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.



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