Monday, June 27, 2011

Activation Day - June 13th

The day I had been looking forward to finally arrived.  Monday, June 13th.  This visit would be a two part process, the initial activation on the 13th to get my ear used to hearing again, then an adjustment the next day.  Believe it or not, I was more anxious about this day than I was about surgery.  All that work and preparation, will it pay off?  What will I hear?

The appointment wasn't until 3pm, so we didn't need to travel to Rochester the night before.  We drove down that day, checked into our hotel with about an hour and a half to spare.  This time we decided to stay at the Marriott.  The room was pleasant enough and even closer to the Mayo Clinic than where we were before.  I couldn't wait!  I can't wait! 

We were pretty early getting to the first appointment, but what else could I do?  I was excited!  Of course, our wait was that much longer and my appointment was late on top of that.  But everything is worth it.  When my appointment finally came, Dave & I were led into the audiologist's office and we sat down in our chairs.  I could see the suitcase with my equipment nearby.  She came in and I was all smiles, I am ready to go.

After testing the magnet used to attach the external part to the internal part, the device was placed on.  The first magnet wasn't strong enough and the audiologist suggested that I may still be somewhat swollen from the surgery, down the road we may not need as strong of a magnet.  After testing the device on her computer, a few loud beeps came through that surprised me and caused me to jump in my chair a little.  We began testing.  She played tones in a series, she would play each tone 2 - 5 times and I would tell her how many times I heard that tone.  She said I did this very, very well.  If I could hear it, even the smallest sound, I usually counted them correctly.  Finally, she "turned it on". 

I'll be honest, I had no idea what to expect, but I didn't expect it to be so confusing.  The best way to describe my hearing is the constant pinging of a pinball machine.  I was warned that my brain needs to relearn to hear sounds in a different way.  I really, really have my work cut out for me!

She gave me a few pieces of equipment along with a couple of instruction manuals to take back to the hotel that day.  Extra rechargeable batteries and the battery charger, the remote and remote charger and the device "dehydrator" device.  All to be plugged in that night.  It's not going to be as simple as taking it off every night anymore, I have to plug all of this stuff in every night.  I hope Dave can build me a special piece of furniture to set near my bed to put all of this.

Dave and I grabbed a shuttle from the Mayo Clinic to St. Mary's hospital and walked to the Canadian Honker for dinner.  We usually hit the finer restaurants but decided to give this restaurant which was a local favorite a try.  I had a Lady Godiva Martini to celebrate my first day of hearing.  I can't gauge how loud of a place it is, but I couldn't decipher any sounds.  Dave described that it was a very talkative environment with a little music in the background.  All I could hear was a constant pinging of tones.  It was much harder to communicate with Dave.  I would find out later that my brain was working double time trying to decipher the sound at the same time I was trying to lip read.  The hearing is trying to catch up with the lip reading.  Sounds confusing, it's frustrating to say the least.

After dinner, we discovered that the next shuttle was an hour and a half away, so we decided to walk back to our hotel.  The hotel was less than a mile from the restaurant.  It was a nice way to work off some dinner calories as I was stuffed.  I was hearing things and Dave would ask me if I could hear certain things.  We were walking on a sidewalk along a busy street and I could hear the hum of the cars going by and the thumping of the tires over those fixed cracks in the road.  I was also hearing the clanging chimes at the traffic lights, this was a new sound.  Before I would only hearing clicking, this time it sounded like a clanging chime.  

The next morning, I had a follow up visit with my surgeon and he asked how things were going.  I told him that it was very confusing, but I know that I have to relearn how to hear everything.  I said "I have my ear on the prize."  That's right, he said.  It's going to take some time.  He looked over the incision and seemed to be pleased with how well it was healing.  We joked about the "haircut" he gave me during surgery, I had a "punk" look going for me.  He chuckled.  I am always looking on the bright side of things, the shaved spot and how I would look never really bothered me.

After that visit, I had my first adjustment with the audiologist.  Again, we went through a series of tones and I would count how many times I hear them.  My device was "ramped" up to permit more volume and more tones, especially those higher pitch sounds. At first, I told the audiologist that it seemed too loud and that it sounded more "bassie" than I had expected.  She made some adjustments and I thought it sounded a little better.  It is still dramatically different.  I would be practicing with this level.  Voices sounded a little more like voices than yesterday.  That day, there wasn't as many random tones firing at me.

This time, she gave me a suitcase full of devices and accessories.  It's about the size of a large laptop bag. There were a lot of parts in that bag and she went through each item with me.  Cleaning equipment, spare parts, special purposes cords, devices and an extra cochlear device in case anything happens to the one I wear.  She gave me instructions to bring the extra cochlear device and some other accessories the next time I come in for an adjustment.

Everything sounds completely different than it did before. There is a lot of noise going on and it's very confusing.  I have to relearn how everything sounds and it takes time.  In the beginning I could tell that there was music on when I heard what sounded like multiple tones chiming at once, it was completely unrecognizable.

And there it is.  I was ready to go out and hear everything.

A side note, I was thinking of my niece Ashley who was graduating from high school that day.  My daughter Jamie was texting and sending pictures to me on my phone.  I would have liked to have been there for her but this caused a schedule conflict.  Jamie had flown out to North Carolina to attend the graduation ceremony along with my parents.  I'm glad she could represent.  

Here is a diagram of the entire cochlear device. 

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