Yes. You read right. I called my mum on my mobile phone (speaker phone though!), and we talked for 6 minutes, and I heard almost every single thing she asked me. It was amazing. No lip-reading. No prompting. We just had a conversation!
This was on my wish list to achieve by the end of the year after I got the implant.
And this was after my first ever mapping session, 1 week after I was switched on!
The mapping session on Friday was where I got plugged in again to the computer, and Monica, my audiologist, ‘remapped’ the sounds to suit my comfort levels for this week.
And I have to say – this 1st mapping session had much more impact on me than the initial switch on.
It was truly remarkable how much my ear had gotten used to the sounds of the implant.
Monica went through each of the sounds of the electrodes, and asked me whether each sound was loud or soft. They were all very, very faint, and you should have seen the look on her face when I told her that! Because it turned out that these sounds were the ones I could barely handle on the first day of the switch on – i.e. they were too loud for me! So already, after one week, my brain had gotten used to the sounds, and wanted more.
And that is what it felt like – I just wanted more and more and more. So I said ‘crank it up!’ (I AM a bossy client! HAHA)
Monica said: “Right, I am going to switch it back on again, and this might be very loud, so just let me know.”
It was on.
Boy, was it on.
It was SO LOUD that when Monica said very quietly: “How’s that?” I nearly screamed! But she immediately turned it down by a couple of notches, and then WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!
Everything was SO CLEAR!!! It was still the robotic sounds, but now they were more like R2D2 chirpy, clear, lovely lovely lovely!
I could hear every little crackle of my movements, I could hear her voice more clearly. It was just incredible. It really was better than the switch on, where I couldn’t really work out what I was hearing, and the sounds sounded kind of ‘messy’. Now the sounds were like a waterfall in the desert, my brain was lapping them up.
We decided to call Ben.
Once I had settled down, put the phone on speakerphone and dialled, I could hear him quite well, although we had a minor freak-out when Ben answered the phone with his trademark crazy high-pitched “Yeeeeeeee-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-rrrrr-sssss??????” which starts in bass, and ends in a screech (used to deter tele-marketers calling our home phone at night. It usually works every time.) But the sound had the effect of making it all jumbled, so I had no idea what I was hearing, though Monica looked horrified!
Monica: “What IS that? It isn’t Ben!?”
Me: “Uh…Yep, it should be Ben.”
And then I had a conversation with Ben on the phone! It was a bit hard with Ben because his voice is very deep and rumbly, and goes all over the place, but I was still able to understand most of what he said. I was elated! Usually, if I ever call Ben, it is to have a one-sided conversation, so I’ll dial and say:
“Hi Ben I am coming home, text me if we need anything from the supermarket. Bye!”
And I hear what sounds like a yes or a no, or a goodbye, usually have no idea what, and then I hang up. HA!
So, with this conversation, I asked him what he was doing, and I could very clearly hear him say he was walking around the loungeroom without his trousers on, in just his underpants! HAHA!
(Poor Monica, having to listen in on our first ever conversation, huh?)
Though also kind of worried that maybe it was just luck that I could hear. I kept thinking “It was just because it was on speakerphone, and perfectly tuned, and I was probably guessing.” I just couldn’t believe that I could hear him.
However, Monica confirmed for me, that I had, in fact, used the phone…
In fact, after I hung up, I was so excited, I pleaded with Monica, could we please please please do a speech perception test. Told you I was a bossy client!
So, we went down to the audiology booth to do the test. I sat in the quiet of the room, and Monica started up the sentences… but before she did, she said: “Now don’t get too excited, you can’t expect too much in the first week. Most people only get 30% of ‘single words’, even after one year.”
I was thinking “30% after one year? geez. Oh well, I was getting 0% for words in my ear, so even 5% would be good.”
She started the test and …
I ended up getting 28% of single words in the first go!
Then, bouyed by this, we decided to try the sentences!
I got 88% understanding of the sentences, just using my cochlear implant, without the hearing aid. OMG!!!!!!!!! It’s a miracle! And I’ll tell you why. I was getting only 13% sentences with my hearing aid in that same ear before the implant. So that’s a HUGE improvement.
So, when I got home that night, I sent mum a long SMS to tell her what had happened. And then, just as I sent it I was thinking “Why am I SMS-ing??? I should CALL her!!”
I got my Telstra HipTop mobile phone out, put it on speakerphone, dialled, and then, mum answered, totally freaked out:
Mum: “Kate????? Is that you?????”
Me: “Yes, it’s me mum!”
Mum: “Can you hear me?”
Me: “Yes! I can hear you!”
Mum: “Oh my god!!!!! This is fantastic!”
And then we had a long conversation! Well, long for me is 6 minutes. I don’t ever use the phone. So 6 minutes is like a flipping miracle, I can’t tell you. And I heard every single thing she said to me, bar one, where I had to ask her to repeat a word I didn’t catch.
Wow. I was so stunned.
So I am pretty happy! There is still a long way to go, but holy-flipping-moly, this is better than I thought.
That night, Ben and I drove to the Blue Mountains for a weekend away, and he tested me out by making me have a conversation while he drove, in the dark, without me looking at him. I was able to do it, but I have to say – I really don’t feel like I am being polite when I listen to people without looking at them. In fact, it just feels plain wrong. And sometimes, just out of habit, even when I have heard something, I will say “What?” And then think “I heard that! Didn’t need to say what!”
Old habits die hard.