Thursday, July 3, 2008

B# or Ship Out

I'm listening to "John Coltrane's My Favourite Things" right now. The beginning sent chills up my arms for some reason (Auditory overload? Amazing music? Both?). But then ... it dropped away a mere minute into the composition. I only have my implant on not my hearing aid, so that could be why. But it strikes me as odd.

What I've really found though, is it takes my brain time to ADJUST. Even if I take it out to check the volume and then put it back on moments after I've taken it out, sound composition drops dramatically until my brain has had time to adjust. It seems odd that I couldn't just jump right back into it but it also makes sense.

I tried it with Ian's iphone, which he wasn't certain if the cord fit the Iphone properly enough to deliver the best sound. I think he said this right after I said things sounded HIGH and oddly distorted. I thought, "Oh no. What if it isn't the cord? I'm not going to say anything..." He turned up the music slowly and then all of a sudden, I pulled my implant out FAST. The sound had increased from a comfortable level to suddenly a painful one, piping into my head and it HURT. After that, Ian had me adjust the volume by myself because he didn't want to hurt me.

I remarked to him that I would for sure have to find a way to "lock" my ipod touch's volume because I can see myself grabbing it and accidentally sliding the volume up and blasting my auditory nerve with painful sound!

Notably, it cannot destroy my hearing or nerves but it HURTS so if it hurts, it follows that nobody would want to do it!

My natural biological capability for music has been substituted by a bionic ear, so of course.... Of course it sounds ODD. The first time I heard a song and tried to really listen, it sounded high-pitched and tinny. The Beatles' Blackbird sounds downright distorted. Where's the metronome? It's no longer razor-sharp clear, distinctly and easily picked out of the song. Even with the hearing aid in and the implant, it sounds HIGH and hardly what I'd call "music."

However, I CAN hear melodies now with most songs. This was a HUGE surprise because I wasn't even listening for it. I was sitting in Ian's darkened music room and oh, it was SWEET. The notes soared up and down distinctively and I finally, for the FIRST time, understood the concept of melody first-hand. I had understood the definition and concept but it was like being told what stars look like without having ever seen them.

Before, I could kind of understand why the melody is "so essential" but didn't really CARE. But... Music suddenly makes so much more sense now. I happily told Ian, "So this is how you hum songs! You follow the melody!" He looked surprised, as if it were common sense..... and of course it is for most people.

I had always thought you hummed just by following the notes and making the timing right, which IS the definition of melody in a sense.... but I had never been able to truly hear the distinctiveness of NOTES in... holy crap, a complex sequence of music.

I think this is one reason why I liked classical music- because it has NOTHING else mixed in with it. It's simply one instrument, usually, and that instrument plays its own notes and nothing else. I have always liked a great variety of music though- but to me it was kind of just like "nice" sounds or "pretty" sounds that seemed pleasant. Again, that could be a definition, yes, but there's SO much more to a star than it just being "a light in the sky."

I took off my implant and listened to a Weezer song with my hearing aid. It was shockingly flat, dull, and empty. I had NEVER noticed that music was simply.... boring with my hearing aid on. It wasn't, of course, but with the implant out the quality and amount I get seems boring now.

I was just always happy I COULD hear and appreciate music to a degree. I've always loved music; my parents were always playing music or instruments and I was always playing around with instruments or dancing. But now I have to laugh at what I comprehended as music. With the implant on AND the hearing aid... oooh. It's so much more distinct. Terrible in some ways, (the high pitches leap out sometimes in some songs, Beatles make NO sense, when my brain is still "warming up" to a song it can take a minute to kick in and make sense, etc) but marvelous in other ways (Melody is FINDABLE which is AMAZING to me!, music seems way more 3D and more complex, and so on...)

I heard stereo for possibly the first time in my life. Left side was the voice while right side was the instruments.... and I went, "Huh. That's an interesting way to arrange it." My initial impression was, "This IS cool and it DOES help. But in a way, I prefer hearing it together, since the implant filters all sound directly to my brain anyway." It'd depend, I guess.

Having my hearing aid on in my right ear helps a TON and adds more "life" and sense to what I'm hearing with my bionic left ear.

My brain likes simple songs right now- because I like the practice of being able to pick out sounds and melodies. I WANT to leap into "complex" songs but I plan to listen to songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as well. That might help a bit. I don't understand how people have such an expansive HUGE music memory at times- how can they pick out which melody a song is from when there's millions of songs out there? I wonder, will my brain ever be able to?

Part of me thinks it will in some cases, because I already am learning what sounds go with what things but I fear that I will lose that sense of knowledge with each new mapping (calibration for my new ear and software!) that I get, since sounds DO change with mappings.

Ian helps a lot by showing me which instruments are playing AS the song is playing which helps a TON because I have something to match with, to what I'm hearing. I don't know how people just naturally develop it, because while I CAN separate the elements a lot easier and find the melody, I find that it helps to such an amazing degree to have Ian tell me what's going on with the instruments/vocals.

It makes me wish I had somebody to walk with me all day and go, "This is what you're hearing!" I walk on the streets without my hearing aid on and just the implant and I hear really odd high pitched noises that I can't pinpoint to anything specific. I turn around, I look upwards, I stop walking, and still it continues and I can't find what it is.

But! One amazing thing was I was walking down the street and I saw a bus about 30 feet from me and I HEARD the doors shut. I knew instinctively it was the door. I didn't have to see the door to know it was the door. I'm not sure if it was my hearing aid, the implant, or the combination of both but it sure seemed louder and clearer and from across the street on top of that! So I chalked it up to the implant. Score.

I will keep you all up to date on how I'm doing with music!

Posts to Come: (A reminder for myself)

*Mapping #2
*Sounds I like/dislike/notice
*Ipod contents
*Pitch perception test.... take #1 after the implant.


Boult said...

You may want to check out this;

that is if they are available... just check the listing.

saradeafs said...

Great article! I completely appreciate your thought. One of my good friends Jane (whom I met on a deaf community )tell me about your article. She sent me your URL and I know she likes many of your blogs. Your work indeed pretty well!

Abbie said...

The one thing I noticed was how rich the CI makes music. Of course it took quite some time for me to realize that :)

Simpatico said...

G'day from Melbourne

You've had a good result it seems. I had an implant in mid-February with turn-on in early March. That ear had not heard sounds for almost 59 years (I had whooping cough very young). The results from implants vover a wide range. Mine started with just sensations not sounds at all. At 4 months I can now recognise male and female voices, sentences and a whole variety of environmental noises. In another few months there will be more!! I have a blog like you :