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5 Months with a Cochlear Implant, Music and Lectures

First things first.  Music with my cochlear implant is way way beyond my expectations. But I had pretty low expectations.

Seriously, music sounds great now (5 months from activation).  The CI adds a whole new layer of sounds that I couldn’t hear before.  It helps bring out the lyrics.  It adds the higher frequency percussion, cymbals, drums besides bass, harmonicas, all kinds of things.  Yes, more cow-bell!

I’ve been learning to “play” the drums in The Beatles: Rock Band.  My second attempt at a “rhythm game”, the first was DDR which I had trouble with because beats weren’t always apparent to me.  I also tried the Wii Music game but the only instrument I could hear well was the tuba!  Rock Band, at least with Beatles music, is very fun.  I’ve played through every song on drums on easy and even tried to sing a bit.  The Wii says I sing pretty well, but nobody’s ever told me that in person!  I guess hitting pitches doesn’t equate having a pleasant quality to your voice.  I’ll stick to sax.

When I play my saxophone, wearing both the CI and a hearing aid in the other ear (call this bimodal) it can sound like I’m hearing double.  The CI has a different quality than the hearing aid, even though they now sound like the same note and both sound good.  With more complex music I notice that the CI picks up some things and the hearing aid picks up others (and with a subwoofer my residual hearing picks up the bass).  All together they make music sound very good, but separately it doesn’t sound right to me.  The hearing aid alone sounds very quiet still and the CI alone is still a bit thin sounding and sometimes squeaky.  I will say that vocals have improved from having a chipmunk quality to having a Beatles quality (squeaky).  Not sure if listening to Beatles music will improve that…….

I’m very glad that the time period when I couldn’t hear half steps when I was playing my saxophone is over.  For the non-musical people, a half step is the space between a white key and a black key on a piano. If you play something a half step off from what it should be it sounds very wrong.  The guy sitting next to you will probably hit you if you mess up too many times because with normal hearing it only takes once to get it in your head that all the upcoming Bs are flat (for example).

Hearing the percussion also helps me stay on track in band.  It helps me hear a beat when out dancing. Salsa is still a weird beat, but when all you can hear is the bass you can’t figure out how they get 5,6,7,8 out of that.

Speaking of band, I’m hearing the director much easier lately.  I used to have to focus 100% and guess 50% to hear him.  Now I’m just understanding.  This is in a large room with excellent acoustics, but probably from 15 feet away.

I also took a class (review for the PE exam) and I think I was understanding quite a bit more than before.  It wasn’t a great room, and it wasn’t easy to just listen.  Several of the teachers (we had 4 or 5 teachers over 6 days) had accents, beards, or just spoke fairly quietly.  They also wore a mic, so the amplification would normally have messed with my understanding.  Louder means an echo so doesn’t help the signal to noise ratio at all.  My biggest conclusion from class was that I’d definitely want bilateral CIs if I was a student.  Socializing during breaks was easier than normal, but still not that easy if a conversation started up between me and the person I was trying to talk to.



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6 replies on “5 Months with a Cochlear Implant, Music and Lectures”

  1. Share

    Ulf says:

    Hi Sara!

    Enjoyed this post, as I’m 4 months behind you in the process! I find the parts about music and the bimodality personally interesting…

    Are you going for CI no. 2?
    .-= Ulf´s last blog ..Hearing Loss Demonstrator =-.

  2. Share

    glad you are loving music with the ci
    i love my music too i wouldnt be without my ci 🙂
    .-= laura´s last blog ..Confusion… =-.

  3. Share

    100% concentration and 50% guessing; I’m with you there. A CI isn’t an option for me; my loss is due to nerve damage. I still enjoy reading about yours.
    .-= Daisy´s last blog ..Taco Meat: variation on a theme =-.

  4. Share

    Dennis A. says:

    Great post. I have a 4 yr. old daughter who will be receiving Med-El @ UNC this week and joining the ranks of bimodal music fans. At first my wife and I were very uneasy about combining technologies. Back in August, we happened to bump into another bimodal lady @ CCCDP, who was a college student from the Asheboro, NC area and she helped explain to us how, in time, the HA + CI actually complement one another. It was really interesting and encouraging to hear your perspective as well.

    Did you know that I applied for an engineering job in Charlottesville? Things never did come together, but one of the factors we were concerned about was having to drive back to Charlottesville after CI surgery in Chapel Hill, NC. Yesterday, I read your post about the day of your surgery on my BB and my jaw dropped open at the coincidence.

    My email address is not so much a tribute to music as it is a pseudonym for my daughter. I hope in time to go public with a family blog on some of our experiences and use this email address for blog stuff.

    Lastly, Hi_Dan tried to get me to follow him on Twitter too. I never did get around to following him and he stopped following me after a few months.

    Small world.

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