Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pendant le deluge

It's springtime in Fredericton... and that means flooding.

Husband and I took some time to stroll along the river - which was a walk considerably farther south of where it would've been a week ago - and take some pictures.

This is Fredericton's famous "underwater rugby/soccer pitch". Underwater for a couple of weeks of the year, anyway. I've circled the goalposts.

No, we don't play much soccer here this time of year.

This is one of a number of small sheds the city has here and there along "the green" - the strip of green between the river and town where people jog, bike, stroll, hang out. Normally the river is, obviously, a hundred metres or more below this point!

Most of the ramps onto, and off of, the bridge across the river that unites the two sides of town were closed. What you see in this picture - St. Anne's Point Drive - is usually an extremely busy 4-lane divided highway. (The pale blue bridge you see in the photo is a pedestrian overpass that spans the Drive.) Today, with the boulevard closed, there was a sort of holiday atmosphere as it became a venue for family strolls.

I've posted some more pics of the flooding here.

Half the city was downtown today, it seemed, taking photos and videos of the flooding. And not because this year is particularly unusual - this is just 'high-average' flooding. No, it's more that it's part of the ritual of spring - the turn of the year - an annual nuisance, annoyance and, for some, expense that, for some reason, we regard with something almost like affection.


Seeking goodly pearls

The "official" birthday celebration was last night and Husband gave me a perfect present - a matching pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings.

I've never owned real pearls before but for a modest pair of earrings and a pendant; but I always thought of strung pearls as the ultimate statement of feminine confidence and just, well, having it 'together'. They're stylish, understated - grown-up jewelry. I could not have asked for a simply more perfect gift for my 40th birthday. The set itself is gorgeous - lustrous, heavy, cool to the touch, a heavenly pale cream and gorgeously iridescent. It was simply a perfect gift, and the celebrations are even yet not over, as my wonderful in-laws are having a family dinner for me tomorrow. What a spoiled kid I am!


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Happy Birthdays to me

As milestone birthdays go, 40 is one of The Big Ones. It's the solid black line between youth and your mature life - the assurance that you have, finally, no more kidding, no more messin' around, grown up.

I crossed my line on Wednesday, but for a variety of reasons, the birthday is lasting the whole darn week, seems. On Tuesday, the guys at work took me to lunch at a Caribbean restaurant. How wonderful to be able to socialize with them and laugh at their jokes again! They're a funny, raucous bunch out together, a dozen ethnic groups and accents and cultures all roaring with laughter at the same silly joke. I love them so much.

On Wednesday, my actual birthday, the day started with a co-worker coming to see me at around 8:15. The woman who usually takes the phone calls wasn't even in yet so this co-worker grabbed the phone as she passed by.

"There's a call for you at the front desk," she said.

"Oh, gosh," I said, "You know, I can't really use the phone yet... I won't be able to communicate very well... I can only understand my husband yet, really... could you take a message for me?" Sure, she said, and left. A few minutes later she was back again.

"I don't know who it is," she said, "but he says he knows you can't hear very well but he is not hanging up until he talks to you!"

"What?" I said.

"Yeah," she said, "it's some guy calling from Tanzania and he says he isn't hanging up until he talks to you."

"Tanzania?!?" I knew right away who it was - "Clemont", my dear Belgian - now proud Canadian - friend, who is doing translation work in Arusha. I didn't understand too much of the conversation, but just to hear his voice and recognize it was amazingly moving to me.

At noon, Husband brought a beautiful bouquet of roses; and later, more flowers arrived, courtesy Clemont and his wonderful wife. There were other cards and gifts from co-workers... chocolates and little carved cats and a homemade chicken curry from an Indian coworker who knows Indian food is my favourite.

A birthday card from my oldest and dearest friend, now living in Ontario, revealed that she couldn't be here this weekend but will be coming to visit on the Victoria Day weekend in May. Quel bonnes nouvelles!!! That was a huge birthday present in itself. We have had thousands of hours of heart-to-heart conversation since we met as little kids and grew up together... can you imagine how much I have missed that and how much I am looking forward to her visit?

Wednesday evening I went to the pub with a handful of close friends, Husband, the wonderful, wonderful friend C., and Clemont's wife, who joined us for the evening. What a great feeling of contentment I had sitting with them, listening to them.

Wednesday evening's get-together was low-key because everyone had work in the morning, but Friday is to be the general celebration of the milestone at which I have been promised presents will make their appearance :) Presents? I have had so many gifts already this year.

And on Sunday, my in-laws are having a birthday dinner for me.

What a wonderful experience. For once, the experience matches the hype. This has truly for so many reasons been the best birthday of my life and I have every reason to believe I am walking through a door to the very, very best years of it.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

"It's getting better... it's getting better all the time..."

A rainy, drizzly grey kinda Sunday. I spent most of it hanging with the cats and playing Half-Life 2 - Substance, a third-party modification to the original game.

This time I'm enjoying playing it plugged into the computer and am hearing all those funky noises I missed the first times I played :)

Hearing gets better and better and easier and easier every day. I wake up in the morning craving to 'hear' again, and take the unit off reluctantly every night. It has far exceeded my wildest expectations - after just two weeks. I wish I could describe what it feels like. But I am finding I just don't have the vocabulary to describe something this... big.




My V-box (the cellphone I used and use for sending text messages) makes a beep when it's plugged into, and unplugged from, its charger. Okay, this may not be an earth-shaking discovery for you guys, but it was pretty exciting to me :)

The door at the foot of the stairs needs its hinges oiled.

One of my Board Members has a British accent.

Windows XP has a different "startup" and "shutdown" sound than Windows 2000 had. (Big newsflash to all of you, I know.)

The clutch pedal in "Yvette", the 16-year-old Honda Civic who is a member of the family, squeaks now.

I can occasionally hear Veronica, the cat, snoring at the foot of the bed. Don't tell her I told you. She's such a lady.

My deaf alarm makes an UNHOLY racket when it goes off! The vibrating "bed shaker" makes an incredibly loud buzzing noise. Poor Husband has been putting up with this all these months and I never realized it!

The little things I can hear really surprise me. I can hear water dripping. The wall clock in my office ticking.

That isn't really so surprising on analysis, though, 'cause they're simple, staccato, single-note sounds.

Yesterday we went through a drive-through. I understood every word the attendant said, even though I was in the passenger seat.

Now, that impressed me. I don't remember being able to hear them very well before I went deaf.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

What is the sound of one horn honking?

Back to Halifax yesterday for another programming session with "Helen" the audiologist.

The way it works is like this: in the first session, we loaded three "programs" (software programs) into the CI processor using Helen's computer. Initially everything sounded very loud and tinny; but, as I learned to understand sound better, sounds became quieter and sounded lower. When this became a noticeable phenomenon - as in, I was having trouble understanding - I set a tiny 3-position switch on the back of the processor from Program 1 to Program 2. Again, things sounded unnaturally loud, but the process repeated itself (as it is supposed to), and by the time I went back to see Helen yesterday, 2 weeks after activation, I was on Program 3.

We fiddled around a bit and now I have three new programs uploaded into the processor to continue the process until my next consultation with her.

Husband-the-electronic-musician could probably explain to you the differences between these programs. He and Helen go off on great discussions about frequencies and pitch and loudness and amplitude and I haven't a clue what they are talking about. But these programs are steps that adjust these elements - or how the electrodes perceive them - and I can certainly hear the difference, even if I don't understand the details.

We met with "Stacy", the speech pathologist, who I have been working with on a research project to understand how the CI affects my use of, and understanding of, speech. She reiterated what has become a bit of a theme to me in this endeavour - ronniecat is a bit of a guinea pig. First, there was the "textbook" surgery; now, because the implant is working so well and because my period of deafness was relatively so short, they are very keen to see what happens with me. She showed me an audiology chart and explained that most CI users end up in the low-middle part of the chart. The team's goal for me, she said, was to get me back into the high-middle of the chart, in the area characterized as "mild hearing loss".

Which means, ironically, if we're successful, I will hear better after the implant than I did before I went deaf.

Everyone is visibly thrilled with the progress so far. Their "textbook case" is not disappointing them.

Husband and I have also been asked to participate in a new research study the team is doing about how getting an implant affects quality of life, not just for the implant recipient, but for significant others/spouses. We agreed that we are happy to be able to do anything we can to "give something back" to the team and the CI program which has made this miracle happen for us. But I am even happier to participate given the goal of the study. I think deafness has a much, much larger impact on the lives of significant others than we really understand, and so does getting an implant. I am happy this is being studied so that people working with the deaf and hard-of-hearing population will have better understanding of what all this means, and does, to the life partner of the deafened.

The trip to Halifax went off almost without a hitch. Almost. We rented a car (Pontiac Sunfire this time which we agreed we didn't like much) and after arriving in Halifax, I waited in the car while Husband checked out a favourite music equipment store to see if there were bargains waiting to be pounced on. He parked immediately outside the front doors of the store. As he got out of the car, he habitually hit the "lock" button on the car's keychain.

I idly started gathering up the detritus of a four-hour drive - some coffee cups and food wrappers - and put them in a bag to take to a nearby trash can. I opened my door, unlocking it from the inside, and a second later, heard a sound.

Meep. Meep. Meep. Meep. Meep. Meep. Meep.

What the heck was it? Where was it? Was it a car alarm? I struggled to identify the noise. It was so abstract and out of context. Was it an electronic sound, a note being played? Was it -

- a horn honking?

Yes, I was pretty certain now. It was a car horn honking rhythmically, some kind of alarm.

Was it, uh, ours?

I turned my head this way and that. Where was it louder? Front? Back? No, definitely the front.

People walking by glowered at me. Oh, the hell with it. I didn't need an implant to know that it had to be our car.

I ran into the store where Husband was standing in line in the checkout, thinking to himself, "Jeeze, that's annoying. Why doesn't someone turn it off???"

"That's our car," I muttered.

When we got to the car, he said "Why didn't you come get me earlier?" LOL, indeed!

I suppose the best thing about the whole story is that at least I eventually identified the sound and connected it with our vehicle. Because otherwise, I would've been sitting in the car totally oblivious wondering why perfect strangers were scowling at me.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Closed-Captioning Cock-Up of the Day: Interracial Love Edition

"Extra", one of the appalling number of celebrity-following programs that someone - sixteen-year-old girls, perhaps? - watches, popped up the other night while I was channel surfing. Fran Drescher was on the screen. I know many people can't stand Fran, but I've had a soft spot for her ever since her masterful turn as Bobbi Flekman in "This is Spinal Tap", which includes the incisive line: "Money talks, bullshit walks".

So I stuck around to see what Frannie is up to these days, and I'm sure glad I did. She's hawking some kind of beauty product or skin cream or something, so we were treated to this absolute howler of a caption as she discussed her personal beauty routine:


There you have it. Keeps her young, she says.

(She sleeps with a humidifier next to the bed. This time I was listening to the TV, too, as well as reading the captions. Can't fool me! Anymore. Very often. Usually.)



Monday, April 18, 2005

Wonderful news!...

My friend Brian's web comic, "Mom's Cancer", has been nominated for an Eisner Award in the brand-new category of "Best Digital Comic"!

These awards, voted on by comics professionals in a number of areas, are a pinnacle of recognition for a comic artist. They are, of course, named in honour of a recognized master of comic art, the late and much-missed Will Eisner. You can read about them here.

Most excitingly, "Mom's Cancer", which had been taken offline due to its pending publication in book format, is temporarily available again online because of its nomination. If you missed reading it before, don't miss your chance now and end up waiting until the book comes out in February of next year (even though you'll want to own a copy anyway - the publisher is very committed to the project, and early reports suggest the format and quality promises to be outstanding).

Congratulations to Mom, to Kid Sis and Nurse Sis, who stared cancer in the eye and made it back down; and especially to Brian who was part of the team that did it and who told their story in such a moving and compelling way.


Promising developments

Dave Carrigan, who has lived with a profound hearing loss for 15 years, is turning out to be quite a font of information for me. He's the poster who accidentally-anonymously recommended an FM wireless system for me. He also passed along this extremely intriguing piece of information:

Re: getting a second implant. If I was in your position, I would not. There has been some new research with stem cells, and they have actually been able to regenerate the cochlear hair cells in guinea pigs after destroying them with ototoxic drugs. It's still years away from a human treatment, but I'm very optimistic that in 10 years, there will be a genuine cure for your (and my!) hearing loss. However, an implant would probably interfere with or even prevent this kind of treatment.

I knew that stem-cell research was turning up a dizzying array of possibilities for medical breakthroughs, but I hadn't heard about this research. This is genuinely exciting to me. I will be doing a lot more reading on this in coming days.

This is a good place for a layman to start, it looks like...

I just hope they're allowed to continue the research, is all. Even though some of the research, at least, has been done using stem cells from adult patients' own bone marrow, just the phrase "stem cells" seems to make governments and funding agencies itchy...


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Faith, Hope and Charity

Recently, in a blog comment, "Brother Arun" spake thusly:

"Do not despair. You can get 100% of your hearing back as if you never lost it.

The great physician Jesus can heal you. All you have to do is ask him to touch your loss of hearing and restore it. All things are possible if you only believe."

I made a post in reply asking Arun to get in touch with me but, unfortunately but not surprisingly, he never did.

Carl suggested I was tolerant. :)
Robin said she wondered what it was I was going to say to Arun.
Mike, in email, wondered if I was taking on a second career as a deprogrammer.

I guess what I would really have liked to do is to help Brother Arun understand that not only is his blithe promising of miracles not helpful, it is hurtful.

I would try to make him undertand how terribly, terribly, unutterably hurtful and cruel it is to suggest to a handicapped person that if they just believed in Jesus that they could be healed. It's cruel because it is untrue, as can be demonstrated by the millions of faithful, handicapped Christians; and it's cruel because it suggests that the handicap is in a way their fault. If they were just Christians, or better Christians, better people, they could hear or see or walk. It's their flaw, their inability to believe, or believe enough, or properly, that is trapping them in a world of limits, losses and pain.

I'd ask him why I should expect special treatment from Jesus when there are millions of handicapped people all over the world, many of them fervently praying as we speak to Jesus for delivery that is not coming. Why is that, does he suppose?

Are they praying wrong? Not faithful enough?

What a capricious God that would be...

Finally, I would ask him something that an email correspondent suggested... if God tinkers in the affairs of men on such a micro-level, why in the name of all that's holy did He take away my hearing in the first place? And if He didn't, why would He get involved in bringing it fully back?

Because I accepted Jesus as my own Personal Savior? Some kind of holy signing bonus?

I have thought a lot about faith since losing my hearing, in large part because of all those who have invoked faith in their wishes for me. Many people of so many different faiths have said they'll pray for me, have been praying for me. It is a powerful source for good and for hope in a lot of good peoples' lives. And I believe it can do wonderful things for the sick and handicapped - in conjunction with the real miracles being performed by science every day..

But when I see "faith healers" or have people promise me my hearing back in exchange for becoming "born again" or just believing hard enough, it makes me angry. It reminds me of all that religion can be when it is perverted - when it becomes a tool to berate and intimidate and manipulate people.

Arun clearly can not know how much my heart's desire would be to have "100% of your hearing back as if you never lost it", of how much I ache for that, or he would not dangle the prospect of having it again it in front of me like some wonderful boxed relic I am not currently worthy to see.

Brother Arun, like so many 'hit and run' evangelists who don't actually care long enough to stick around and see what his words mean and do to people, would be a much better servant of Christ if he dropped the scales from his eyes and used his faith to help and inspire the afflicted - not by promising them miracles that won't happen and only deepen their sense of loss and, in the worst-case-scenario, amplify their suspicions that somehow, they are at fault.


Closed-Captioning Cockup of the Day: Special Papal Edition

Courtesy CNN's "All Pope, All The Time" coverage (or, as a friend even more irreverently puts it, "Pope-a-palooza"):




Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brother Arun...

...who left a comment below, if you're still reading, send me an email at ronniecat at ronniecat dot com with an email address where I can respond to you... I'd be interested in 'talking' to you.


Inquiring minds want to know...

I'm going to respond to a couple of comments in a blog post 'cause it's a lot of trouble for commenters to check back to see if they've been responded to... and also 'cause they ask some good questions.

Sherwood said...

"I suppose you would get aural parallax back if you had another implant done on the other side, but I also suppose that probably wouldn't be worth the trouble, pain, and expense."

Now that I've got the implant, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want another on the other side. And I do know of people who have been bi-laterally implanted - it's considered the ideal situation.

But public health insurance covers one side only; and while I could go to the US and get a second implant, it would cost roughly $65,000US for the surgery and followup therapy, not to mention the time and expense of travel and accommodations. So it's not a realistic option for me. I have defended Canada's health care system vociferously sometimes, but it isn't a gravy train nor is it designed to be. So I am grateful for my unilateral implant and if and when I win the lottery, I'll reassess the situation :)

Sherwood added:

"Now that you're rapidly regaining your sense of hearing, will you be getting your other job back?"

Frayed knot, Sherwood. The problem is the funding we lost because, well, largely because I just couldn't get out there and connect and stump for my organization. I wasn't out there promoting it, sitting on boards, sitting in meetings, aggressively following up funding leads, my time got divided in half, and things didn't move forward the way they did in the past. There are other, good, competent people working there, but they didn't have the eight years' experience that I had with the group. Things drifted and things changed. I don't know what the future holds for that organization or for me with it.

Derek said...

What about a second mic on your other ear? (Although I suppose you're only set up for mono.) I am amused by the possibilities for your "direct-connect" mode, such as attaching it to the receiver for a wireless mic, which you could place up near someone doing a presentation... or "accidentally" leave in another room for eavesdropping purposes. It's not everyone who can "throw" their hearing!

A second mic for the other ear is an ingenious thought... I presume it's been considered. Maybe it's too confusing to have input from both sides hitting one side of the head? But it is an interesting idea. As you suggest, the wireless mic receiver system does in fact exist, it's known as an FM transmitter and another, anonymous commenter who uses one strongly suggested I invest in one. In a restaurant, for example, I would wear the receiver attached to the implant and my dinner partner would wear the mic clipped to his or her shirt. Would cut through a lot of the background noise that way. I've just begun investigating these units, not even sure how much they cost yet. But yes, there are omnidirectional mics that are used with these units for meetings, etc... so I could indeed, 'throw my hearing'. I'd never considered the sneaky potential before, but now... my God, who wouldn't want to hire an employee who could eavesdrop on anyone...

My career in politics may be just beginning.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Learning to hear


So much to tell you.

There's been so much improvement in what I can understand in just five days. The hollow, echo-ey effect is still there, but slowly - or quickly, really, I guess - my brain is learning to interpret the new sounds as being the sounds I remember.

The most rapid advance has been in my understanding of music. On the first day, listening to a song I was previously familiar with was like hearing it on a very bad radio station... far away, static-filled, just bits and pieces leaping out as recognizable. Now, when I listen to a familiar song on a discman plugged directly into the CI, it sounds like a slightly altered version; some notes sound different, some high and low notes are missing. But it is a very near replica of what I remember.

The other rapid development has been the individualization of voices. Initially everyone sounded the same - Mickey Mouse inhaling helium. Now, I can distinctly hear the timbre of the voices of people I knew before I went deaf. They are "sounding" more like themselves, although still high-pitched.

One of the neatest things has been hearing the voices of people who I met since I went deaf. Two co-workers, for example, were hired after I lost my hearing. It's wonderful to put voices with their faces.

Being back at work Monday was kind of overwhelming... sort of an all-day party, with each co-worker or Board Member I encountered all excited and enthusiastic. The genuine joy they showed for me was really touching. I mean, you don't imagine that they'll be so excited that you can hear.

It's great hearing the cats again. Sis wrote in a comment that she was glad I could hear Mojo again because "he's such an opinionated little guy". If by "opinionated" she means, "he never shuts up", she's right. I don't remember him being this vocal before I went deaf; maybe the lack of response caused him to crank up the effort.


Accents are hard. Even people I knew before I went deaf are much harder to understand. And in a workplace where at least half the employees are immigrants, that's challenging!

Listening to the tv or radio is still pretty bad but getting better. Sound coming "through the air" is difficult. I've tried listening to my beloved CBC Radio with little success. I know if I 'plugged in' it would be better, but that can be very limiting. I used to listen to CBC while doing housework; can't wait to be able to do that again. Washing dishes and scrubbing the kitchen floor is boring!!!

Being out and about on my own is pretty scary. The world is chock-full of noises and most of them are still unidentifiable to me as I hear them. Ambient noise can be really confusing because a sound - the rustling of clothing, a book falling to the floor, someone closing a door in the next room - just occur and I jump and sometimes I figure out what it is, and sometimes I just shrug. Traffic is very loud and very scary, partly because I hear everything on my left side, regardless of whether a vehicle is on my right, in front of me, or behind me.

I have four batteries which came with the unit and they have a charger where they're recharged each night. Each one lasts about eight hours, and when they die, son, they're dead. It's like someone clicking a light switch. One second, sound; the next; nothing. So I MUST remember to carry a spare in the little pouch they gave me.

It's hard work, learning to hear again. I'm pretty tired by the end of the day because talking with people takes real effort and concentration. It feels a lot like working in a second language, and anyone who has done that knows that it wears on you after a few hours.

But it's the best work I've ever had to do.

I've said it before and I can't say it often enough: I am overwhelmed by the kindness people have shown me. I've gotten dozens of emails, cards, hugs, warm wishes, even gifts. People are so much better and kinder than we sometimes give them credit for.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth

Oh, Derek!

It's the Ode to Joy!

And I can hear it!

ronnie (the blissful) cat

Turning the damned thing on; or, what kind of Mickey Mouse setup is this anyway?

Driving across the MacDonald Bridge to the activation appointment, Husband and I confessed to each other that we were both hella nervous. More nervous than before the surgery. Or nervous in a different place, anyway.

It took quite a while to unpack all the basic compontents, which each come separately packaged, and about which more later. 'Helen', the audiologist I will be working with from now in, showed me how to put the basic unit together and then she put it on. I was almost surprised to discover there really is a magnet under my skin and the headpiece really does attach!

Helen handed me a card with a range of comfort levels on it - from "inaudible" through "barely audible", "very soft", on through "comfortable" "loud but comfortable", up to "painfully loud".

"You're going to hear a series of beeps," she said (I was part-lipreading, part reading notes Husband was writing for me). "When you do, I want you to indicate on the card how loud they are and we will adjust them."

I swear, as God is my witness, when she said "You are going to hear a series of beeps," my internal response was, "Yeah, right!!!" I just could not let my guard down and believe this was going to work.

She turned to her computer - which my CI was plugged into - and I grabbed Husband's hand.

And then, I heard a beep.

It was deep inside my head... as if that "silent voice" that you hear in your mind suddenly vocalized to you. I was astonished. I jumped in my chair and my head snapped involuntarily. I gripped Husband's hand. There were more beeps now, and I was struggling to calm myself down enough to remember what we were supposed to be doing.

"Uh...uh... s-soft... soft, I would call that," I stuttered, jabbing at the "soft" level on the card. "Okay, I'm going to turn it up," Helen said. I heard what she said and understood it. She turned the sound up. "Yes, now, now it's louder. That's, uh, comfortable." I looked over at Husband and burst into tears.

"Ahh," Helen said, reaching for a box on her shelf. "This is where we get out the tissues."

I sobbed into the tissue. "I don't think I let myself believe it was going to work," I said. I looked up and Husband was crying into a Kleenex as well. And so, I realized, was Helen. "You have the best job in the world," I blurted out.

Once we all composed ourselves, there was a lot of work to be done. Each of the electrodes had to be individually tuned to a level which was loud enough to hear but not uncomfortably loud. I realized that as long as I was facing Helen or Husband I could hear and understand whole sentences, although everyone's voice sounded like Mickey Mouse on helium. (Interestingly, I could not tell Helen's voice from Husband's initially, although as the appointment progressed he started to sound like his own voice again.) Helen was surprised that I could understand so much so quickly (she'd only had two other patients who could understand complete sentences at activation, she told me - one, an 81-year-old woman) but told me that of course the Mickey Mouse effect was normal and everyone experienced it.

The whole process took about two hours and was pretty intense. I realized how much of this is going to depend on me; Helen can't hear what I hear and relies on feedback from me to tune the device. I, however, don't know what an implant is "supposed" to sound like, so I hope I am making the right choices regarding loudness levels and so on.

Helen asked if mechanical noises - knocking on a desk - sounded different than more variable, organic noises like voices. Oh, yes, I assured her. Very different.

We later saw 'Stacy', the speech language pathologist, who asked me some questions with her mouth covered by a black hand-held screen (so I could not lipread). Although I had to ask her to repeat the first question, I understood all of them and responded correctly.

As we left the clinic the audiologists reminded us that it was going to be difficult in noisy situations, and that it is a "noisy world out there". As we strolled down the sidewalk in Halifax I caught tiny snippits of conversation as people went by - just noise, really, rising and falling as they passed. We walked past an HMV store. I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Music???" I said.

Husband laughed. Yes, they were playing music outside the store to lure in customers. I could tell that it was melodic but couldn't identify what it was or even what genre it might be.

We went out to dinner that night and it was really hard. Everyone in the crowded restaurant sounded as loud as Husband. There's still quite a ways to go to figure out how to understand this thing.

They sent us home with a great big box of manuals and videos and accessories and gadgets, some of which were a complete pleasant surprise because I didn't know they came with the original kit.

The CI itself, for the techno-curious, breaks down into these components, and when not in use, it's pretty much put away broken down this way, too:

You'll note there are three earhooks in this picture; all three came with the CI but each has a different purpose. The standard one is just what the name implies; the t-mic is best for use with telephone and using with t-coils and other assistive listening devices (some people, like me, however, find it gives the best day-to-day results, so it is my usual hook), and the extremely cool direct connect earhook, about which more later.

The whole thing comes together like so:

One of the accessories I wasn't expecting but was really glad to get right away was a direct connect cord. Believe it or not, when I am wearing the direct connect earhook, and plug this cord into that earhook, I can plug an audio device like my discman or my computer directly into the CI and therefore directly into my cochlea. Isn't that amazing? This, for example, is how it connects to my discman.

When I'm wearing this setup, I can hear ambient noise and also whatever I am plugged in to; but an external listener cannot hear the discman or computer. For now, I've managed to listen to some of Husband's music with it (music is MUCH BETTER through direct connect than through the air) and done some computer gaming, but I need a lot more practice before I can interpret such complex things being piped directly into the cochlea.

Well, hearing is all very well and fine, but a girl has to look good, and I was tickled pink that they threw in some of the snap-on covers that let you change the colour of the unit. I don't know how well you'll be able to make this out, but here are the four "blending colours" (designed to blend with hair, obviously)and the four "Sophista metallic (don't you love marketing?) colours" which are dark metallic green, blue, purple and (on the unit) red. Very sharp if I do say so.

Finally, this is what it looks like when I'm wearing it, more or less; normally in daily use my hair would probably cover the headpiece (disc) more because I'd try to get most of it out of the way of the connection between the magnet and my scalp. (At least most of the bald spot is covered now but in order to achieve that, I'm dead shaggy and badly in need of a haircut!)

It's been an absolutely wild two days and there is so much more to talk about but this post is way too long as it is. I will just finish by adding that when I got home I begged Mojo (the vocal one) to meow for me. "Make a noise, Mojey! Come on. Meow! Come on! Make a noise!" No dice. So I made the ASL sign for "hungry".

"MEOW!" he bawled. I hear ya, brother.

THANK YOU for all the comments on the weblog which were just a wonderful and unexpected delight when I got home yesterday. You guys, it goes without saying, are the best.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen...

...we have audio.

I will post in more detail tomorrow but for the moment be absolutely astonished along with me that I can comprehend complete sentences and even have some interpretation of music.

For the first time in my life, I understand what a miracle feels like.

Thank you all, I love you all, and I will tell you tomorrow about all about the activation and the great big box of incredibly cool toys and accessories that they gave me.

ronnie (the hearing) cat

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Well, here we go...

Tomorrow is really D-Day. I mean, A-Day. Activation day. The day they "turn the damned thing on".

Everything up until now - even the surgery - has been prep.

Tomorrow we find out if it works.

If "Good Luck!" and "Best Wishes!" and "We're praying for you!" and "Godspeed!" could do it, I'd be laughin'. Because I'm a lucky girl, and I've got all those things "coming out the ying-yang", to use a New Brunswick phrase.

Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think those things made a difference. I can't help but believe they have done so, so far.

The only thing I am completely unprepared for, is nothing. What if there's nothing? What if the damned thing doesn't work at all and there's nothing?

Anything short of that, I think I'm ready for.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A certain glandular edition class

Just a quick post to note that in the past month, we've had visitors from the US, Canada, the UK, Japan, Venezuela, Brazil, Greece, Estonia, and Spain. In honour of this diversity, I've decided to take a sample paragraph from the weblog and translate it into Spanish (well, you have to start somewhere) using Google's web translation service.

Las mejores estimaciones espigadas de la experiencia colectiva de mis informadores están ésa el sábado que mi garganta puede todavía ser dolorida en implanta el lado (una cierta clase de edición glandular). El tragar y el hablar lastimarán después de la cirugía y pueden inmóvil por sábado. Puedo inmóvil tener absolutamente muchos de dolor en implanto el sitio aunque ése varía extensamente de persona a la persona. Si lo hago, puedo tomar los painkillers que me harán la clase de loopy.

Of course, the majority of readers are English, so it only seems fair to tranlate it back into English for you using the same service:

The best gleaned estimations of the collective experience of my informers are that one the Saturday that my throat can still be sore in implants the side (a certain glandular edition class). Swallowing and speaking they will hurt after the surgery and they can immovable per Saturday. I can immovable have absolutely many of pain in I implant the site although that one varies extensively of person to the person. If I do it, I can take painkillers that will do the class to me of loopy.

Remarkable. That's just how it felt!


Sunday, April 03, 2005

"What's that thing called when a guy is gay for a girl?"

A net.friend from rec.arts.comics.strips, JGM, wrote this to me recently:

"Your close-caption blooper reports remind me of something I've always wondered about and you are in a unique position to address: how does closed-captioning work for comedy?

At first blush, it would seem that things like split-second timing, tone of voice, etc. are what make a good comedy routine or sitcom scene, and that this would be lost in a CC'd version. On the other hand we've all had the experience of getting great laughs from something as simple as a comic strip, where such things are even less in evidence...

What's your finding? Do some shows or types of comedy come across better than others?"

It's a very perceptive post and JGM is right in just about all his speculations. It's really significant that JGM mentions comic strips because in a way, watching TV with CC is very much like reading a moving, ongoing comic strip. When most people read "the funnies" (as we have discussed many times in r.a.c.s), most "hear" the dialogue actually being spoken aloud in their minds. They assign voices to various characters and, in the case of a daily comic where the reader "hears" a character nearly every day, those voices become pretty solidly entrenched. (Just witness the arguments about casting when a comic book or strip is made into a movie if you don't believe me.)

I am in an interesting position, of course, having gone deaf fairly recently. That means that a lot of the "voices" that I hear in my head when I watch TV, the timing, the nuances, are actually based on memory rather than imagination. When Homer Simpson says irritably in a repeat episode, "I can't take HIS money... I can't print MY OWN money... I have to WORK for money, why don't I just lay down and die?" I hear Homer saying that in my head just as I did several times before I went deaf. More importantly, when I heard him say an episode I'd never seen before, a few weeks ago, "Well maybe marriage isn't just for gays. What's that thing called when a guy is gay for a girl?" ("Straight," Marge replies with a sigh), I still heard Homer say it, and I could imagine the inflection, the timing, that Dan Castellaneta has imbued Homer with all these years, and it was a very funny line.

So what do you do when you're watching something new? Just like reading a comic, you make up a voice that works for the character, and you hear every line being read in that voice. I'm happy to say that not too much of the nuance that comes from timing is lost if you're paying close attention to the screen; your eyes learn to take in the sentences in a flash and the rest of the time you focus on the faces. A good actor can take a deaf viewer right there with him or her. I knew this to be true when I watched "Best in Show" again recently. That comedy is nothing but timing - and the movie works as well for me as it did the first time I saw it.

As for some types of comedy working better than others, I don't find that to be the case; but what I do find is that the more effort I put into the interpretation, the more I get out of any comedy. If I focus and read the faces, body language and captions, I'll get the fullest results.

If anything has a direct impact on how funny comedy is, it's the quality of the Closed Captioning. Little things - like telling me that the music playing is [MUSIC: THEME FROM 'JAWS'] instead of just showing musical notes, or skipping mentioning music at all; or including ambient noises [EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE IN BACKGROUND]. Those touches are hugely important in appreciating any TV show or movie, and I am truly grateful for the captioners who take the time to include them.

The real question that JGM's comment posed for me, though, is this: How does it work for people born deaf? I can "hear" the character's voices in my head, and if I've never heard the news anchor or actor before, I can assign the characters pitch, timbre, tone, emotion... but how, I wonder, does it work for people who have never experienced any of those things first-hand?

Now that's a poser. The way to find the answer is to ask one of my handful of congenitally deaf acquaintances... if I can figure out exactly how to slip it into casual conversation...

Will report back, comrades.



Saturday, April 02, 2005

"OOOoooh... he's... brown!"

An elderly relative, who shall remain otherwise completely unidentified, was taken online today to be shown some information about cochlear implants in general and the program I am in, in particular. On the website for the local CI program, lo and behold, a photograph of my surgeon popped up.

"Oh, look! That's the doctor that did the operation!"

A fragile hand flew to the relative's mouth.

"OOOoooh ... he's........... brown."

Sweet cracker sandwich. Let's hear it for the end of the bad old days, shall we? Well, I needed a good guffaw and that certainly provided it.