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STORY OF THE MONTH


Michael’s Story (Part 3)

 

In Part 1 of Michael’s Story, we learned that he had experienced the onset of hearing loss as a young man, and he told us how this affected him in terms of his education, work and family life. In Part 2, Michael told us about his own journey towards deciding to get a cochlear implant as his hearing deteriorated to the point where even with the most powerful hearing aids, communication had become very difficult.

Michael had a cochlear implant operation on September 15th 2010 and ‘Switch on’ on September 29th, 2010. He said “few things have grabbed my attention or concentration as much. I had at least a month’s obsession around the Operation and ‘Switch on’.” Now in the final part of his story, we learn about how life has changed since he received his cochlear implant almost five years ago.

 

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The Silent Gap

DeafHear.ie Michael Tighe

Michael Tighe

I use the term ‘Silent Gap’ to highlight the point that between the operation to fit my cochlear implant and the day of ‘switch on’ two weeks later, I had no hearing whatsoever. The biggest thing I noticed at this stage was total deafness – maybe 99% – I can’t hear sound but there is the perception of some – maybe bone conduction, vibration, sight, aural memory or simply the mind’s creativity…

Previously when I had my hearing aid out I could hear very little, but up close I could get a little: ‘Bye, see you tonight’. But now there is no sound at all. You hear absolutely nothing. It was so eerie that some tinnitus was welcome.

So how did I manage? The first thing I noticed is that I picked up so much information with my eyes. I knew this already, but total deafness reinforced this. Although simple ‘Hello, good morning’ greetings were easy to lipread, conversation was very difficult despite 30 years of lipreading experience!

I used a white board and marker to supplement my lipreading. I found that sitting beside the person was better as I could read as they were writing and the conversation flowed better. Normally I would want to be opposite the person to lipread them!
When I got home from hospital, I found that a lot of everyday things don’t require hearing: working on the computer, walking the dog, getting the groceries, driving the car…

I was told that my ‘switch on’ would be two weeks after my operation, which was earlier than I expected. So I had 14 nights of complete deafness with no hearing aid, and I guess that on at least 5 of the 14 nights, the last thing I did was to attempt taking my hearing aid out!


Switch On

I was ‘switched on’ about 3.00pm on Wednesday 29th September 2010. Here is an email I wrote it a few hours later:

Guys

This is one email to loads of people who have wished me well. Sorry for being impersonal.

The CI "Switch On" was today at 3pm (5 hours ago) and it worked though I don't know if I am still on earth.

I am hearing all sorts of weird sounds, identifying many but totally confused by others. They are overlapping and quite distracting. It reminds me of when I got my first hearing aid 30 odd years ago. The sound of the keyboard is getting to me and I’m happy to skip supper so that I don’t have to hear the kettle boil

Voices are squeaky, Bart Simpson like whispering. Loads of distracting background noise in what I would previously have said were good environments.

My own voice is like there are 2 voices saying the same thing, one is me and one is a computer.

I can follow a one to one conversation in a quiet room with somebody who speaks well and I am lip reading. Not quite as good as before but within a few hours I am delighted.

I can’t handle 2 voices, poor projection or background noise yet.

I confess to some relief that I heard anything and my curiosity as to what things would sound like is now satisfied.

So I'm happy tonight. There is a long way to go in terms of simply getting used to everything, fine tuning the processor and rehabilitation exercises before I can judge the outcome.

Fingers crossed all will go well

Thanks for all your messages of support,

Michael

Believe it or not today was Saint Michael’s day.


Tuning Sessions

Tuning sessions with the audiologist are an essential part of getting to grips with the cochlear implant. They are a critical part of customising the cochlear implant, with both the implantee and the audiologist working together as a team to get the best from the implant. The audiologist adjusted the processor settings based on my feedback, her knowledge and experience, and test results.

DeafHear.ie Michael and Marie Tighe

A Cochlear Implant.

I saw the tuning sessions as gradually introducing me to more frequencies. I had tuning sessions beginning 2 days after switch on, then at one week, three weeks, 7 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. So far so good!

It is a continuous process, and after each session and programme change, it is exciting to notice changes and get another shot of hope. After the week 7 session I was able to hear a door creaking for the first time! ‘When did the happen?’ I asked . The gang at home told me it was that way for a long time, and my wife warned me not to oil the hinge, as it helped her know when our eldest son came in late at night!


Results!

Just before Christmas I had my 3–month tuning session and review. I completed a speech discrimination test with the audiologist: unbelievably I scored 92% in the quiet and 48% with a radio on. The 92% score compares to 18% pre–operation and 54% two weeks after the operation. For me this was a miracle! Although this was a lab test as opposed to outside in the real world, it was still proof that the implant gave a major boost to my hearing ability.

Voices were also richer in depth. I was getting more sounds and frequencies, including ‘s’ and ‘d’, but there was still a ‘little frog’: I was not yet able to process them fully. At my 6 month session I had the music programme turned on. I didn’t notice much difference, but one of the exercises is to listen to lyrics in songs, which I think was to help ‘reawaken’ some of the frequencies for me.


Rehabilitation: Making the most of the implant!

 

“To me, the
rehabilitation was
about striving
to make the most
of the implant.

 


What does ‘rehabilitation mean? I don’t like the ‘re’ bit in the same way I don’t like the ‘dis’ part of the word ‘disability’ . But to me, the rehabilitation was about striving to make the most of the implant.

Cochlear impant rehabilitaion concentrates on listening. It is slow. Emotions swing around fast. I was ecstatic one minute, non–plussed the next. You can’t buy patience and calmness!

When I was first given the processor kit and rehabilitation materials, I felt the exercises were very basic. Much of the materials seemed similar to simple lipreading materials. But I was wrong. The materials and exercises are designed to help improve listening skills in the early stages following implantation, and are not a trial or exam. Progress is slow!


The rehabilitation of the listening process is similar to lipreading, where you see/hear words and fill in the gaps. The difference for me was the gaps were in different places, but it is the same process. A slow patient approach is needed. An alert and calm mind is an essential ingredient!

Here is one exercise I worked on: I would ask a family member or friend to read a newspaper editorial or article to me slowly. I could vary the challenge by:

    1. Reading and listening at the same time.

    2. Listening to the person reading while also lipreading them.

    3. Repeat short paragraphs without lipreading.

    4. Listen to a whole article without lipreading.

    5. Vary the voice (reader) and pace of reading.

    6. Listen with background noise.

I found this exercise great, as it was interactive. But I felt that I did not always put enough work in!

Rehabilitation is hard work! I had two modes for watching TV. If I wanted to enjoy the programme and relax, I would watch with the subtitles. If I was in rehabilitation mode, I would listen, and look at subtitles to confirm I had heard correctly.


Read On…

 

    


 

more...Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland.

 

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