Friday, July 26, 2013

Cochlear Implant Training DVD
Friday,  July 26, 2013

Where did this week go?  Did anyone else have their week disappear as quickly as mine did?  Maybe it just seems short because our youngest son is home and he will be going back to Dallas too soon. 

This morning I had to ride to work with my husband since Stephen was using my car while he was having a little work done on his.  That made for a long day for me, since I don't usually go to the office that early.  Our grandson Isaac came to the office for much of the day.  I kept him busy with some cleaning, as well as unpacking and pricing merchandise, and preparing invoices.  During the morning while he was working cleaning in the showroom, I spent some time with my Kindle Fire and the Immersion Reading.  That is working well.
After Isaac left, I closed myself in my office and started work with the DVD of practice exercises that came with my Cochlear Implant.  There are many different types of listening exercises and tests so that you can chart your progress.  I should have started this sooner, but there just has not been time.

As I have mentioned before, with the implant, it is very hard to be able to enjoy music.  There are just not enough different tones recognizable from the 16 channels in the implant.  It would take a lot more explaining than I can do in this blog to tell you how that all works, but let me just say that several notes close to one another on the piano, all sound the same with the implant, so the ability to enjoy music is not easily achieved.  A few people say that with a lot of intense practice, they have been able to do it. 
The limited variety of tones available affects not only music appreciation, but also voice identification.  It is hard to identify voices that once were very familiar to me.  The program deals with pure tones, consonant recognition and vowel recognition, environmental sounds, male & female voice identification, word discrimination, every day sentences, and music appreciation.  There are exercises in each category and in most cases an assessment test to take in the beginning to later use to check improvement. 
After taking the assessment tests, they tell you what level you need to start on to practice.  They often feel I have mastered an area in which I don't feel at all comfortable.  For example, in the every day sentences, on Level 1, they will read a sentence and you will see four sentences on the computer screen and you select the one you just heard.  I don't have any trouble with that.  I was blessed to be able to understand clear, simple speech from the start (unlike most of the patients).  When you get to Level 3, they start adding background noise and you just select one of four words on the screen that was in the sentence.  I did fairly well on that, but not perfect.  The computer told me to advance to the next level.  Level 4 adds a LOT of background noise and I could only guess at those.  That is an area where I really struggle as I have mentioned when I have talked about us going out to eat, or when people are visiting before and after the church services on Sundays.

Dealing with the vowel recognition, there will be two or four words on the screen (depending on the level you are working with) and you will hear a word and must select the corresponding one on the screen.  Sounds easy?  These are words that sound very similar and can be a real challenge for someone with the Cochlear Implant.  I did well on Level 3 out of 4 levels, but Level 4 is very challenging. 

I probably spent an hour and a half or more working with the program and it showed the areas where I already know I am having trouble.  I am not sure how this will help, but I hope it does make things better.  After the assessment tests, you go to the training sessions and in them, when you miss something, it immediately shows you what you missed and repeats the words that you confused so that you reinforce what the correct answer is.  Still, I am not sure how that retrains my old brain.  I will let you know if my scores improve. 
The pure tone section was in many ways discouraging because they would play three tones and you were to mark the one that was different.  In listening to some of the tones, it was easy to select the correct answer, but in other cases, even after I had been told I was wrong, and it would replay the three tones again, all three would sound exactly alike to me.   This is to a person with 4 years of piano, 10 years of band, and many, many years of church choirs and singing.  So I don't know how, when there are just the limited channels to replicate the sounds, I can learn to discern them.  The audiologist says she has one patient who was a professional musician and that after lengthy, hard work, he can now return to playing in the band that he was in before losing his hearing and then getting the Cochlear Implant.  So, it can be done.  I just don't know how it works in the brain.  God gave us an amazing brain and it can still learn new things all the time, so I will keep trying to teach it some new tricks.

My brain was exhausted by the end of the work day.  Ron and I ran a couple of errands after work and then went to Chick-fil-A for supper.  We were in separate cars and I got there first.  I was inside waiting for him and "the cow" came over and gave me a hug.  It was nice to get that after all my hard work all day on the listening activities.  There is still so much to learn!

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