Have you ever used those one of those toys that recorded your voice and replayed the recording in a robotic voice? That robotic recording is what it’s like to hear speech with my left CI. Not quite the same but it’s the closest analogy I can give when describing what’s it’s like to hear with my left CI. I can’t tell the difference between a male and a female voice– it just sounds robotic– like my implant has only a “one-robotic-voice fits all” thing going on.
At first, it was fun and hilarious but now as time goes on, it’s quickly becoming rather irritating. You’d be surprised how boring people sound if you could only hear one kind of voice. Believe it or not, I miss hearing accents and how the sound of people’s voices differ between one another. What normally sounds like an orchestra of pitches as someone is talking sounds like a broken record interrupted by occasional static. It’ll get better over time. My audiologist told me on activation day that it takes the brain about 6 months before speech sounds like speech and I’m only two and a half months in. Not to mention, my brain hasn’t heard from my left ear in 19 years and now it is bombarded by all these new sounds. It takes time to adjust. Nonetheless, it’s still frustrating.
On the bright side, I’m doing really well in auditory verbal therapy (AVT). On Monday during AVT, Kelley told me a story and I was able to understand about 80% of the story on the first try– something she was not expecting. We both figured out that that the reason I do so well in these kinds of exercises is that they allow me to use context to fill in the blanks that I don’t hear. The more sentences you give me, the better my performance at understanding what is being said. For example, as part of the story, Kelley talked about going down to the bagel shop with her husband and buying a bagel before going home. At first, I only heard that she went to a ___________ shop and bought a bagel. Using the fact that she bought a bagel, I was able to to fill in ___________ shop as “bagel shop”. I’m good at using context to fill in the blanks. I do it all the time with lipreading. However, if you give me a sentence such as “John bought fifteen black shoes”, it’s harder for me to fill in a blank because I have little information to draw context from. After we figured that out, we focused more on exercises that have minimal opportunities for me to fill in the blanks using context. AVT is definitely more challenging now since we’ve switched to these kinds of exercises. I really have to focus on hearing the actual words instead of relying on context.
I also recently discovered that I hear much better with two implants in noisy environments than with only one implant. I went out to dinner with my dad the other night and during dinner my new CI died. Instantly, I found it harder to hear my dad talking with only the one CI but once I changed the battery, I was fine again. It amazes me how difficult hearing with one CI is compared to hearing with two. All those years when I had only one CI, I never realized how difficult hearing with one ear was. On the flip side, hearing my dad’s voice better also meant that I also heard background noise at a louder volume. Sometimes this leads to headaches in noisy environments but with two implants I’m able to focus more on hearing the people I have conversations with. This discovery pretty much made my night since I haven’t “heard” much progress with my left CI in a while. Things sound the same with my left CI as it did about a month ago: very robotic. Even though I know I’m moving forward and making progress, it’s reassuring to actually “hear” progress myself rather than hearing from my AVT therapist that I’ve made progress.