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New “ears”

February 1st, 2011 · 3 Comments

After a 3 month wait for titanium to integrate with bone, today I was fitted with two new sound processors. These new digital devices replaced my old analog hearing aid, which had been limping along these past few years. One major benefit is that I’ve now got bilateral hearing for the first time in 43 years. That’s pretty sweet. The sound processors also accept Direct Audio Input (DAI) accessories, so I can use Bluetooth stuff or get a direct connection from audio sources (iPhone, laptop, etc) to the sound processors. That’s really nice. And the processors have a mode where the external microphone can be turned off and the only input is from the plugs…for me that’s tantamount to a very nice noise canceling headphone.

The sound quality is excellent. Much greater audible range, and much greater clarity and definition of sound. I was in a restaurant right after getting fitted for the processors, and I felt like a spy. It seemed like I could hear everyone’s conversation all around me. It was fun, but a little distracting. Some of the sensations will take some getting used to. For instance, when the battery on my old hearing aid started dying, sound got sort of dull and muted…hard to describe, but I know it when I hear it! The new sound processors have a wider dynamic range, and they treat sound differently. Sometimes the way sound is rendered in the new processors, it sounds a lot like when the battery was dying on my old hearing aid. The really trippy part is that all the other sounds around that dull sound are just perfectly clear and fine. It’ll take some getting used to, I guess.

I need to get a hair cut now, too. The microphones on the new processors are sensitive enough that they pick up the sound of my hair brushing against them, which ends up sounding a bit like static. Also, hats are apparently not going to work for me anymore, which is kind of a bummer. I really like hats. I’m going to keep messing around with this to see if there’s a solution, but right now any time I put on a hat I get a lot of squealing feedback. That’s a bummer. Also, talking on the home phone is going to get some getting used to as well. I’m not as familiar with where the microphone is located, and I keep missing it and having a hard time hearing the caller. Practice will make perfect, I guess. Along similar lines as the hat problem, I’m clearly not going to be able to wear headphones any longer. The squealing feedback on those is even worse than with hats. Considering the DAI options available, the headphone problem isn’t a very big deal.

The sensitivity on the new processors is astounding. I’m hearing cars drive by outside the house. I can hear the gravel under their wheels. I’ve never had that kind of hearing sensitivity, and it’s pretty great. I’m tired tonight, though. I think it’s because I’ve been spending most of my time thinking about hearing and focusing on what works, and what doesn’t, etc. When we were driving home after the processors were fitted, I kept saying “hmmm”, or “that’s interesting.” I was just scooping up all the new information coming in about my hearing experience, and filing it away for later processing, I guess.

I’ve got some video of the day, which I’ll edit into a final video for inclusion with the others. I thought that was something I’d work on tonight, but I’m just too tired. I’ve got a staff retreat for a couple of days this week, so maybe while everyone else is playing Uno, or whatever, I’ll work on a little video thingy.

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