The first time that I’m hearing with a Cochlear Implant.
On 24 October 2013 the processor will be connected to my built-in Cochlear Implant (CI).
Will today be the first day of the rest of my life? Or will it be the first day of a new hearing life?
This really is exciting. Today, I don’t have any idea what is in store for me with respect to sound.
The first hours
The electrodes are activated by means of small currents that stimulate the auditory nerve. First I have to indicate for each electrode whether I hear something and if this sound is soft, good or loud. These differences are very close. All electrode pulses sound the same and sometimes I suddenly hear a different pitch. Then I have to compare all electrodes with each other, they all have to sound with the same loudness.
After this, I am disconnected from the computer and I am left to the sounds of the surroundings.
I hear everything but without any difference between loud and soft, close and far away and hardly any difference in pitch. I do not recognise wood, metal, a sigh, voice, speech. Only a lot of noise.
I call it &^@)(*!+)*^$#^*(()*&)(*_), totally unrecognisable. Non-stop, all the same loudness ….
And with an echo. My brain and nerve are not so fast yet.
These absurd sounds make me laugh. The CI has its own sound and laughs with me. I get the giggles ….
I can only undergo the sounds and suddenly there is an S-sound among the 2@s#+&SS^)_*)SS(*&^%&*SSS#@
This is the beginning of a little bit of speech recognition.
On my way home sitting in the car I hear, with my hearing aid in one ear and the CI at the other ear, the familiar sound of the motor and Henk talking to me. I hear the wheels on the road, the other cars passing. I swallow, my coat creaks against the chair, my sleeve rubs my trousers, I hear my hair with every movement %&^_)#@@#_)(**&^$$# .
When we are almost home, I recognise something …. I scream with enthusiasm!
In the first part of this sound fragment you can hear the sound like I heard it with hearing aid (without CI). In the second part hearing with a CI in the first hours is added to this. Suddenly I recognise a sound. Do you hear this too?
The first days
I may cut the onions. An onion creaks when you cut it. The juice of the onion splashes. The cutting of the knife makes a sound. The pieces of onion falling on the chopping board make a sound. Oil spattering in the pan! Flowing water! Rubbing my hands together! Drying my hands with a towel!
The crackling fire on the hearth. While I am standing below the cooker hood I suddenly hear the telephone ring.
I find it hard to concentrate on the cooking.
Turn on the tap another time, turn it off and on again, a plate in the water flow, a wooden spoon added to this, my hand in the water, a lid under the water tap, drops are falling, water is discharged through the drain ……
Fortunately, the control in the kitchen is taken over for a while.
My daughter puts on hardstyle music. The bass beat drones in my one ear, CI does @%$#$*&^_)( $^#&^)*, suddenly I hear the rhythm of a tambourine.
I dream about sound, not in images but in sounds. I toss and turn, I experience and I worry about and with sound at night.
It is all so strange and exciting that I have to go through the new hearing experience again at night.
I still hear &^%%$^@%#@*&(U)_(**%^$. Between those sounds I discover sounds that I can place. Such as flowing water or when I have a pee ‘SSSSJJJJJ…’, but water falls and I know that this sounds differently. However, my brain does not understand this yet. It still makes a honky-tonk sound of it.
The first weeks
My other daughter starts to whistle in the house. I sing along. This makes her fall silent.
I feel like a newborn baby that is discovering the world of sound again.
Before I was given a CI, I was mainly thinking about what I might be going to loose. Looking back I mainly seem to have missed a lot.
Some sounds I recognise automatically, other sounds must be imitated by someone else and then I can hear them too. Some sounds remained incomprehensible for weeks. Footsteps sounding like a honky-tonk? Cars riding on ice cubes? Sighing flowers? A creaking lamp? Breathing floor covers?
I discovered very dirty sounds and I had to get used to dealing with those as well. However, there are also really a lot of beautiful sounds. Convenient sounds that give me information. Calming sounds, maddening and irritating sounds. Focusing was one of my strongest qualities that I developed because of Usher Syndrome, but since my new hearing life I am continuously distracted.
After the first year
After a few weeks all sounds sounded ‘normal’, but some needed a bit extra time. By now, my hearing nerves have become more flexible and my brain has adapted itself. Everything is falling into place.
The following sound fragment shows how I used to hear with hearing aids before I got a CI and how I hear things now. In the middle of the sound fragment you can hear only the sound of the CI as I heard things in the first few weeks and finally you hear the sound of the CI with an acoustic component. I have tried to imitate the sound of a CI.
On 12 June 2017 my second CI was connected. This means working really hard again and it is exciting, but this recovery process differs a lot from the first time …
Roel Toering from Stable Studio helped me to make the sound fragment
#stopUSH and make our dream come true!