Thursday I visited Vanderbilt for my left ear testing. It had been exactly 4 weeks since I received the research map so I was anxious to see what the dreaded sound proof booth would have to say about the experience. The testing was done on the left ear only to compare with my clinical map testing that we did earlier in May. Again single words (CNC), consonants (ba, da, ta, etc), sentences in quiet and noise, and the three sounds played and tell which of three sounds is different from the other two–I need to find out the name for this test (it gets progressively harder the better you do—I do this a lot during my research trips).
The study has spoken–I did improve. I did not get specific numbers for all of the tests as we were a bit pressed for time but the only score that was less than 90% was the hearing in noise at the most difficult condition. Four weeks ago with my clinical map on this noise test, I scored in the mid 60s (I believe she said 67%), Thursday I scored in the mid 80s with the research map. I think the significance of this score is that it was a unilateral test. Past research has shown that bilateral implantation significantly improves hearing in noise for cochlear implantees so I am pretty happy with my unilateral score. I will be interested to see if they test me bilaterally with the research maps when I return next month. Andrea (Vanderbilt audiologist) did do some additional bilateral testing Thursday with my clinical maps so perhaps that is the intention for my next visit.
Someone last week asked me if I had noticed a significant improvement with the research map and from these tests results I would say there was a significant improvement. Of course I am a firm believer that no matter what the sound proof booth tests say, the tests the real world brings are what is important. We don’t live in a sound proof booth and need to hear in our natural environment.
I have gushed for weeks now about the sound of music with this map but I also knew that if voices were not clear enough for me I would not keep the research map. I did learn that I could keep the research strategy with the electrodes turned off for music and go back to my clinical strategy for everyday use, however, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that and wondered if my ear would be able to adapt to switching between the two strategies fast enough to be of benefit. I have found, however, that there was some improvement with the research map in my ability to hear in noise and hearing in other situations was as good if not better. At the end of my appointment Thursday, I was given the choice to keep the research map or go back to my clinical map. No surprise, I chose the research map.
Final note on the left ear. As I mentioned before, electrodes 19 & 20 have been turned off since my activation 6 years ago. I asked Andrea if I had not requested that those electrodes be turned off would the researchers have turned them off. The answer was no, it was not part of their plan for me. I find this interesting and hope to do a little experimenting at some point in the future. I am hopeful that turning them back on at lower levels will give another boost to my hearing. The possibilities are endless and I again think that having 22 electrodes is a huge advantage.
Next came the new research map in the right ear. This one is presenting a challenge for me. I have electrodes 1, 2, 7, 9, and 21 turned off. There has been lots of conjecture that I must have pretty much optimal placement on this side as my results were excellent from the beginning—the hours of rehab I did on this ear have helped as well. From the moment the audiologist turned on this research map on Thursday it has been “different.” As soon as I left the audiologist’s office, I called Britni (my daughter-in-law who is the ENT resident) to see if she had a few minutes so I could stop by and see her before I left Nashville. My right ear has always been my phone ear so I put the phone up there and expected to carry on a conversation. Nope—did not happen at all. I had to switch to my left ear. First surprise for right research ear.
After the appointment, I was driving to Louisville to meet Mike for a couple of days of R&R for the two of us and I stopped for lunch. I immediately noticed that the waitress seemed to have a lisp or a sh/ch/s/th quality to her voice. Was it the southern accent I thought. Nope, the voices on the radio had the same quality I soon realized. When I met up with Mike my first reaction was “have you been drinking”—it was 3 in the afternoon. And it was not just drinking that I was thinking but drinking too much. Of course I knew better and realized that his voice too has a lispy, loose dentury, s/sh/ch/th quality to it. It is the map. So with a sigh I realized that getting used to this map was going to take time but I am determined to give it my all albeit a bit disappointed. I could of course take the easy way out and turn to P4 (my clinical map which was left in as a crutch) but I will not do it unless I get desperate. My brain has to adjust and I will forge ahead. I am, however, hoping that it does not take weeks to adjust.
As the last two days have evolved I have been trying to listen more carefully and I am now not sure whether it is a sh/ch quality or a s/th quality. I am now leaning more towards the s/th. So all of this got me thinking—not necessarily a good thing. What Hz is responsible for the sh/ch (1500-2000 Hz range) sound and the s/th (5000 Hz range) sound. Here is a picture of an audio gram showing the Hz for specific consonants/vowels etc.
Here is a diagram of an array in a cochlea (of course we don’t know how close to mine this is):
Here is a diagram of what area of the cochlear is responsible for which Hz:
Here are my unscientific thoughts. Because electrodes 1 & 2 are now off (and are possibly laying in the 5000 Hz area), I am wondering if they were getting interference with others further in the cochlear (meaning other electrodes were actually stimulating this area too) and I was never getting a clear signal in that 5000 Hz zone—the s/th sounds. Or another thought is, could electrodes 7/9 been crossing over and interfering with the electrode in the 1500 Hz zone—the ch/sh sounds. I have always felt, and testing has affirmed that I have trouble picking out the th sound. It is also my understanding that I am not alone with this th problem. So words like that and fat or they and way may sound alike. I suppose in reality maybe even “normal” hearing people have trouble with these. I will continue to be on alert and see if it is the sh/ch or the s/th that sounds different so stay tuned.
Enough of my uneducated theories. If I were 25 years younger and much smarter I might start working on a PhD in this stuff but this is much more fun and takes a whole lot less education and I don’t have to worry about answering to anyone about my theories. It is also much more fun than doing household chores which I am avoiding.
On a positive note — Do Wah Diddy Diddy by Manfred Mann is the song of the week. I caught myself making a fool of myself in a store just singing and dancing away while listening to it. Thank heaven no one I knew was there.
Will update later—thanks for listening to my amateur explanations. I am determined to see my way through this experiment and will update later. I need to get some things done this week so this blogging stuff will have to wait.
Happy June all,