Layers of Sounds: Is less better when you can’t understand what you hear?

This is something I have discussed a few times on my blog.

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when I got my CI was sorting through layers of sounds.  For a long time I actually felt like I understood more with my hearing aid than I did with my CI.  A major factor was the fact I was only picking up 1 or 2 sounds at a time with my hearing aid whereas I was picking up a lot of sounds with my CI.  Sounds with my CI was just one big blur and sounds were simpler with my hearing aid.

I meant to blog about this several months ago but never got around to it.  I was given a hearing aid loaner to try out the hearing aid + CI combo.  I tried this around when I finally started sorting sounds out.  I still struggle with this but am doing so much better than I was doing for a long time.  I didn’t pick up a lot of background noises with my hearing aid so sounds stood out more but I pick up tons of background noises with my CI.

Anyways, one day when I was wearing my HA and CI I found myself in a situation that may help explain what I mean by layers of sounds.

I was at a train crossing and listening to music while waiting for a train to go by when I started paying attention to what I was hearing.  Right before the train started crossing, I had been listening to music.  I had my iTouch hooked up through my radio and was getting static.

I could easily pick out the music with my hearing aid.  Then I realized I could hear both the static and music with my CI but could not pick out the static with my hearing aid.  I could mostly hear the instruments and wasn’t picking up some of the voices with my hearing aids.

Then as the train went by, it drowned out the music.  I could not hear the music nor the static with my hearing aid.  I could only hear the train with my hearing aid.  However, with my CI…I could hear the static, instruments, voices, and the train…and I could separate them.

I also had to turn the volume up to hear the music with my hearing aid and had to turn it down when listening with my CI.

I still identify sounds easier with hearing aids but I hear more with the CI.  Is more better when you can’t understand what you hear?  Or is less better when you can understand what you hear?

This is something I questioned for a year and half yet something kept driving me to choose my CI over my hearing aid.  To this day, I can’t quite tell you why but I am glad I did.  While I do sometimes miss the simplicity of what I heard and understood with my hearing aids, I have learned to enjoy sounds with my CI more than I ever have been able to.

Auditory Memory

For the longest time I struggled with remembering sounds I just heard.

When doing auditory therapy with hearing aids as a child, I would sometimes forget what I had just heard.  For example, I would have two words in front of me and the speech therapist would say each of those two words to allow me to become familiar with how those words sounded.  Then she would cover her mouth up and I had to guess which one she was saying.

Sometimes by the time she covered up her mouth I forgot what those two words sounded like and would just guess.

When I got my CI, my auditory memory became even worse (which I didn’t think was possible).  When doing auditory therapy on my laptop I would have 4 words on the screen and had to figure out which one was said.  An example would be “suitcase”…by the time I heard the second part “…case…” I forgot what the first half sounded like.  This was VERY frustrating because I would end up clicking “repeat” several times until the program stopped me from repeating (it only allowed a certain number of repeats) and oftentimes I would sit there staring at the computer trying to remember what I had just heard and I just couldn’t.

After a few months I realized I needed to force myself to learn how to retain what I had heard and I slowly decreased the numbers of repeats I allowed myself.  It was a long process before my auditory memory started to improve.   Now, I don’t do aural rehab as much anymore (*shakes finger at myself*) but when I do I can definitely tell a huge difference in my auditory memory.  I can hear a word once and if I don’t figure it out immediately…I can look at all 4 words and “replay” in my mind what I heard to figure it out.

Auditory memory is something that a lot of people don’t realize is important.  I had no idea how difficult this would be for me and how I would have no ability to retain anything I heard at the beginning of my CI journey.  It basically took me over a  year before I became comfortable with my auditory memory.  My auditory memory is definitely not like a hearing person’s but am pleased with how far I have come in terms of remembering what I heard!

Grandparents: It was just a dream

I have had some amusing and wacky dreams recently.  I really enjoyed the dream where I was on a beach in Japan even though it was disappointing to wake up to a predicted wind chill of -25 degrees F.

I had a dream last night and all 4 of my grandparents were in it.  My Grandmother passed away about 12 years ago, Grandpa passed away about 4 years ago, Grandfather passed away last year, and Grandma passed away a couple of weeks ago.

It was a wonderful dream.  Each grandparent was just the way I remembered them before they had health issues.  When I woke up, I had to remind myself that they were no longer here.

When my grandfather passed away last year and my grandma passed away recently I debated about if I wanted to type up a post.   At those times, I wasn’t 100% comfortable doing so since the Internet is such a public place .  A couple of cousins chose to do so and I have greatly enjoyed reading their posts.

This dream reminded me the importance of always remembering loved ones whether it being through writing, talking, or sharing pictures.  I chose to post some older pictures because that’s how I want to remember them.

Grandmother, you were quite the chef!  You were always in the kitchen baking up a storm.  Even after all these years, we’re still amazed at how you were able to stand on your feet all day long cooking delicious meals and how our food never comes out as good as yours did.  You always looked so beautiful.  I remember as a young girl, when I would spend the night, I would always try to sneak a peek at your jewelry chest that was in the guest bedroom (without touching anything) hoping I would get a glimpse of necklaces or earrings that were lying around.  Every time I see pearls, I think of you.

Grandfather, you were such a hard worker. I always admired you for that and always hoped I would inherit at least a tiny bit of that. The last time I saw you at your house, you shared some of your war experiences with us. I throughly enjoyed that. When we got together for your 90th birthday party, you were late because you were busy chasing a cow that had gotten out of the fence at your farm. You were always amazing us at your ability to do what you could, you never let your age stop you.

Grandpa, oh where do I start?! You were always teasing and joking around! 🙂 You knew how to make everyone smile with your sense of humor and silliness! When I would spend the night at your house, you always made I had a good time. You would take me to the State Fair, the park, swimming, hot-air balloon shows, and airplane shows. The grandkids and I made an anniversary gift for you and Grandma. We had traced our hands on a large piece of paper and signed our names. You and Grandma still had it 12 years later hanging up in your garage.

Grandma, you were an amazing woman. You were in constant pain but always had a smile on your face whenever I saw you.  Even with your constant pain from your rheumatoid arthritis you always tried to write notes to me when I couldn’t understand you. You always signed “I love you” to me even though you had to be hurting. You taught piano for many years and I remember your piano room. Us grandkids would always go downstairs and hang out there after unwrapping our Christmas gifts.

Ambulance Sirens

I would like to point out that even though I get excited when I hear something new it’s not because I want to become a hearing person.  It has more to do with the thrill I get out of experiencing the world in a different way.  It also has to do with getting a taste of what loved ones experience on a daily basis.  I also have a strong interest in psychology, education, science, and medicine.  Sometimes my CI experiences stir up those interests.

It does not change the fact that I’m deaf nor do I want it to.

Anyways, I enjoy exploring the world and it has been fun (and frustrating at times) exploring it in a new way.

I finally heard ambulance sirens with my CI!!

I was sitting in my car at a red light with the windows up and without music on.  It was kind of quiet in the car which helped limit the amount of different sounds but also made it more unlikely that I would hear outside sounds.

All of the sudden I heard what I identified to be sirens.  Then I thought to myself that there was no way they could be sirens because I haven’t heard them with my CI so I kind of ignored it.  A few seconds went by and I knew I was hearing sirens.  I couldn’t tell you what kind of sirens or what direction they were coming in.

I started turning around trying to find the source of what I was hearing.

I still didn’t see anything that suggested I was hearing a siren so I turned back around and continued to wait for the red light to turn green (it was a lonngggg red light).  I was starting to think it was just a  random unidentifiable sound when I saw an ambulance go right by me with their lights flashing!

It was kind of a mixed feeling.  I was excited that I finally heard something I had wanted to hear with the CI.  I was also a bit sad because whenever I see an ambulance I wonder what happened and hope everyone will be okay.

I was surprised I was able to identify it even though I hadn’t really heard ambulance sirens with my CI.  It’s also uncommon for me to be able to identify a sound before I see the source.  It really does go to show that even after 2 years I’m still learning new things.  My brain is still trying to figure out how to separate environment sounds so that I’m not hearing overlapping sounds that seem to form a single sound.