Friday, August 31, 2007

hearing and lipreading

Well, the other day while I was visiting with a very good deaf friend of mine, who also happens to be an interpreter... well, we got to talking about my "hearing" and "reading" skills. In order for me to HEAR and make sense of what is being said, I need to read lips and see the face...... And she was telling me that I am a horrible lip reader. "Really?!" I asked. "Well, yeah! Several times when I've interpreted for you, I used to drop my signs but continued to mouth, and you would always go 'huh?'" she says. "Really? I never realized that."

So, lo and behold, I tried this out tonight. My ear hurts and it hurts to wear the hearing aid, so why not just go deaf? I'm at work, going around deaf. I'm talking with a co-worker, while deaf. And she's talking back. I can see her face and her lips, but only catch maybe 1 or 2 words. Everything else I go "huh?" She repeated what she was saying 2 or 3 times and I still didn't get it.

Hm, I'll have to try this at home with my mom and see what happens. I never have realized before how bad a lip reader I am. If I can hear the words that are being said while I lipread at the same time, then I'm fine (most of the time). But turn off the voice, I'm lost. Or take away the visual and leave the voice, I'm lost.

I need both, or I'm screwed! I don't know, I just found this to be rather interesting. Definitely will have to try this at home with my mom when she gets back from her vacation, and with my stepdad and whoever else I can chase down.

By the way, when I go for the evaluation, should I mention this to the CI audiologist and see what she says? I don't know if I should or not. Hm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

hearing aids & FMs

Would anyone care to tell me WHY I am wearing my old hearing aid? And I do mean OLD! This hearing aid is one of those analogs from Phonak, purple of course.... which I received in the 3rd grade. Yeah, that's what, 13 years ago? I must be incredibly bored or something. And boy, I am just amazed at how DIFFERENT everything sounds. I am so used to how things sound with my digital Supero (once I get used to the adjustments)... so right now with this old analog, oh man. Everything just doesn't sound clear at all. It's all muddled, and I can barely recognize the music I'm listening to. Amazing! And I'm sure I'll be going through this again, several times, when I get the cochlear implant (that is, if I am a candidate and actually get one).

Anyway! I did go to the audiology this morning. Shane was out (can't remember what the assistant told me he was doing), so it was the assistant helping me. Last night I was playing with my Phonak FM transmitter, since I've been having issues with it for a while. Of course, it didn't occur to me until LAST night that maybe, just MAYBE, it's not the FM, but rather, the cord itself. So I played with the cord and all... I can hear music, nope not anymore, oh there it is, oh wait it's gone, oh it's back! Nope there it goes.... Well crap now what? Oh duh. I have an extra cord sitting on my computer desk from when I had it plugged into the computer for a while (this was why I bought the extra cord just last spring, so I could use the FM with the computer). So I switched out the cords, hello mystery solved! It's the cord that's faulty and not the transmitter. And for more than a month I was thinking it was the FM.

So, the assistant said she will have Shane order a replacement (I would like to continue to have 2 cords on hand, 1 for the computer, and 1 to use between DVD and CD players). Then we switched ear hooks on my hearing aid to see if it makes a difference (my hearing aid sure makes my ear hurt after a while). Right now I can't tell if it's made much of a difference, since I have the habit of leaving my hearing aid + FM shoe hanging off from behind my head when I listen to music (this is also a way to let my coworkers know I canNOT hear them when I'm at work, if they have taken the time to read and memorize the "Tips of how to communicate with a deaf person (me)" paper that I had made up and passed out).

Yeah. Oh, did I have fun going through the archives while I was at work. Since I'm actively working on the WSD website, I decided to go through the Star Tribune archives to find any and all articles and letters/editorials about the deaf school to use for the website. Found a bunch, but I know it's not all of them, so I'll have to check the scrapbook and binder and figure out what I have already, and which ones I will have to type up at some point. Now, tomorrow, if I remember to, I'll ask and make sure I can post the articles onto the website. I mean, I'll be giving the CST full credit for each and every single letter and article that I post, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem, right? I'll check and make sure. It just would be a nice addition to the website, it's history and perfect for the "archives."


Oh look at all of these articles! Wow. Late 1980s, very early 1990's... Sure I already had a lot of deaf school newspaper articles from '91 and '92 thanks to my grandmother. She saved a bunch of the articles and even letters to the editor and political cartoons and such, and put them into a scrapbook for me. All the stuff from when they tried to close the Wyoming School for the Deaf in the early 90's. Well, in this binder, there's a whole bunch more. Jo let me borrow it like last year or so, so I could make copies of what I didn't have in my scrapbook. I was going to hand-type every article and letter I had in my scrapbook for the website (hey, it's history!), and now, here's tons more to add to the website. I'm definitely going to be quite busy with this project. But it's something I'm serious about, something I want to do.

It's a shame that the state has tried to get rid of "evidence" of what happened at the deaf school. There used to be a bunch more stuff that were saved at the deaf school. But the state either gave away a bunch of stuff, or just tossed them out. Apparently the deaf school isn't that important to the state. Sure, the school building may no longer serve as a school for the deaf, but come on. All this stuff that were tossed out, they were important stuff! Documents, pictures and videos of whatever happened at the deaf school. It's like as if the state is trying to erase the deaf school's history, but that will never happen. Once I get all the copies/scans I want from this binder, I'll return it to Jo and she'll put it away in a safe place. There's 50th years worth of history at the School for the Deaf, so I'm going to try to get as much as I possibly can onto the website. Makes me glad there is a free website host server that provides 5 GBs worth of webspace. Most other hosts don't provide much, considering how much stuff I have here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

website frustrations

Well, what do you know! I found a new webspace host back in June for the Wyoming School for the Deaf website. I used to have a website called "Deaf Wyoming" which also included information and stuff for WSD. Well, that old website was basically deleted due to lack of update for months, so I decided I wanted to make a whole new one. And hopefully this new one will be better than the old one as well.

Anyway, since June, I have been struggling with the Coppermine photo gallery for the website. I've followed the instructions and everything, but every time I tried to upload a photo, it just did not work. Well, last night, it worked! I was shocked a thumbnail was actually created and everything. The downside to this is, I have to upload every single photo all over again. I had managed to get all of my photos uploaded to the webspace, since on Coppermine there is an option to "batch add files". When I try to batch add files, well of course, thumbnails cannot be made. Why, I don't know. So I have to upload each individual photo, and that is going to take some time.

But, at least I finally have the gallery going. I'm still working on it, uploading photos. And as for the actual website, well, I'm still working out a layout for that. I still have the Deaf Wyoming website saved on a disk, so I'm using those files and completely redoing everything. Hopefully there will be more information, history and news articles this time. This year marked the 50th anniversary since the Wyoming School for the Deaf was started, so of course, there is a lot of history and news. A lot of the history, I just only recently learned in June when I attended the reunion.

And in other news... I did download the cochlear implant surgical procedure from the podcast on iTunes (it's available for download for FREE) a while back. After the last visit with Jo, I told her I would try to put the hour long video onto a CD for the library. So yesterday, I was able to burn the entire thing onto a single disc. Stopped by the deaf school library and gave the disc to Jo. She tested it out on her computer, to see if it would work (you'd need to have the latest version of Quicktime for this file to work, since it's m4v format). She had to upgrade her Quicktime, but she got it working. She started watching it, but it was just too quiet and she couldn't really hear anything. But she's happy to have a copy for the library. It's for educational purposes, so why shouldn't there be a copy for the library?

Friday, August 24, 2007

MSN article

My mom printed off this article for me, so I thought I'd post this on here. It was very interesting to read of one person's experience of how he heard after his implant was activated.

What It Feels Like … to Regain Your Hearing
Musician Richard Reed went deaf in 1993 after a reaction to an antibiotic. In 2002, he underwent cochlear-implant surgery.
By Richard Reed

When the audiologist turned on the cochlear implant, I heard some loud beeps and boops; then I heard her say, "Can you hear me?"
I could indeed, but had something gone wrong? I'd expected it to sound weird, sure, but she sounded as if she were using bubbles instead of words. Her voice was musical, like a toy piano, each syllable a tiny ping. My reply was loud, a gruff, high-pitched Popeye voice. The audiologist said there was nothing wrong.
I drove home, sat in my driveway, and thought, How can silence be so loud? From everywhere and nowhere, things were twittering, sizzling, crackling, and plopping. My own breathing was creepy. I'd forgotten that shoes on sidewalks make tiny crunching noises. At the door to my apartment, I dropped my keys. They made a sound like little bells jangling. I picked them up and purposely dropped them again. Hey! Beautiful.
A lot of things sounded oddly human. A bowl of Rice Krispies sounded like a tiny audience applauding my banana-slicing technique. Clocks said, "Tick, tock." The world was suddenly filled with wacky onomatopoeia. People sounded strange, too. Spoken words sounded like droning robotic cartoon rodents. Add Darth Vader to Alvin and the Chipmunks, then divide by four.
Today, the bizarre tones are gone. Words sound perfect, maybe even slightly better, like an FM-radio deejay from the days before corporate playlists, with each slightly compressed s and t crisp and distinct. I can close my eyes and hear sweet nothings, which really are something.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


So, I'm trying to decide if I should make a documentary, documenting my cochlear implant process. I have a digital video camera, Windows Movie Maker (although my computer basically sucks...)... hm. Maybe if I could get a better computer to make the documentary on... Oh I don't know. I just think it'd be fun. Even if I don't make a documentary, it'd still be fun to document the process. I am planning on taking my video camera with me to the evaluation appointment on the 17th. Absolutely! I have extra blank tapes too... somewhere. It's just a matter of finding them. Yep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ooo what did I just find tonight?

HOLY CRAP! I can't believe I actually found my left hearing aid! Wow, after all this time.. We've been living in this house for more than 3 years now, and just tonight I found my left hearing aid.

I only started wearing a hearing aid in my left ear again after the CI audiologist, Allison Biever (she works for Rocky Mountain CI Center in Denver), told me I should wear it to keep the nerve and whatnot stimulated, whether or not I could hear anything. She told me this at the CNI Cochlear Kids Camp in 2003, so I started to wear a hearing aid again after getting a mold made for the left ear. But Like oh maybe after a few months, I stopped wearing it again. And after graduating high school, my mom and I moved in with her boyfriend, and all of my junk got misplaced or put away.

I was rather surprised to see the old purple hearing aid with the left earmold, sitting in the small bowl that I had made in pottery class, in a gift bag. Wow. Unbelievable. At least I have the hearing aid back again. But will I wear it again? I don't know. We'll see.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

an interesting article

Well, I came across this article a couple days ago or so, and thought it was a really interesting read. Advanced technologies to use with the internal component of a cochlear implant is being studied. The article was written by the author of "Rebuilt," which is neat.

Sound effects: An optical cochlear implant would bypass these inner ear hair
cells (above), which are nonfunctional in many cases of profound deafness.
Optical radiation would stimulate the neurons that are normally triggered by the
motion of these microscopic fibers in response to sound vibrations. Credit:
Steve Gschmeissner / Photo Researchers, Inc.

Friday, August 10, 2007
Making Deaf Ears Hear with Light
A laser-based approach could make cochlear implants, which currently use electrical signals, more effective.
By Michael Chorost

About 100,000 profoundly deaf people now hear with cochlear implants, which work by stimulating the auditory nerve with a string of electrodes implanted in the inner ear. While the devices enable many users to converse easily and use telephones, they still fall short of restoring normal hearing. Now scientists at Northwestern University are exploring whether laser-based implants could one day outperform today's electrical version.
The mammalian ear uses neural firing rates as one way of encoding sound. As part of a project funded by the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Claus-Peter Richter and his colleagues at Northwestern have demonstrated that they can control firing rates in the auditory nerve of animals using infrared laser radiation. They are now trying to establish that it's safe to use for long periods of time and that it can manipulate neural firing rates with enough precision to send useful information to the brain.
With conventional cochlear implants, electrical signals spread in the wet, salty environment of the body, muddying the signal. That makes it difficult to trigger specific populations of nerves inside the cochlea. Further complicating matters, simultaneous pulses in different locations merge with each other, stimulating the cochlea everywhere instead of in the desired locations.
Engineers work around the problem by triggering only one or two of the 16 or 24 electrodes in the inner ear at a time. It's done so rapidly that the user has the illusion that all of the electrodes are firing, but the result is still a relatively crude simulation of normal hearing. To many cochlear implant users, voices sound mechanical and music sounds washed out.
An infrared laser, on the other hand, can be beamed at nerve fibers with pinpoint accuracy. Furthermore, the directional nature of laser light means that optical pulses in different places won't interfere with each other. The increased precision of neural stimulation would make voices and music sound more natural, and users would be able to converse in noisy environments more easily.
While it's not yet clear why infrared radiation can trigger activity in the auditory nerves, Richter hypothesizes that it heats the cells slightly, opening ion channels in the cell walls and sending an electrical signal down the length of the neuron.
A major question is whether it's safe to stimulate nerves in this way for long periods of time. So far, Richter and his colleagues have shown that auditory nerves in anesthetized gerbils can be stimulated with infrared laser radiation for up to six hours without damage. At present it's not feasible to run the tests for longer, but Richter is planning long-term studies in animals with permanently implanted devices.
The researchers are also figuring out how to precisely control neuron activity with lasers. The ear encodes pitch and loudness not just by firing nerves in particular places, but also by modifying the rate at which they fire. So far, Richter has shown that laser radiation can reliably make neurons fire up to 250 times per second, which is comparable to the rate at which early-model conventional cochlear implants drive neurons.
Human trials are years away, but there are several ways in which infrared technology might be used to build a working cochlear implant. One is to use fiber optics instead of electrodes in an array inserted inside the cochlea, somewhat similarly to the way conventional cochlear implants now use electrodes. Early trials of such a system might involve replacing one or two electrodes of a conventional implant with fiber optics to test their effect. Another is to put an optical fiber bundle in front of the cochlea's round window to stimulate auditory neurons without opening the cochlea. (The round window is a thin membrane in the cochlea that absorbs fluid displacement as sound waves travel through it.)
An even more futuristic possibility is to use gene therapy to make auditory neurons responsive to particular wavelengths of light. At MIT, Ed Boyden has been altering nerve cells' genes so that they fire when exposed to one wavelength of light and stop firing when exposed to another. According to Richter, this approach would require less power to activate cells, which might be safer in the long run. Of course, this approach carries all the caveats that typically accompany gene therapy and would require a way to precisely deliver gene therapy to the relevant auditory cells.
"If proven safe and efficacious, optical stimulation could open up ultra-high density stimulation interfaces for the peripheral nervous system," says Boyden. "The process of combining optics and neurons may also pave the way for many future innovations - moving beyond the ubiquitous electrode to new modalities of neural control."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

it's set!

Monday, September 17th is the cochlear implant evaluation appointment date, at 11 a.m. Woot! Now I'm anxious for that date to approach. Heeeee.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Cochlear implant evaluation will happen sometime in September. The first opening they have is Sept. 12, but that's right in the middle of the week. It would be easier if it was a Monday appointment, that way we can go down on Sunday, I can go through the evaluation on Tuesday while Mom and Rob do whatever they want to do (evaluation will take a few hours, no need to have them sit around waiting for hours being bored). Then we come home either Monday night or Tuesday in the morning. I emailed the CI Center's director back and asked if there were any openings on a Monday. Getting closer! I'm getting kind of excited. Of course, I shouldn't get my hopes up. I mean, it's just an evaluation to determine if I'm a candidate. I shouldn't just assume I'll be a candidate, cause I won't know until after the evaluation. But we'll find out.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

straightened out a bit

Sooo... They can determine eligibility just from doing an evaluation only. Ok, good enough for me! Do the evaluation, worry about the cat scan stuff LATER. I don't really see the implant surgery happening anytime soon anyway, since I'm still trying to find out more about the insurance thing at the Star Tribune. So I'll let the center and the founder of Meningitis Angels work out costs, and let the founder get the approval to pay for the evaluation, then an appointment will be set up. Let's just worry about getting through the evaluation and find out if I'm a candidate. And if I am, then I'll work on getting the money to pay for the cat scans later on, and go from there.


Turns out there was some confusion over the evaluation price. The evaluation part costs more than $300, but for those paying out their pocket (those without insurance typically) would be given some sort of discount apparently? I don't know. If I were to do the FULL evaluation, with the doctor visit and all, that'd be over $600, and I have to get the cat scan done locally. Oh gee, cat scan of the head, now that's gonna be a bit pricey. So right now I'm thinking, lets do basic evaluation, with the hearing test and what not, and worry about the cat scan and doctor visit some other time. But we'll see what Meningitis Angels says. The founder, she says she'll call the implant center for more information on the cost, as she and the Organization want to help out somehow. So now, I'll just wait and see what happens.