Saturday, November 05, 2005

Home on the Range

Aight, another week gone by. Appreciate your patience. All is good with the implant. In an informal test done by my speech pathologist last Monday, I was up to over 90 percent for random word recognition. Random word recognition means I try to figure out what the speech path is saying while she hides her mouth with a shield – no lipreading is possible.
After the test, I saw my supervisor in the hall.
“I’m at ninety percent on random words,’ I said.
“Soufflé!” he shouted.
“No, you got to cover your mouth.”
He covered his mouth. “Soufflé!”

I instant-messaged Sam the news.
“That’s great,” he said.
“How you doing?”
“I’d be doing better if you hadn’t shocked my brain with your implant.”
“Right. Sorry bout that.”
We talked. He’d just come from a mapping session and other than the no-swapping implants rule, his mapper has a completely different mapping philosophy from my audiologists, Meg and, ahem, Elvis Presley. As I’ve written, Meg and Elvis believe in working to expand the dynamic range a.k.a. increasing the range from the softest sound the brain can hear to the loudest it can withstand. The amount of electrical current the cochlear nerve can handle is constantly pushed larger. The way my implant is programmed now, each setting is a stronger program so that as I outgrow a setting I can boost the range right away.
Sam’s audiologist scoffs at all that.

"She thinks that constantly increasing the dynamic range just increases distortion and discomfort," said Sam.
“K, Elvis can’t be wrong," I said.
“It’s kind of unnerving that they have such different philosophies."
“It is,” I agreed. “You know, they have 7,000 different ways of programming the device.””
“Seven thousand? Where’d you get that number?”
“I made it up.”
“What we’ll do,” said Sam, “is we’ll have Chorost figure it out and then tell us.”
“Good plan.”

It is disconcerting that our audiologists feel so differently. The two of us grew up on the same hearing aids programmed the same way, going to Adele the audiologist at the same time on the same days, having trouble with the same sounds. Now we’re learning to hear in completely different ways. We have the same destination – better hearing -- but we’re taking very different routes to get there – and you can’t help but wonder, which route is best? Is mine ok?

But I get tired of thinking that way. Thing is, the destination isn’t that important, the journey is -- that, and if the rest stops have toilet paper. Yesterday, for example, I was watching The School of Rock with the captions on, and that movie is all growling lyrics over loud music – and with the implant I could pick out the singers’ voices over the instruments – something I could never do before. Now why then, if I get to wake up from a two-hour nap and discover something new like that, should I be worried about what’s missing? For two years I never watched a movie with the sound on because my ears hurt too much, and School of Rock is still a very good movie with the sound off, but it does lose a little something.
Ay then, what’s your complaint?
“The Knicks suck,” said Sam. “I can’t believe I bet you fifty bucks on them.”
“That was dumb,” I agreed.

Also yesterday, I rode up to my parents’ place for dinner with Uncle Mort.
“The world is going to hell,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are everywhere.”
“They are.”
“This administration has enough time to bury this country sixteen times over before they leave.”
“Don’t forget bird flu.”
“I worry.”
“Yes, but I can hold a conversation in the dark in a car. I’ve never done that before.”
Uncle Mort thought for a moment. “Don’t forget the torture.”
I nodded. “I won’t.”

Looking Good Feeling Good My Brothah

In answer to the old age question --What does a magnet stuck to your skull look like? --it looks like a magnet stuck to your skull. Cept from the front, where it is completely invisible. But note the extreme handsomeness.