“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time”
aka Last Vandy Visit
First I want to give an update on an experiment that I promised to try in my last post. As those of you who have been reading the blog all along know, music has been the surprise of this whole experience. From the minute I got in the car after the research mapping on the left side music has been amazing. I wanted to see what would happen if I used the research mapping on the right ear only for music and how different it was when I used two research mappings vs one research and one clinical and lastly two clinical mappings. One of each is very good and if it never got better I would have been a happy camper. The music is clear and sounds wonderful, however, two research maps takes the music to another level. I liken it to when you go from one implant to two, it is not twice as good but certainly an improvement. I certainly am glad I experimented a bit before my last appoint at Vandy.
Another thing that has been talked about was that perhaps some of the electrodes were not balanced thus the sssssy sound. There was no balancing done at Vandy—they merely turned off the electrodes that were chosen. If this mapping had been in a clinical setting, rebalancing the electrodes would have been an option and who knows maybe that would have made a difference. I suppose I can have that checked next time I am in for a clinical map—my poor clinical audiologist is going to hate to see me coming as I have a few other ideas I would like to try as well.
Last Wednesday I had my last round of testing at Vandy. It has been five weeks since I received the research map on my right ear and it was time to see what the tests would show. Since the testing was not till 3 pm Mike and I did a little site seeing in Nashville and visited Belle Mead Plantation. Belle Mead’s history is interesting because their “cash crop” was not the usual cotton, tobacco, or wheat that is usually associated with plantations in the south. Their “cash crop” was race horses—Secretariat was actually a descendent of one of Belle Mead’s horses. If you are ever in Nashville, check it out especially because after the tour they do wine tasting—who knew muscadine grapes (grown in southern US) are known for their high antioxidant qualities—makes great wine too.
Upon arriving at Vandy for the final testing I knew what I was going to do. Mike confirmed my suspicions too when he made the comment one day that I couldn’t hear well at all. He never says much or criticizes my hearing or lack thereof especially since he lost his hearing in one ear in a matter of minutes five years ago. We both learned a lot after his loss—I learned to adjust for his single sided deafness and he learned to appreciate what I go through especially in noisy situations.
Before the testing I explained to Andrea the audiologist my experiences over the last five weeks and told her I was struggling. She did indicate that others have mentioned that the research maps made things sound high pitched so she was not surprised at my complaint about the ssssy sound—something that I did not experience with the left research map. I honestly don’t ever remember having a map that made me hear my own voice so poorly at times. It was not all the time but I would often find myself putting my hand to my mouth because I thought I sounded funny. Perhaps the high pitched sounds are coming through in music?
I was tested again using the same tests from previous visits. Even as we were testing I could tell that I was not hearing well. Sentences in noise were a problem for sure (the other tests like single words were harder to tell if I was getting them right or wrong). One thing I noticed on my own was that female voices were clearer in noise than the male voices. Unfortunately, the test results do not take into account whether the speaker is male or female as I would have been interested in knowing if my observation was correct. When the testing was over Andrea also told me I was missing the ends of words as well so it was not just the sentences. This follows along with my observation that I was hearing more of the ssssy sound at the end of words.
Before I make further comments about the scores let me first remind everyone about this right ear with my clinical map. It is a very strong ear—if you look at my integrity testing it is almost straight across and my t and c levels also are almost straight across which gives a good even dynamic range. I heard and understood speech immediately with this ear and have not looked back since that day almost 8 years ago. I do especially well hearing in noise with this ear and even on one occasion while testing at one of the universities I tested better than some normal hearing people. It has been mentioned to me that I must have optimal placement of the electrodes in this ear and the auditory nerve must be very strong. I fully realize it is not a “normal” hearing ear but it does pretty darn well.
When I tested in April at Vandy with this ear using my clinical map, I scored 97% in hearing in noise under the most difficult condition. Basically there was not much room for improvement in this ear and frankly I had more to lose than gain. Unfortunately, with the research map I did in fact lose rather than gain. I knew it while I was testing and Andrea confirmed it dropped. I don’t know what the drop was but I can tell you it was enough to make a noticeable difference in how I was hearing in my every day life. Needless to say I was ready to leave this research map in Nashville. I did, however, choose to keep it in my P4 slot for music.
I was disappointed for not only myself but for the researchers that it did not work as well as it did in the left ear. I will probably mess up the results curve but then no one ever said I was a conformist and I realize that researchers to learn from those who don’t do as well as others. Only goes to prove even in the same individual the ears can be very different.
I had lots of fun visiting the Vandy clinic and everyone there is wonderful. It is an amazing facility and the care and concern the whole team has for their patients is amazing. I was disappointed that I did not get to meet Dr. Robert Labadie, the principle researcher, however, I hope to in the future. He and his team are dedicating their lives to helping make life for implantees better and I hope they know how much I and others appreciate them. The opportunity has also given me some special time with my son and daughter-in-law. They provided wonderful accommodations and there was never a dull moment with the two dogs and a cat. Not many daughter-in-laws would be willing to put up with their mother-in-law visiting once every 4 weeks for 4 months. Thanks Mark and Britni.
One last note. Someone mentioned in a comment that they heard that the research will be coming to other clinics around the country. I asked about this and was told that as of now it was only going to be done at Vandy (there was a small group done one other place but they were the exception). So if you are waiting for it to come to a clinic near you that will probably not be happening any time soon.
So for those of you who have hung with me through this long post, I have some news. The project has been opened to non-Vandy recipients. Here is a link to the information and all the necessary details:
Have fun and be sure to let me know how it goes.