January-June 2003

 

Wednesday, 8th January 2003
Hi, you are now in Deepa's section... from tomorrow, I will truly be Bionic Deepa when I get switched on after the past one month of healing period since my surgery on 4th December 2002. If you don't know what I am talking about, you can visit the implant section and surgery page for a proper explanation. Otherwise, read on for the latest updates about my pre-lingual experiment with bionic hearing.

 

 

Saturday, 14 June 2003
I was to listen to sentences related to four words put in front of me - Blueberries, Newspaper, Umbrella, and Ice-Cream. And while Joy, my pathologist was saying a string of words (behind a sheet of paper over her mouth to prevent me from lip-reading, thus forcing me to hear to comprehending the words)... I heard the wording 'Summer' on my own! She was saying "You use this fruit to eat in Summer". Then, she went on to try an Open-Set game of common sentences i.e. Goodbye, What is your name, etc. For instance, when she said "What time is it?" I guessed (or heard) "What", "is", "it" from it except "Time".

Tuesday, 20 May 2003
Funnily, I automatically track-read captions while watching The Matrix Reloaded film... patternly matching sounds to words. Yes, finally I now have an access to the latest and more importantly, mainstreamed films... whew!

Monday, 12 May 2003
It is amazing to able to listen to audio-books while on the public transport without disturbing other passengers! My portable CD-player is simply plugged directly to my speech-processor. I track-read for almost an hour from San Francisco to San Rafael which would have been an otherwise a boring journey. I am currently reading (or really listening) 'The Coalwood Way' by Homer Hickam... an unabridged audio-book performed by Frank Muller. It's fantastic having an easy access to local public library's pretty good collection of unabridged audio-books - yes, WITH books.

Thursday, 8 May 2003
After track-reading 'The Gingerbread Man' once, I then listened again with my eyes closed... and again recognized "I ran from the woman. I ran from the man. I'll run from you. See if you can!" After all, it is the most repetitive phrase in the book.

Wednesday, 7 May 2003
Yesterday, as I was track-reading The New New Thing by Michael Lewis... I experimented with Sensitivity settings on my word-processor with 3 different programs. Last Saturday during the audio-therapy with Joy, I noticed that when I widen the sensitivity range, the words were less clear. What I am not sure if it is just the unfamiliarity because I haven't sufficiently listened to Spoken words on a wide setting. So I'm planning to track-read with the widest sensitivity this week, before I make a conclusion...

An hour later... I just finished track-reading cassette no.4, side 1. A very enjoyable story. On the widest sensitivity setting, I noticed the differences where I am hearing more 'syllables' - to my surprise because the overall tracking did sounded harder. Let's wait and see... by the way I have been listening with hearing-aid on too, since last week.

Wednesday, 30 April 2003
One hour later, of track-reading cassette 2, side 2... if there is no visual text in front of me, then no I wouldn't recognize the words. I am mostly hearing incomplete sounds even from a single word i.e. 'sh', 'st', 'c', etc. Mainly consonant sounds which is by the way totally absent from hearing-aids.

Tuesday, 29 April 2003
Although I had already track-read the first cassette of six audio-cassettes unabridged recording of the book The New New Thing, by Michael Lewis a couple of weeks ago... I lost my confidence of where to start reading with cassette no.2 so I went back to the very beginning of the book. Three hours later after listening to one and half cassettes, I learnt how to get back on the track whenever I get lost. You see, there tend to be a slight pause for every paragraph ;-) Yes, I cannot yet discriminate the wordings but have instead gained immense confidence in track-reading such an adult book by myself.

Monday, 28 April 2003
Phil wonders if my hearing skills will be quicker in an unknown foreign language where I am not able to apply my lipreading skill. You see I am not using my newly gained hearing with my english-speaking friends where I lapsed into lip-reading mode. In other words, is it possible that I'll learn to comprehend foreign language faster than spoken English? Nevertheless, it does sounds a good reason to move to an exotic foreign land for a few months :-)

Sunday, 27 April 2003
Friends are commenting on my speech improving to the point that they can understand me better - so the implant seems to benefit others in understanding me :-)

Saturday, 19 April 2003
After track-reading 'The Gingerbread Man' thrice in a row, I then listened to the audio-tape with my eyes closed to check what words I have comprehended. To my surprise, I got the wording 'Gingerbread Man' only once even though it was continuously repeated throughout the story. But I was thrilled to recognize "I ran from the woman. I ran from the man. I'll run from you. See if you can!" that came up four times as heard. Track-reading seems to be a good exercise after all - to memorizing spoken words while aided by its graphic representations (decoding). Fox's deep voice is pretty recognizable although not yet the wordings :-) If any words are in a 'sing-song' tone I cannot comprehend, even with tracking.

"Reading appears to be effortless to the skilled reader only because the word recognition component of the reading process has become automatic to the point where there is no overt awareness of the complexity of the behavior which is occurring - where we are able, quickly and accurately, to recognise individual letters and spelling patterns and to translate them into words with apparent ease." Similarly with the skilled listener...

Thursday, 14 April 2003
6:30 sounded beautiful when I spoke to Phil last evening on the phone for the time to picking him up. Otherwise I'm not enjoying the chaotic and senseless sounds... except for laughter. That reminds me of Mellröm's recent reply how he found himself laughing on reading of my laughing response to my own first laughing sounds on the first day of my Switch-on. Laughter is surely infectious!

2:50pm
Sharonne, Phil & Alison... thank you for the birdie walk. My sense of sound is so heightened that I am unfortunately hearing nasty traffic noise now that I'm back home. The noise is so incessant that it is overdominating my sweetly soft memories of the sounds heard during the walk. Although I just observed that I can't yet discriminate between man-made and natural sounds, I'm realizing the differences by length of the sound heard i.e. during the walk, the sounds are flowing up and down with moments of spontaneous silence whereas here, the sounds are with incessant force and therefore unpleasant. Anyway, during the walk I learnt to hear red-winged bird's clicking song. The bay-water gulping and swooshing the rocks back and forth is soothing with crispy leaves dittering. I'd much prefer those sounds than what I'm hearing right now, that I'm tempted to turn my speech-processor off now... goodbye.

sunset
While walking with Phil on Fourth Street towards Farmers' Market, the familiar high-pitched sound reminded me of the tiny bird's singing I had heard the other day at Albany... and it was and many of them were singing. I don't know the name of the bird, but I'm pretty sure they're sparrows... so tiny and so vocal.

Saturday, 12 April 2003
Today, I am a 3-month old hearing baby - learning English spoken language from stratch. It doesn't matter how fluent I am, spoken and written languages are like night and day. Learning a new language at an adult age is incredibly hard as many of you who currently attends a foreign language class can imagine. A well-known example is of Japanese- or Chinese-speaking adults having trouble discriminating the 'l' and the 'r'. The reason why adults have so much trouble with these foreign contrasts is that they do not need them in their own language. Therefore they kind of learn not to pay attention to differences that are not relevant for understanding their native language. I also have that unconscious denial. "Speakers generally do not mark the boundaries between words the way that we mark boundaries with spaces in written language. Instead, words are connected in spoken language, they flow from one into the next without breaks or pauses" - What Babies Know about Language presentation from Lund University shows how complex speech perception is. "There are a lot of spoken words that hardly ever used in isolation, for example the articles 'the' and 'a', or prepositions like 'to' and 'for', and so on." The other day Joy, my speech-language pathologist had forgotten to warn me to listen to 'the' too while instructing what I am to listen for while she says aloud "Turn over..." and "Point to..." with the following words i.e. apple, pear, bananas :-) Likewise, such article and preposition words tends to be missing in my written English as you may have noticed on this page. By the way, my current speech processor provide no explicit representation of pitch, periodicity and aperiodicity which are regarded as important cues for the perception of speech.

Thursday, 10 April 2003
A Fire engulfed a Russian boarding school for deaf children, killing 28 children, many while they slept in their beds - Channel 4 news. "The children are deaf and they couldn't hear the noise," Anzhela Martirosova, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman in Makhachkala, said. What a SHAME that they had used the wrong alarm for alerting deaf people... why were Bed-Vibrators not installed? Even though I now have an implant to hearing, I am still deaf while asleep. No, I don't take my speech-processor to bed - mainly to allow good blood circulation in the area where the head-piece magnetically 'pinched' my skin during the daytime's use... and of course, to have a sweet sleep! You see, there is another magnet underneath the skin to attract the magnet inside of a decorated headpiece worn outside. Magnetic force through about 5 mm of skin allows the headpiece to remain in place.

Wednesday, 9 April 2003
I am very shocked to know that such a tiny red-breasted bird perched on the telephone pole wire was the one that sang so loudly.

Tuesday, 8 April 2003
As I was about to leave the apartment, there was a loud screeching noise which I promptly ignored until it became too persisted for my liking... it was my paging watch beeping and it was Phil warning me of the change of plans. From this experience, I realize that I'm ignoring of what could be relevant sounds and even denying taking in sounds of my own voice. Subconsciously I don't want to hear my own voice with incorrect pronunciations. When I was a little girl, I used to wonder if mummy ever worry about Pooja, my sister who is six years younger picking up my pronunciations, or in other words Deepa's English accent! Even though my mother's tongue is Hindi, I don't know the language but Pooja was bilingually brought up in English and Hindi. You see, my parents had the impression that it is difficult for Deaf people to learn more than one language so they deliberated between their Indian language, Hindi and English, the universal language for possible further studies and work. But when I visited Finland a few years ago... Finnish Deaf people knows Finnish Sign Language, Finnish, Swedish and English.

In yesterday's sign langauge class (yes, I still wear the implant), I felt a momentarily annoyance on hearing Kristen's cell-phone ringing in the middle of the class but then felt amused by the thought that I'm now hearing what Phil and many others get irritated about. Later during the break, I promptly turned around when I heard a noisy metallic packet of crisps (British word for chips)... what a yummy sound.

Monday, 7 April 2003
My American friends Michele and Jamie have superbly described Mumbai (originally called Bombay) lifestyle where I lived from May 1978 to September 1991. So they did experienced the suffocatingly train journey which I used to commute for three years during college and working days.

Sunday, 6 April 2003
For the first time I am able to separate music sounds from spoken speech sounds at Cam's birthday party on Friday, to my fascination. It is something that I have never been able to experience with my digital hearing-aids where the party noises are always muffled to 'one' noise.

Friday, 4 April 2003 (Daddy's 70th birthday)
As I type, I want to turn off my implant which I tend to do when I am typing... but will keep it on this time otherwise it seems unfair to express my thoughts here. Yes, I missed the Fed-Ex home-delivery again, couple of days ago. You see, why should I hear meaningless noises such as traffic, fridge, computer, etc. and worse than that, I can't identify the sounds. Of course, I am hearing everything but what do these sounds represented? I bet if you visit a foreign country or watch a foreign film, you will also not figure out what those spoken sounds means even if you can hear everything. To hear almost always means an understanding of what is being said for communication... with a three-month old incomprehensive hearing, how can I be so thrilled to hear today? If you suddenly lose your hearing today, it is usually regarded as a disaster thinking then how to communicate... aah, help! But you are forgetting that I have been deaf for the past thirty four years since birth...

The past one month has been a period of pessimism for me, which is really not surprising as we did know that the first three months tends to be the most frustrating period. On top of it, my 'puffy' skin just underneath my right eye recently palpitated madly that to my fright, I avoided wearing my speech processor for three days. Phil thought that I was just tired as it was palpitating even when switched off. He also had a similar experience himself a while ago on the corner of eye for a month until he changed the resolution of the monitor to bigger size for a better viewing while working on the computer. I simply slept for more hours and even napped in the afternoons... now I'm back to normal, whew! I just have to remember to be more gentle with myself now that I'm older :-) Also it might be that I was stressed subconsciously.

Recently, we had a first Pre-lingual Bay Area Adult Cochlear Implant Support Group thankfully hosted by Mark, in the city where around thirty Prelingual CI users turned up! I didn't realized there were that many living in Bay Area. It was greatly useful meeting them for exchanging tips on how to improve hearing.

With enthusiasm, I then visited my local library going straight to the children's session for their audio-books. It is funny taking a baby book home to read. But it was immensely enjoyable listening to Caps for Sale that I wanted to hear it again and again. No wonder, children never tires of hearing the same bedtime story again and again! I think it is the limited auditory database that makes us enjoy hearing the same word again and again. In the meantime, Phil mail-ordered an unabridged book The New, New Thing - A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis. I am eagerly waiting to track-reading it... an excellent exercise for hearing patterns in spoken language. In fact there are some great sites on-line too... have a look at these funny pages especially for those of you who knows what Phil eats for breakfast and the amount eaten in one go!

On Wednesday Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind came on KQED (yes, we can now watch two or three channels with the help of an indoor satellite thoughtfully lent by Dave). I love hearing her music with emotionally beautiful words. To my surprise, I'm finally enjoying music and when driving I must have it on. So the brain did worked - opening up and welcoming sounds especially after hearing Phil's recent experience... "I was just overhearing Trish talking and I realized I could hear her Canadian accent. A Canadian says 'about' so it sounds a bit like 'aboot'. When I first got here, I could hear no difference between USA and Canadian so after two years, my brain is now starting to pick it up."

12:25pm
I had a nasty experience just now with Phil and Alison who played an unpleasant gag on me. I thought I was talking to Phil on the text-phone properly known as TTY and all that time it was Alison whom I was talking to... what an unpleasant experience to be talking intimately to someone else thinking it was Phil. Although I gradually became aware that it can't be Phil on the other end, I hadn't sufficient evidences with the words she was using. I warned Phil towards the end of the phone-conversation that it is a very dangerous game and anyway who fancy being in this situation? By the way, with the implant I cannot even recognize Phil's voice on the phone, neither can tell if it is a man or woman on the line. The other day after my sign language class when I went to pick up Phil from work on the way... for the first time I genuinely felt the value of having an implant when my battery went flat and being worried about using the intercom for letting Phil know that I have arrived. Anyway I intercom Phil twice saying something to it but apparently he didn't get those two messages! Did I dialed the wrong number or did I not wait long enough to start speaking?

Thursday, 31 March 2003
Mentioned in The Herald-Dispatch, Sign language helps develop babies' communication skills... "Mastering spoken language is a complex skill requiring the maturity of some 200 muscles in the face and throat". No wonder my communication skills was poorly underdeveloped, being denied a natural language to communicate with while growing up. I don't remember having conversations during my school-days. But I don't blame my hearing parents after all, they did try their best to bring me up the way they think is the right way. Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, many of whom have never known a deaf person. The only time parents make the wrong choices is when they don't have all the information.

Wednesday, 19 March 2003
Ella, my ASL teacher and I had an interesting chat after the class... she is also deaf from birth but with a totally different upbringing. She with deaf parents and me with hearing parents. She in Deaf schools and me in Hearing schools. How I wish she was around when I was born to have influenced my parents - to have me brought up in the medium of Sign Language or at least bi-lingually in both languages, Sign Language and English. You see, my parents having had no Deaf experiences themselves unfortunately consulted ONLY Hearing people on how to bring me up! I suppose in those days it must have been very difficult to find Deaf role-models, especially in India. Also I am pretty sure that in those days there were no Deaf teachers available to communicate visually to Deaf children. No wonder I was so ashamed of my deafness, having had no Deaf idol to take inspiration from. Consequently I had no awareness on how to exercise my rights - the right to equal information, the right to know what is being said in my presence, the right to have interpreter or even a note-taker if I cannot understand what is being said, etc. Imagine me in those days during schools and colleges where I enormously missed out what teachers were teaching. The teachers who have never been deaf themselves, how could they know how to teach me or any other deaf child visually rather than vocally? Imagine having a teacher that doesn't speak your language or even experienced your culture! I would have been better off in a Deaf school like Ella's. Yes it may mean being a different person today. I also would have had friends to chat with if I were in Deaf schools. Although I did have nice friends during my childhood, language barrier prevented the closeness. Where there is a language, there is a culture. There is a rich and beautiful Deaf culture out there in the world which I had absolutely no idea throughout until aged 25 years old... pathetic! Although I had a loving upbringing with excellent self-esteem towards myself, I have always felt different even from my own parents. I had always felt that I am an alien from another planet even while mingling with my hearing family and hearing friends... until Phil introduced me to a Deaf Club in London. Then, why did I go for an implant recently? As I said earlier, if I was brought up in Deaf culture having deaf family and deaf friends, then maybe I wouldn't have the need to hear. Cochlear Implant technology only recently opened up for prelingually deaf adult people - the ones born deaf before language acquirement. Based on my existing experience with the implant, I would strongly recommend intensive audio-therapy for comprehending Spoken language. It is an incredibly slow process that requires time and effort, just like Speech Therapy I underwent for many years since aged 6 years old.

By the way, British Sign Language finally won recognition... The Guardian

Monday, 10 March 2003
At the Post-Office, I was not understood what I wanted so I was looking for a paper and pen to write down the word. But then I heard her saying "Receipt" while I was still searching inside my purse and I promptly responded "Yes"!

Tuesday, 4 March 2003
Earlier this morning, I was trying to lip-read Phil naming a feature film and unconsciously realized that I correctly got the word 'Scooby' when I heard "sc..."

Monday, 24 February 2003
My first cellphone call... I was surprised by the good quality of the sound coming through as I had had the impression that mobile phones sounds are inferior. Last night, I played a phone-game with my parents with the following words - email, ice-cream, good-bye, Deepa, music and website. They were so thrilled to hear me responding correctly most of the time :-) Mummy then said "I love you" but I didn't recognize that sentence. Even Jing Jing had tried that last month... so you can guess that Phil has not yet trained me that one! Talking of it, I must say Japanese film 'I Love You' (2000) co-directed by a Deaf artist, Akihiro Yonaiyama is a superb film and wish you could all see it! I saw it on Saturday during Berkeley's Deaf Film Festival.


Monday, 17 February 2003
I still have the metallic taste on one side... what amaze me is that this sensation takes place so symmetrically - imagine drinking beer! Now for the Audio Rehabilitation update: Last night Phil tested me five two-syllable words - woman, ocean, velvet, picture and color by adding beginning sentences either "Turn over..." or "Point to...". This is to exercise hearing two things at the same time. Eventually I got them 100% correct after an hour of repetition.

Saturday, 15 February 2003
My second mappings took place on Monday, Feb 10th... words sounds different, so different that I couldn't no longer understand Phil on the phone for the time to pick him up. Most probably due to lack of practice whole week, oops. On a brighter note, I can now hear the high-frequency beeps coming from my paging watch and Fastrak's electronic toll collection whenever I whisk through the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge from Berkeley.

Saturday, 9 February 2003
When our friends came over for a visit, we played a funny game where I am to guess who spoke - Jing Jing, Sandeep or Phil. I could not tell the difference between Jing Jing's Chinese-accented voice and Phil's British-accented voice! But I must say Sandeep's voice is so sexy - that I almost got all his words correctly :-)

Thursday, 6 February 2003
As I was getting out of my car at my local Farmers' Market, I was puzzled by the loud beeping alarm... it was my headlights that were somehow switched on by mistake. You see, I've had the same incident few months ago and my battery went flat. So finally the implant was worth it :-)

Wednesday, 5 February 2003
Lip-reading is so different from hearing in comprehending spoken words that I need to block out visually while listening... after all written English is my first language. It sounds weird learning backwards comprehending spoken English. By the way I unconsciously heard 2 more new words... it was Phil swearing :-)

Tuesday, 4 February 2003
I recognized the pattern "Happy Birthday" Pooja saying to Phil on the phone. What a great rhythm and so clear too!

Monday, 3 February 2003
I was testing myself 2-word syllables and got confused when an unpredicted sound came up... it was the doorbell :-) It surely sounds so different from the hearing-aids - softer and deeper.

Friday, 31 January 2003
I unconsciously repeated the words "What time is it?" on hearing Phil saying it and that without warning... my first true hearing! Yes, thanks to yesterday's exercises with daily-used phrases.

Tuesday, 28 January 2003
Phil phoned me... also without warning that I wasn't sure whether it was him until the phone rang persistently and continuously. He said a word which I couldn't understand so he proceed to make me hear individual sounds 'ee' 'mm' and 'la-la' which I had already learnt. Thereafter joining these sounds together, I got the wording 'email'... to check my e-mail! :-)

Sunday, 26th January 2003
What am I hearing these days? I am now able to differentiate between AH, EE, OO and MM 90% of the time - the most fundamental sounds of spoken language. This was actually my first homework assignment from my weekly Aural Rehabilitation therapy I am having with Joy Murdock. Phil first recorded himself saying AH, EE, OO, SS, SH, MM and some single syllable words to the Mac where I would then shuffle them in iTunes and test myself during the day. I get a particular thrill when I am picking out alphabetical sounds of people's spoken words. 'S' and 'Sh' are still my favorites these days as they sound so distinctive compared to other consonants.

I can also now identify five different 2-syllable words in a field 60% of the time but when I go beyond five words, it became difficult to comprehend the differences for instance... popcorn, baseball, rainbow, mailbox, flashlight and french fries. Having already been through extensive speech therapy for more than ten years learning to speak, I am aware how slow the process will be to hear. Apparently it takes 9 to 18 months for babies to have an auditory understanding of 10 to 25 words. As an adult, it will take my already developed brain a long time (years) to soak up new information as compared to growing baby with developing brain.

The more practice, the more words my brain will comprehend... currently with a fortnight old 'ear' it is a strenuous effort stringing sounds into recognizable words (I think even more strenuous than weightlifting!). For instance, it took me over an hour to comprehend the sentence "What time is it?" purely by sounds with no lip-reading or even visual clues. The next day's sentence "Turn on the light" took the same amount of time.

Anyway, hearing Sentences is actually too advanced for me, my audio-therapist pointed out in yesterday's aural rehabilitation. Instead I am to just focus on understanding the rhythm in sentences and even songs, my current homework for this week. Otherwise during the weekends whenever we are driving, Phil would point at car, bird, ship, light... saying the words repetitively like how one would with a little kid teaching new words! :-)

Hearing voices on the phone is simply unbelievable - something which I never dreamt would happen to me. It's thrilling to hear Phil and Pooja laughing. Of course, you cannot yet have a phone conversation with me unless you fancy counting the numbers from one to ten or answering my questions with either 'Yes' or 'No'. On Thursday, I phoned Phil at work to get the time to pick him up but ended up calling three times to make sure "6:30" was the time he said - much to the amusement of his work colleagues. You see, he doesn't usually leave work before 7:00 anyway I did correctly hear the first time but it's just hard to believe that I could be right.


I recently received my first ever hearing gifts... CDs but for the first time in my life I am not enjoying music! I can no longer comprehend the emotions I used to experience with my hearing aids. My first hearing gift 'Van Halen' from Francois was an awful experience hearing just noises and then I came to learn that it was recorded live! Jamie was stunned to hear that I am not enjoying his Frank Sinatra: The Best of the Capitol Years CD, my second hearing gift. Yeah, I wasn't surprised at all and actually expected music to be unpleasant after the implant based on what I had heard from others.

I must say environmental sounds are much more irritating and louder than I am used to - especially when unable to identify the source of the noise. Computer and fridge fan sounds are so unpleasant that I have to switch off for sometime during the daytime (thereby missing a parcel-delivery on Friday - oops!) Sizzling meat on a grill really surprised me with its loudness I thought the extraction fan was on! Brown paper bags are even louder. I do like the noises of jangling keys, paper moving across the table and pouring lentils to a bowl to be soaked.

I also had a personal objective - to hear the difference between Deepa and Teabag because Deepa and Teabag lip-read the same (go and check for yourself in the mirror) and hearing both words also sounded the same with my hearing aids. D and T are actually pretty hard to separate. It took about a week before I was really able to hear the Tss which separates the words but now I can get it right 90% of the time. And so I am now : bionicdeepa@captain3d.com

Tuesday, 14th January 2003
Last night, Phil and I had our first bedtime conversation in darkness. We simply carried on the game of 'yes' and 'no' and even added 'correct' and 'wrong' to it. And then, he replied "maybe" which was not included and I heard it by myself - to our excitement. Wow... which I thought I'd never experience ever! Then, this morning I phoned Phil at his work and on hearing his laugher, I carried on the same game but he replied "don't know" which I understood as well. Fantastic!

Sunday evening, 12th January 2003
We have been decorating my headpieces...



Phil here... we have been driving around a lot today and playing listening games like I point at a road sign that has some words like "Speed 55 mph," etc. and I say one of the words and Deepa has to try to guess which one. She is not allowed to lip-read. 'S' and 'Sh' are her best new sounds and we were working on those. Then we passed a shop called 'Fresh Choice' which is a good one because the first word has 'Sh' at the end and the second word has 'S' at the end so quite hard. I was repeating them in different ways until Deepa was hearing them really well and getting it right most of the time. Then as a trick I said the word 'stop'. We had worked on that word earlier but I had not said it for about 5 mins and gave her no clue I was changing from 'Fresh' or 'Choice'. She looked a bit confused as it was not 'Fresh' or 'Choice'. I told her to listen and try and make the same sounds as me..ssstttop. She made the sound herself and said the word 'ssstttop' and asked if I had said stop. That is the first word she has really heard.

Sunday morning, 12th January 2003
The past 3 days of programming, aural rehabilitation, Phil's experiments and not to mention hearing new sounds left me exhausted... so tired that I felt miserable last night but this morning I am feeling much better after eight hours of sleep - whew! I was actually ordered by Phil not to get out of bed less than eight hours.

My Switch-on took three hours on Thursday with more programming on Friday afternoon. To start, my audiologist connected my headpiece to the computer for initial programming. She went through each electrode to check they were working - they are. And then I had to listen for the very quietest sound on each electrode. This is called Threshold. I am not aware of the electrodes, just very quiet sounds that are lower pitch or higher pitch. Next we went through the electrodes again one by one setting the same tones to a comfortable level of volume. This is the basis of all mapping to get a range of stimulation for each electrode from quiet to loud.



I was surprised to be hearing tones at all as many pre-linguals only experience sensations like feeling instead of sound at first so this was the first good news. Starting with the low frequencies, I could hear the beeps and it was a nice sound, not harsh. As we went up to the higher frequencies (above 2000 Hz) beyond where my natural hearing (with hearing-aid) could hear they did become sensations. My brain had never experienced these and did not know what to do with them. But I noticed about an hour later everything had become sound but I don't know when exactly.



So what did I actually heard during my switch-on moment? I must say at first I was disorientated not knowing where the sounds were coming from... and then I realized that they were just Colleen my audiologist's and Phil's voices. I then asked them what is the noise but neither of them were saying anything... "Oh! Am I talking?" it was my voice this time. It was spooky hearing voices separated from human beings as if my hearing was out of focus, misplacing the sounds from the objects. It seemed to only take a few minutes before voices attached to the person, but it was a strange start.

After the initial surprises we worked to improve the sound quality to hear differences between sounds like 'sssssss' and 'ssssssshh'. It was difficult trying to decide if one setting was better than another as I had never heard these sounds before. We did it by testing if I could hear any difference between two sounds and if not, try something else. It was also pretty stressful to describe what I am hearing to my audiologist... it's like describing your stomachache to your doctor :-)

When we had finished, I had 3 different software maps using the CIS speech strategy. Each map has different volumes set to the 8 electrodes used and they are downloaded to my personal speech processor that looks like a pager. Each electrode fires when a sound is heard within its frequency range. In a few months' time my processor will be reprogrammed with the latest software that uses all 16 electrodes.



Once the headpiece is in place (magnetically fixed to the receiver below the skin), sound is sent through a wire to the speech processor. The speech processor converts the sound into a digital signal that is sent back up the wire to the transmitter. The transmitter then sends the information across the skin to the receiver/stimulator, which in turn sends the signal to the electrode array in the cochlea.  The auditory nerve is stimulated by the pulses and the information is sent to the brain and interpreted as sound.  As I, or my brain to be precise becomes more accustomed to new sounds, I will want to fine-tune the tones further in the next programming session... next month. On the second day of mapping we added an MPS map (which fires 2 electrodes at a time compared to sequentially).

Now for the exciting bit of what I have been hearing for the past 3 days... at first, I wasn't happy hearing sounds when switched-on after one whole month of blissful silence. But later on, after playing 'sound' games with Phil at home until 3:00 in the morning, I love sounds! The water gushing from the kitchen tap is surely loud, to my great surprise. I laughed and laughed even more on hearing my laughter :-) I even heard Pooja, my sister saying 'yes' and 'no' on the phone internationally! Of course, it is more of guessing by the length of the wording rather than the actual alphabetical sounds, but the fact remains that I could hear the sounds coming clearly across the phone which I have never experienced before and thought never ever. Then, Phil enthusiastically went out to the local phone-box to test me further with more 'yes' and 'no' game and I actually recognized one new word without any clues when he replied 'okay' instead - great! So, it is with great relief I was able to tell my audiologist the next day, that I love sounds as I was conscious that I wasn't 'grateful' or even happy hearing sounds when she first switched me on :-)

On Friday night, I listened to my first film with the cochlear implant - a superb film "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". It was interesting to notice that I simply experienced having a 'powerful' hearing-aid, meaning the sounds are still unintelligible... not even spotting 'sh' or 's', my new sounds. Last night as we were doing word exercises using 's', Phil interestingly noticed that even though I could hear 'sssssssss' by itself very clearly, the moment he uses it in the wording 'Ross', I couldn't hear it. So, it seems that my brain is ignoring the new, unfamiliar sound! It just shows how important it is to train myself with small steps to start with, just like our weight-training strategy starting with smallest weights and adding heavier weight each week. My audio therapist also said during yesterday's first aural rehabilitation, I need to start again hearing from scratch taking baby steps, having never heard spoken language. As some of you noticed, I hardly used 's' whenever I speak. No wonder I now don't like my own voice and also realizing for the first time, that Phil had been hearing my awful voice for many years! I was even surprised to hear my own sniffing and that it is not too pleasant a sound. Oops!

Thursday, 9th January 2003
I can hear! :-) I can now hear sounds 'sh', 's' and 'm' which I hadn't heard before... but of course, too early to discriminate sounds. It will take some time for my brain to make sense of new sounds so for the time being, the noises are unintelligible. Overall, the sounds are crisper as if it has more information i.e. earlier I had turned the tap on and was surprised by the sound of it... unusual and loud. I will stop for now so that I can upload this news and will add more observations after tomorrow's further mapping with my audiologist.

Wednesday, 8th January 2003
Year 2003 will be an interesting year when I get switched on tomorrow, after the past one month of healing period. Phil and I are obviously excited but at the same time, preparing for an unpleasant and frustrating first three to six months. It may be years away from useful speech recognition. Music may also not be enjoyable - in fact, I may want to use my hearing-aid on my spare ear to enjoy music which I do.

I will be programmed via the computer which will be connected to my implanted 16-electrode array. Using mapping software, my audiologist will activate each electrode one at a time, customizing my external speech-processor with two or three program sets to hear specific frequencies. The human ear responds to frequencies between the very low pitch sound of 20 Hz to the very high pitch sound of 20,000 Hz. An example of low frequency speech sounds would be the vowel sounds such as: a, e, i, o, and u. An example of high frequency speech sounds would be the consonant sounds such as: f, s, and sh. The frequency range most important for speech is 500 Hz to 4000 Hz. This is the very range I have a profound hearing loss from birth. As you can see from my audiogram, I cannot even hear anything beyond 2000 Hz, not even with my current hearing-aids. But with the Clarion implanted device on my right ear, I will receive sounds between range 250 Hz to 6800 Hz. The device programming takes approximately six hours over a two-day period. During the switch-on tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. at UCSF, I may experience new sounds or maybe just sensations to start with. We cannot ignore the possibility that it may not work! Let's see...

December 2002 ...about my surgery