mental emphasis of hearing changes from making sure I hear what is said to making sure I understand it. That’s a big shift and clears the way for much greater comprehension.

But it doesn’t happen by itself. I need to practice more, to start listening to books on tape. I also need to somehow find more situations where I can lipread less, because that’s like cheating. Though --“Josh, why are you looking out the window?” – it’s probably not a good idea to practice during staff meetings.

It’s not all steady untroubled improvement. Emboldened by my success understanding the movie The History of Violence, I went to see a flick called Serenity, and missed every single line of dialogue. Every actor sounded like a drowning rabbit on crystal meth. There were good guys, bad guys, hyperdrive spaceships and kung-fu acrobatics, but other than that I was lost.

“I’m not sure you’re hearing better yet,” agreed Carl, my roommate, when I told him what happened.
“But you still love me?” I asked.
“Excuse me?”

Then it rained so I couldn’t wear the implant outdoors for a week. Actually, I could have, but I never got around to buying an umbrella. It rained and rained and rained, day after day after day. During the day the rain was like a furious ghost, at night, under the streetlights, it was a forced dance.

Then the clouds parted. The sun shone down. The torn trees were mended. They leaned down and said, listen. I turned on my implant and the symphony continued, right where it had left off.


Blogger Sam said...

Whispering lovers? Hahahaha! What whispering lovers?

3:48 PM  
Blogger Buddy said...

very poetic and very funny -- a wonderful combination

7:15 PM  

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