Day 151: My Brain Has a Hard Time Filtering Sounds

It’s been a while. I thought I would give everyone a quick update.

There hasn’t been much improvement in the “understanding speech department”. It is still robotic and to be honest, I think it sounds more robotic than it was before. It’s difficult for me to make sense of speech without lipreading. It’s also harder for me to tell the difference between a male and a female voice than before.

I’ve started to listen to the radio with just my MED-EL processor on while driving around town. The best way to train my brain to understand speech is to listen to it—listen to the radio, watch TV and movies with closed captions/subtitles on, listen to audiobooks and of course, listen to your friends and family while they are talking.

Listening to the radio with my left ear is equivalent to listening to indistinguishable noise. I can only catch a few words here and there, such as “sunny”, the numbers 1-20, the name of the radio station—words that I know will show up on the radio. The rest of it is static and noise.

However, I can only hear the radio after a good 15 minutes of driving around with the radio turned on. For the first 15 minutes, the sound of the car engine overpowers every other sound that occurs. I have to really focus on the radio if I want to hear it. Over time, it gets a little bit easier but as soon as I lose focus, the radio instantly sounds like noise again and I have to start all over.

My AVT therapist says this process is called attentioning. Someone is considered fully attentioned when their brain is able to make sense of multiple sounds simultaneously. My brain can’t do this with sounds from my left ear yet. Instead, my brain is learning to how filter all the sounds coming in from my left ear. Until a few months ago, it has mostly received silence from my left ear so it has no idea which sounds to filter out. That is where auditory-verbal therapy comes in. Auditory-verbal therapy is teaching me to how to become attentioned to my environment.

Thanks to the residual hearing I had before, my brain is more familiar with hearing low-frequency sounds. My high frequency residual hearing was non-existant so my brain isn’t familiar with any high frequency sounds that come from my left ear. The sound of the car-engine is considered low-frequency so that’s why the sound of the car engine overpowers the sound of the radio. Focusing on the speech from the radio requires more effort and in a way, the brain is like a muscle. If you lift weights regularly with one arm (but not the other) and decide to start lifting weights with other arm, you’ll find it requires a lot more effort and be temped to go back to lifting weights with the arm you regularly lift weights with. It’s the same thing with the brain learning new sounds. My brain is used to hearing low frequency sounds so it will focus more on processing the sound of the car engine rather than putting in effort to process the sounds from the radio.

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One comment

  1. Yes so that’s something I can report back to AIS team at Southampton University. I was getting impatient and frustrated with the slow process fro the croaks and metallic squeaks but I find now that ignoring the inferior difference helps. I have been working out how to do the next blog minus the grumps a challenge to overcome! Thank you for your input and keep up the good work.

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