MY COCHLEAR IMPLANT: THE 3-MONTH AUDIOLOGY EVALUATION – Garry Armstrong

LEARNING TO HEAR by Garry Armstrong, 
Photography: Marilyn Armstrong

Sing “Hallelujah” softly and this year, I will hear you. Crystal clear!

One of many hearing tests

That’s the lead on a delightfully mild Monday as I look back on today’s evaluation of my Cochlear Implant at UMass Memorial Hospital.

It was like getting an A on your first major exam in college.

Nicole Seymour, audiologist on the job!

Last week, I got excellent grades at the surgical evaluation of the Cochlear procedure. All the stuff placed inside my brain was line-dancing with the receiver parts atop my head and right ear. No unseemly scars, bumps or rashes. Even my fast receding hairline appears to be flourishing.

Is this a side perk?

Garry in the booth, listening to the test signals

Today was a detailed session of testing and adjustments. I sat in a small room that looks like Interrogation Room 1 on NCIS, but with more electronic equipment. I went through a series of tests administered by my audiologist. The tests involved various levels of single-word recognition, complete sentence awareness, and range of tone comprehension.

It’s harder than you think.

Putting the equipment on again

If you’re hearing-challenged, which is to say, deaf, you have problems with all these things. Single words that rhyme – led, dead, bread, red are easily confused. Whole sentences are often misinterpreted, sometimes leading to misunderstanding and embarrassment. High and low tones aren’t audible. I couldn’t tell the difference, so statements and questions sounded the same.

Consultation

I sat tensely – my body coiled – as I sat for decades during my TV news career. Struggling with interviews, courtroom testimonies, and pivotal political speeches. My breath came in rushes because I wanted to be successful.  A lot rides on the cochlear implant. At age 76, this is a major turning point. 


I can experience clear hearing for the first time in my life.

I clearly heard many of the words, sentences, and sounds.  But some of it was guesswork, just as it was throughout my working years. I could feel my body tighten as I wondered how well I was doing.

Nicole setting the levels on the implant headset

Progress or not?  I’ve been working hard with the cochlear implant. I wanted progress very badly.

Tools of the trade

When it came time for evaluation, the audiologist gave no facial hints. I was tense and nervous. She slowly and clearly told Marilyn and me that my progress was substantial with major improvements in all the areas tested. Some of the improvement was huge, some more moderate. But everything was better.

I smiled inwardly which turned into a broad smile that could have lit the room.

Filling in the forms

My cochlear implant and the hearing aid in my left ear were adjusted to give me more audio on 5 levels. She expected I would probably not want (or need) the strongest (loudest) level, but it was there, just in case. The new “bottom” level was the top of my previous levels. Go, Garry!

Setting the new levels on gear

In the coming weeks and months, Marilyn and I will be attending several large events where there will be many people, lots of background noise including live music — the dread of anyone who has trouble dealing with background noise. These events will be powerful tests for my implant.

More tests

What’s more, these are exactly the events that I dreaded before the cochlear implant surgery.

Now, I am eagerly looking forward to them.

Hallelujah! Time to celebrate!

THE WHITE ELEPHANT PARTY: A TAGALONG FROM MELANIE B CEE – Marilyn Armstrong

Look what that MELANIE B CEE gave me? What a sweetheart! That’s not a white elephant. That’s a saving grace!

From Melanie:

Okay, my gift recipients are … cough, cough … VICTIMS … cough, cough, cough …are the following: Marilyn (yeah I’m picking on you today). I hope you can use this.  I know I could! HEY SANTA?? You taking notes??!

christmas-hat-full-100-dollar-260nw-139679770

A giant Christmas stocking full of cash is no white elephant!

Is there enough money to repoint the chimney? Replace the kitchen window? Maybe even replace ALL the windows!

Oh, thank you thank you thank you!

Since so many of the people with whom I am online friends, what I will give all of you is a year of health, free of fear. Where no one hates you, no one is cruel. Where you can do what you enjoy and feel free and happy while you do it! To all of you on this first evening of Chanukah … be full of joy!

This is a joyous time of year and I send you all kisses and hugs and every sort of good feelings. May your books sell, your dogs and cats be healthy, and all your remaining parts work almost like new!

And just to keep this fun, here are some portraits of the many animals on the Commons yesterday during the preparation for the parade. Goats, sheep, and Vicuna! And one photographer.

The prettiest goat!

He could come to our place and keep my weeds cut … or at least, chewed

A very attractive sheep

And some vicuna,, a little abstract to blur faces

And one last portrait … and a reminder that — AGAIN — we will be gone all day at the audiologist at the hospital because it’s Garry’s three -month audiological checkup. There are going to be a lot of tests and a lot of tune-ups of all the equipment.

Lots of domination games in the pen. Reminds me of home!

And yes, I WILL  bring a camera this time. If I don’t have time to visit your blog, please forgive me.

It’s just going to be that kind of month. Doctors, vets, and actually a few cool parties that are long drives from here, but we’re going to try to go anyway. At least they aren’t in Boston, so we might actually get there!

ANOTHER DAY AT UMASS – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s another one of those lost days for us. This is Garry’s official 3-month audiological checkup. I’m expecting great things.  I’m charging my little camera because this time, I am remembering my own excellent advice:

NEVER GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT A CAMERA

my camera because even though it makes the bag more than a little bit heavy, you just never know. Pictures just happen.

I am due for at least one smiling photograph of Garry and his audiologist.

I’ll tell you all about it, but today, I’m going to be missing in action.

Sorry. I don’t think we get a normal week until sometime in January! And then, I’ve got a book competition to judge. Maybe in February?

DOCTOR AND PATIENT – Marilyn Armstrong

Today was Garry’s 3-month post-operative surgical appointment at UMass hospital.

He hasn’t had any problems at all with the surgery. Actually, he has not had any trouble with the process, except for the minor detail that every day is a surprise. Each new sound is something he has to recognize, then classify.

He hears the squeaky ball that Duke is chewing. He hears the trucks pulling into the driveway. He recognizes the opening and closing of the gate downstairs. He can hear his own breathing and finds it distracting. We all assure him he will learn to filter that kind of sound, as well as many other ordinary sounds that the rest of us automatically don’t notice.

It takes a lot of work to learn to hear when you are 76. Sounds that the rest of us have always recognized, he is hearing for the first time. It’s a lot of work and a lot of mental processing.

Garry and Dr. Remenschneider. When your doctor is not much older than your grandchild, you know you’ve put on a few years.

It can be a bit exhausting for him. I suspect sometimes all he wants is that old familiar silence where no one expects him to answer because they know he didn’t hear them.

Today he picked up the phone when it rang … and he heard it. He hates telephones and has for a very long time. It has a lot to do with getting calls from work at all hours of the day and night. Over the years it became a bit of a phobia. Hopefully, he will get over it. Because all of us deserve to have to listen to the other electric company’s spiel on how they will lower our rates (no they won’t). At least the political season is over for a couple of months so the surveyors won’t be calling. That’s something.

Dr. Aaron Remenschneider – and a great surgeon!

On the positive side, I am (finally) not the only one who wonders what that weird noise is in the basement. Also, when we have an argument, he knows what I said — which is not always ideal.

He is not the only one who has to learn new things. I have lost my role as permanent interpreter, which to be fair, I’m glad to lose. I have not lost my role in telling people to please speak up, especially the receptionists in the Hearing Clinic.

They speak so softly, I can barely hear them. Meanwhile, the people they are talking to are actually in the process of trying to learn to hear. I figure they should speak up. Put a little diaphragmatic air into your larynx and push it out through your vocal cords. That’s what makes it possible for others else to hear you.

It’s what speakers are taught. Actors and reporters, too. Sometimes, you don’t have a microphone. You just have you.

Okay, among other things, I was a speech major. Actually, I have a degree in it. I have never used the degree for anything except telling other people to “please speak up!”

Doctor and patient. Hint: the doctor is wearing white.

Garry is quite the star of the Otolaryngology Department. He can hear remarkably well for just three months into the program.

I expected him to be a star. When Garry works at something, he really works at it. He had to learn to speak properly with significant deafness. He learned it well enough to be on television every day for many years. So given this challenge, I knew he’d work at it as hard as he has ever worked at anything else in his life.

The hard work paid off. He can hear. I wish he had this option in his life many years earlier but if ever the expression “better late than never” had relevance, now is that moment.

Next week, he has his three-month audiological checkup. I bet he’s going to be a star.

SOMEWHERE, SOMETHING IS BEEPING – Marilyn Armstrong

For years, I never knew what was beeping. I’d sit here in the living room and I’d hear something beeping. I could only guess where it was coming from and it drove me nuts.

Today, there was some very serious beeping. It seemed to be coming from the television.

I think that’s because everything Bluetooth in this house that wasn’t connected somehow got found by the TV speaker, so everything comes through that speaker. This includes our regular telephone, all the cameras, the cell phone (when it’s on). The dehumidifier, which beeps when it’s full. The microwave. The big and mini ovens, although they do not play through the TV speaker, having no Bluetooth capability.

And of course, all of our computers or tablets love beeping to tell you they are full, they needs uploading, downloading, charging, some other part needs charging or changing. Maybe the battery is failing to charge because the plug is out — and just sometimes, they beep to annoy you. It’s part of their software.

Everything beeps.

Until recently, only the dogs and I could hear the beeping. The dogs never appeared to care, but it drove me nuts. It wasn’t just that something was beeping. It was WHERE it was beeping. Upstairs? In the basement? It could be the hot water heater or the boiler or the dehumidifier or anything else. Maybe an old alarm clock someone left behind.

Tonight was different. Garry said: “What’s that noise?”

And I said: “You mean the beeping?”

“Is that what that is? It’s really annoying. And loud.

“I know. That’s why I wander around asking the house asking it ‘why are you beeping?’ The house never answers. Welcome to my world where things beep.”

We went searching for the beep. The dehumidifier was full, so Garry emptied it.  But the beeping continued.

Back upstairs, I finally realized it was the stair-climber. It was beeping, although why it was beeping, I had no idea. It had never beeped before.

After Garry gave up the hunt and went to bed removing his hearing gear on the way, I continued to try to figure it out. I finally followed the long wire to its outlet on the wall. Realized it was slightly loose, so I plugged it back in, more firmly, then straightened the wire and untangled the whole thing.

It hasn’t beeped again, so I guess I got it. Usually, things beep, then eventually stop beeping and I never figure out what beeped or why.

For all the aggravation of searching the house for whatever is making that noise, it was deeply gratifying that Garry’s cochlear implant has allowed him to share my world. To start to hear all those annoying little sounds that fill up our world. To have him equally annoyed by that noise was heartwarming.

At last, I am not the only one who hears the noise. This is huge! I am not alone!

HEARING, IMPLANTS — AND WHAT’S THAT SOUND? – Marilyn Armstrong

A couple of days ago, Garry had his one-month follow-up for his cochlear implant.

It’s hard to believe it’s just one month since the gear went on his head for the first time and it’s also hard to believe how much change there has been in his ability to hear in just one month.

I wish I had numbers of the actual percentage of change for each type of sound. Some of them were really shockingly good. My favorite was his ability to understand a complete phrase — something with context rather than a single word without context which went from zero — nothing — to 76%. That was the gigantic jump. It gave me goosebumps.

Individual words — no context — was closer to 50% (from zero). The hard one — the one which is always going to be a problem — was hearing what someone said when there is background noise, the kind you hear in a restaurant where a lot of people are talking. That was up to 20% from zero. I’m not sure if that will ever “top the charts” since as we get older — and by this I mean a collective “we” — our ability to hear one voice above many other sounds will diminish.

I won’t go to a restaurant where they constantly play music. I never liked it even when I was younger because it made conversation difficult. Since “going out to dinner” is one of the most common ways people get to know each other, why make it so much harder to hear the other person speaking? And this was when I had normal (if not slightly better than normal) hearing.

These days, I don’t hear as well as I did a few years back. I sometimes miss the beep from kitchen timers, and when the three dogs are barking, I can’t hear anything. I dislike noisy restaurants and live music when I’m out to eat will make me run from the room with my hands over my ears.

I suspect the music (especially loud music) played in restaurants is more to keep the staff moving than for the benefit of customers. I’m here to point out that it drives customers away.

I have a weird feeling that eventually, Garry with all his electronic gear in place will hear better than me.

Won’t that be an interesting turn of events!

Meanwhile, Garry can — in a quiet room — have a pretty normal conversation with a small group of people. How he will do at a party or in a large group? Or anyplace with nonstop background noise and music? Probably not so well. Otherwise, though, he can hear. The rain on the roof. The rush of a waterfall in the distance. The buzz of the washer and dryer in the basement and he can tell the difference between the washer (loud) and the dryer (soft).

He can hear the lyrics to songs assuming the lyrics are audible. He can watch TV with regular sound, not headphones — and is discovering that just because you are paid a lot to be a sportscaster doesn’t mean you don’t mumble.

It’s good news all the way around. He is doing as well as expected in most areas and better than most in several. Listening is more like work for Garry than for me. He has to try harder to catch the sounds, but the more he works at it, the better he gets.

But please, don’t everybody talk at once!

BRACE YOURSELF! GONNA BE A LONG DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP THURSDAY – BRACE


It’s going to be a long day. Any time we have to get up early for one of these extended audiological checkups for Garry’s cochlear implant, it’s going to take a while. This is the one-month followup and I believe it will all be good news.

I also am pretty sure he needs a tune-up, especially for his left (the non-cochlear) ear because — how ironic! — that’s the one through which he hears much less than in the “new, rebuilt” ear.

We didn’t get that “sudden” moment when he just says “Oh, wow, I can hear.” More like realizing that he can hear the rain on the roof — and it’s loud! He didn’t know rain could be so loud. Or hear the beep from the microwave in the kitchen, the funny scrunchy noise you hear when The Duke has found something hard and plastic to chew on. The buzz the washer and dryer give from the basement and realizing he can tell the difference between the loud buzz (washer) and softer buzz (dryer).

How LOUD the dogs really are! And that he still won’t answer the telephone or even try. He hates the phone and I don’t think he will ever entirely recover because he hated them even when he could hear on one.

Finally, having an actual conversation with a total stranger in the grocery store when normally, he’d not even have heard her say “hello,” much less indulged in a conversation about whether or not it’s possible to not have failed to mention a sexual assault for 36 years. His answer being, “Absolutely. I remember how terrified those women were when I tried to talk to them.” Because he covered a lot of domestic violence calls and the story was always the same — women terrified, men hostile.

Our police chief told us that the most dangerous calls they make are for domestic violence. Those are the ones where a cop is most likely to be injured and also the cases that will never go to court, nor justice be done.

And me thinking there were things I’d never told Garry yet because all it would do it upset him and there was no reason dredge up old misery. Women don’t tell their men things. We don’t want to upset them if there’s nothing to be done to fix it — and they get extremely, sometimes lethally upset. Who needs that?

Having a reasonably normal conversation with a friend … and not having to say “what” a dozen times.

Discovering he can still take off his new hearing aids, put back the headphones and ignore me for a joyful few hours. Drat. I should never have pointed out he could do that!

It will be a long day and Garry’s not feeling well. Tomorrow we go for blood tests and find out what — if anything other than hay fever and age — is the problem. So let’s brace ourselves for two long days!

EVERYBODY KNOWS OUR NAMEs, BUT WE’VE FORGOTTEN THEIRS – Marilyn Armstrong

Everybody Knows Your Name


This is Uxbridge. I do not know everybody’s name and everybody does not know my name. But everybody knows my husband. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know their names, so he spends a lot of his time trying hard not to look wide-eyed when people say ‘Hi Garry!” with enthusiasm. This isn’t only a problem in Uxbridge.

It’s an everywhere problem. He has been accosted in Scotland, Dublin, Baltimore, Disneyworld. Everywhere. Usually, the meeting is accompanied by someone saying (again) “I used to watch you while I was growing up,” which always unhinges him, just a bit. He knows he’s not young, but he doesn’t need a constant reminder of his age.

The most recent event was (for both of us) when we went to vote. A big joyful hug and a “Hi you all!” which was included us both.

She looked at me (I do not have much of a poker face) and said “You have no idea who I am, do you?” and I had to confess I hadn’t a clue. It turned out it was the lady who used to run our church back when we actually knew people who went to that church.

She retired probably 8 or 9 years ago. I swear she looks younger now then she did when she ran the church. For one thing, she was wearing jeans. She never wore casual clothing to church. She was the most buttoned-up lady I ever met. She has come a long way and all of it good.

Sometimes, retirement does that to people.

Garry didn’t recognize her either, but he got into a great conversation about his new hearing apparatus which are pretty much his main subject of conversation these days. It’s a pretty good subject and I think most people are interested. Hearing as a disability is not something most people understand.

They know about the inability to walk or see or use their hands, but somehow, hearing just slips right by them. They don’t understand how difficult it is to function in a world full of talking people when you don’t understand what they are saying.

Trying to read lips, pretending you know what they said — when you don’t — then nodding politely. Hoping smiling and nodding is an appropriate response and that they didn’t just tell you about the death of some family member.

For me, I just don’t recognize faces except unless they are wearing their usual clothing and doing things I recognize. I can only recognize people in context, by the way they dress, or the work they do.

When people show up out of context, I don’t know their names. Actually, I don’t remember anyone’s name, but I rarely admit it.

I remember the day my first husband shaved his beard and I didn’t know who he was. He was completely unrecognizable. I don’t mean he looked “a little different.” I mean –he was entirely different. The funny part — if there is a funny part — was that he was beardless when I first knew him. But that was a long time ago. Like 10 years at least.

So everyone knows us. I wish it were mutual.

They know me if I’m with Garry because everyone knows Garry. If I’m with him, I must be Marilyn. A few people know me, but not a lot because I’m not especially sociable.

Garry, though, was super sociable for more than 30 years. I swear he interviewed every citizen of Massachusetts. He either interviewed them, or they were “man on the street” interviews, or just there in the background of whatever story he was covering.

I’m not entirely sure that having everyone know who you are is a good thing. People don’t seem to realize that Garry has been retired for more than 17 years. They think he still has “connections.” He does, but they are also retired. Our generation got old. Almost none of the people we worked with are still working  — unless they were artists or writers and didn’t hold regular jobs.

My mother once commented that it must something in the linseed oil because painters live forever. What a pity it didn’t work for her.


NOTE: I don’t have parched or pine. If every post is going to a be a contrived game of fitting words which have no bearing on each other into a “post,” I’ll lurk. This is not what we used to have, certainly not what I hoped for, and definitely not what I want to do.

I’m not a puzzle solver. I prefer to write to a concept or a thought. But I’m absolutely certain everyone will do fine without me. I’m not arrogant enough to think my presence or absence will make any difference to anyone.

DOOMED – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: ATM Germs


We are doomed.

Yesterday — or was it the day before? — we got our super flu shots. These are hyped up uber-potent shots they give to us older folks because we are more likely to get sick than younger people. Also, we are more likely to die from the flu because we have other issues — asthma, blood pressure, and heart problems. Sinus problems. Stomach problems. Fibromyalgia. MS. Cancer.

In fact, I don’t know why we don’t just die and give the world a break. Sheesh.

Discovering that in addition to the usual distributors of disease — other people, especially very young people — we can now worry about everything we touch including the ATM machine.

Don’t forget your flu shot …

Really? As if the handles on the shopping cart and whatever my granddaughter has on her clothing isn’t bad enough, now I have to stress over ATM machines? Not that I actually use the ATM machine. I won’t make a deposit without going to an actual person in the bank. I want a paper receipt.

Call me crazy, but once, a long time ago in a bank since absorbed by some larger bank — probably by now it’s all Bank of America — they lost a deposit I put through in an envelope that included an official deposit slip.

It got straightened out but left me with a firm belief for any deposit made by check or cash I want a written, signed piece of paper from a person.

We are doomed. No matter how hard we try, something will get us.

We don’t go out much. When we do, we usually get sick. It’s like the slow cars that pull out in front of us while we are driving. I’m sure these cars are told when to appear by drones from the super-slow drivers’ department. Meanwhile, somewhere in the air, there’s a germ-laden drone.


“Look! It’s the Armstrongs! Prepare to disperse germs!”

Mostly, Garry and I have been exhausted. All the time. For me, this typically means fibromyalgia. Garry had surgery in July and I have a feeling that this might have triggered the same thing for him. Women are more typically fibromyalgia victims, but men are not excluded.

Then again, maybe we aren’t sick at all. Maybe we just aren’t getting enough sleep. The weather has been like hot soup with interludes of rain.  Duke is shedding like a small furry hurricane. Our sinuses and eyes don’t like the ragweed and Garry is getting used to carrying around a lot of electronics inside his head.

So maybe it’s all allergies and getting even older.

When we went for our flu shots, they always ask if you think you might be sick. At our age, that’s not an easy question to answer. Maybe we are fine or as fine as we ever are. But, maybe we aren’t fine.

Am I exhausted from all the running around to doctors and hospitals or because I’m coming down with something? Am I recovering from the major house cleaning last week? Or am I worn out because our dogs are faster, friskier, and more impassioned about balls that squeak than I could ever be?

Don’t you wish you could get that enthusiastic about a big green tennis ball that squeaks? Don’t you wish you could bite something hard enough to make it squeak?

THE ROYAL WE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Royal


The royal we — that is to say, me and Garry — went to the barber yesterday. There were no more excuses and it was getting ever increasingly difficult to find those magnets in his head.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

It sounds pretty funny, when I think about it, finding the magnets in your husband’s head, but he has magnets. They are what holds his transmitter to his skull.

Messages collected by a little microphone in his ear go to a coil and other electronic pieces. Presumably, from there, they go to his brain which translates these sound into human speech. Normal hearing does pretty much the same thing, but without the magnets and with the coil is there naturally from birth.

It’s a pretty cool setup. Even with all the ghost chimes and bongs and jangling in his head, Garry can hear, probably better than he has anytime before in his life.

I was there at the barber’s to explain that he needed one piece of hair cut shorter– not bald, just pretty tight to his head– so he could easily find the magnets. There are also magnets in the transmitter, so it’s magnet to magnet.

Garry may not have a lot of hair on top, but the hair on the sides and back of his head is thick. It was getting difficult to find the skull beneath the pelt. I was trimming the area, but the hair was growing a lot faster than I could cut it. And Garry is very fussy about his hair and heaven forfend I should accidentally cut an extra sprig of hair.

I would never hear the end of it. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But he is very fussy about his hair.

The result was perfect and now, it’s easy to find the magnets. As long as he keeps the head reasonably short, all should go well. The royal WE did it again!

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: A HAIRCUT FOR GARRY – Marilyn Armstrong

GARRY NEEDS A HAIRCUT.
REALLY, GARRY NEEDS SEVERAL HAIRS CUT. 

We didn’t go when he first came back from surgery. For obvious reasons. We haven’t gone since first because he was still recovering from surgery, and then because it was too ridiculously hot.

I don’t mind hot weather, but I really dislike intense humidity and we’ve had both. It turns out, no one likes this weather, including Garry. We were going to do this yesterday, but he came in from cleaning up the walk (dogs, you know) and said “Forget it. It’s too damned HOT.”

That’s something from Garry.

So today’s the day.

It rained yesterday, last night, and a bit this morning. There’s no sunshine. All gray. But it’s in the low 70s and I have windows open. Air conditioning is finally off. At least until the next heat wave hits us later in the week.

I have to go with Garry for this haircut. Once his special headgear comes off, he can’t hear anything. I will have to show the barber how to cut an area very short and where else it can be longer. He needs one very short area (not bald, just shorter) so he can easily find where the magnetic conductor fits.

Garry may not have a lot of hair on top, but his hair on the sides and back of his head is very thick and springy. This is one of those rare times when a little less hair wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

The Barber Shop in town

A rather complicated haircut for a guy who’s used to saying. “The usual.” And I get to do the talking. After which, we can pick up a pizza for dinner.

Mrs. Armstrong is not cooking today. MY schedule says “no cooking.” Turn on the little oven and drop the pizza in.

Dinner is served!

UPDATE: WEEK 2 – ACTIVATED COCHLEAR IMPLANT – Garry Armstrong

I feel like I should be singing “Getting To Know You” as I write this update.

It’s the beginning of the second week, wearing my activated cochlear implant.  It’s Saturday,  the first day of the 9th month.  If you sing “September Song”, I could probably hear most of the lyrics.   Maybe I’ll listen to Walter Houston’s memorable rendition of that melancholy song later today.

September is usually special because we celebrate our Wedding Anniversary and granddaughter Kaitlin’s birthday along with keeping eyes (and now ears) on our Boston Red Sox, hoping they can finish their 6-month marathon with a pennant championship en route to the World Series.

This September Sabbath began on a down note.  Blame it on the weather.  I’d planned on taking in a town event, “Uxbridge Day”, which figured to give my cochlear implant a public test,  mingling with dozens of people on our town square. Between the hot weather, an Excedrin Plus headache, and general fatigue from this long week prompted me to cancel plans.

We’ll hold off on the cochlear implant public début for a while.

Yesterday,  I received my first evaluation on the cochlear surgery and performance of the week-old activated parts. Marilyn and I shared our response to how I fared during the first week of my new hearing.

They were mixed reviews.  The audiologist did some tweaking, essentially giving me more volume. Now, I’m hearing louder bells, whistles, chimes, echoes and other “ghosts noises.”  I’m told these noises will fade in 3-months to a year as I adjust to this new way of hearing.

I’m from Missouri.  I’ll believe it when it happens.

Marilyn and I have discussed how we communicate with each other. This is a bonus because people with normal hearing have similar problems but rarely discuss it for fear of marital discord.  Who’s at fault? No one.

I feel as if I should be singing “Getting To Know You.” No, I don’t feel like Yul Brynner, King of Siam. I’m becoming more comfortable with my cochlear implant exterior parts. It’s somewhat awkward for me connecting the battery to the transmitter which sits atop my head and sends signals to “base headquarters” inside my head.

Usually, I need Marilyn’s help.  Today, I did it MYSELF!  Hallelujah!  It felt so good. I patted myself on the head, careful not to dislodge the transmitter.  Marilyn cut out a piece of my hair so it would be easier to find a landing spot, making it easier for the magnets inside the transmitter to secure a spot on my head.  Like a spaceship landing on Mars.

As I write, I’m getting mostly “ghost chimes” in my brain and ear. It’s peaceful.  The dogs are not barking. The TV is in repose.  All is calm.

So far, so good.

FIRST DAY: ACTIVATING THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT – Garry Armstrong

After 76 years, 4 months and 18 days of hearing impairment, aka deafness, I can HEAR in both ears. Sing Hallelujah. But hold the applause. We’re not home yet.

Right ear. This is where all the sound data is collected to be transmitted to the implant and then, the brain

I’m going to need a trim to my hair soon. It’s not easy finding my head and the magnets

I’m writing the morning after the cochlear implant parts were activated in my head. During activation,  I felt a little like “the creature” in “Young Frankenstein”.   We had a prelude where the audiologist carefully explained how to assemble the cochlear “accessories,”  how to place them on my head and in my ears. Marilyn was watching closely. Good thing because I was quietly panicking. I’ve never been good doing the simplest of assemblies. I’m very clumsy.

I was as anxious as a Red Sox mid-inning reliever.

After the tutorial, several dry runs, and increasing anxiety, all the parts were in place and activated.  All this came after lengthy audio tests to determine how loud my new ears should be.

I braced myself with everything in place.

The cochlear parts are for my right ear, the “bad ear” which gives me very little audio. I have a new hearing aid in my left ear, the “good ear” which is supposed to enhance the cochlear parts.

I’ll give you in my rookie wearer understanding. The devices you see entwined around my right ear collect audio signals and send them to a “transmitter” which, with magnets, sits on the side of my head. The transmitter sends those signals into my head,  to the “implant” which was inserted via surgery.  Okay so far?  Oh, and there are magnets in my head so the headpiece will stay in place. Magnets. In my head.

So far, so good.

I breathed loudly as everything was activated. The voices of Marilyn and the audio technician were very tinny.  I could hear Marilyn’s voice more clearly. She had more “body” in her words than the technician, who I could also hear clearly, but she has a thin, rather reedy voice. I tried to relax my body and let myself really hear what was being said.

Left side with the new hearing aid. Smaller than the old one. This part of the gear needs some work

Relaxation is key. All my life, I’ve physically strained to hear. Leaned forward to catch what people were saying.  It’s difficult and physically exhausting.

It’s been my norm for 76 years. Now, I had to try and change that life-long habit. I sat with my back to Marilyn and the technician to test how well I could hear without seeing the people talking and read their lips as I usually do.

Usually, I can’t hear Marilyn if I am not directly facing her. It’s produced years of frustration for both of us. I could hear, my back turned away, both Marilyn and the audiologist. (Insert applause here.)

Sort of “normal” Garry from the front. The backpack came with all the “stuff” packed into it including the implant gear, a backup set of that gear, all those tiny little tools you need for working with hearing aids, charger, a whole set of “foreign” plugs for when (ahem) we travel to far off places … and a drying to get the humidity out of the unit. A GREAT idea!

Still, the voices were tinny and they echoed. As I responded to questions,  my voice sounded clear, full of that crispness and authority that’s familiar to TV News viewers. (Insert laughter here). That my own voice sounded perfectly normal is a good sign. It means that my brain is recognizing my voice and turning it into “normal” sounds. Probably Marilyn’s voice will be next. Familiar voices become “normal” much faster than the rest of the world and some may never sound entirely normal.

I allowed myself a brief smile of satisfaction.  It was very brief because I was also hearing bells and whistles, like a train was approaching the station. It was bizarre. The audiologist nodded as I explained what I was hearing.

She said it was normal. That I probably would hear those noises for “some time” as I wore the cochlear parts in various situations. Reporter Garry wanted a time frame.  How long? No easy answer, but she said — in round figures — about three months.

We went over how I should adjust to using my new ears and the various parts, inside and outside of my head. My brain was swirling but, fortunately, Marilyn was absorbing the information. We made an appointment for an evaluation.  I thought a week might be too quick but now I’m glad because I have lots of questions.

During the drive home yesterday, I was able to talk to Marilyn with minimal “what’s?”   Call it an early triumph.

We were greeted by the boisterous barking of our three dogs.  Yes, they were very loud.  Their yaps and growls were “enhanced” with echoes.

As we crashed, relaxed, and wolfed down late lunch sandwiches, I flipped on the television to baseball. The announcers sounded tinny with accompanying echoes. Their commentary was hard to understand. They were blasted by the crowd cheers.

I lowered the TV volume and things improved.  But I still heard echoes, bells, and whistles and the occasional chime mixed in with everything else.  Marilyn talking. Dogs barking.

I tried to mentally adjust. Slow down my intake of what Marilyn was saying.

That helped.  I’m so used to responding without really hearing. It’s a whole new ball game. As late afternoon turned into evening, I became more comfortable but I could not get rid of the echoes, bells and whistles.  Sometimes it also sounded like church bells tolling. For whom were they tolling?

There was one constant amid all the extra sounds. I could hear Marilyn’s words — not just muffled sounds.  Yes, there were a few “what did you say” moments, but a small number compared to life before the cochlear implant activation.

Marilyn took care of unloading my new backpack, filled with all the cochlear accessories, manuals, batteries.  She setup the battery charges and patiently walked me through everything.  Frankly, I had lost patience after the “first day”.  The echoes, bells and whistles had worn me down. I had an Excedrin Plus headache.  Marilyn seemed more pleased than me. I was excited about the events but physically drained — as was Marilyn who had to make sure we handled the cochlear parts correctly.

Looks like an odd version of a “smart” phone, doesn’t it?

We’re into day two. Against my objection, I’m wearing the cochlear parts. I complained, like a whiny kid, but Marilyn was firm that I not shy away from using my new ears even if I’m not comfortable.  I wanted to wait until I shaved and showered but that would’ve been just delaying what must be done. The audiologist was really pushy that I really had to wear them — all the time I was awake.

So, there you have it. Yes, it’s a different world for me now.  It’s a better world.

I just hope those bells are not tolling for me.

REFLEXIVE AND DEFINITELY NOT FLUFFY – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry and I are off to UMass. Today he gets (tada!) his new electronic, high-tech hearing apparatus. We have NO idea what to expect. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, and it’s going to be a long day.

We shall write tomorrow, hopefully, but in the meantime, we’ll be gone most of the day.

Also, WordPress is acting weird. Again. I can’t use the “like” button and I have to sign in for every comment. But that’s okay because Chrome is behaving weirdly also. I’m ready to hide under the sofa.

Later, gang.

FOWC with Fandango — Reflex

RDP# 85: FLUFFY

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN – CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – August 13, 2018


I want to start off — again — with the Garry cochlear implant update.

He is doing better. He is less wobbly, can usually get up and down the stairs, but I’m glad we have a handrail. His ear is still sore.

Not internally, but externally and I suspect it’s his addiction to wearing headphones for watching television that is preventing it from healing as fast as it otherwise would. In the end, he’s a big boy.

He has to make his own decisions. I don’t think the irritation he’s causing is serious. There’s no sign of infection or oozing or any of the things that would normally alarm me, but it is definitely redder and more sore-looking than it was earlier in the week. It might be better if he left it to heal, but hey, it’s his ear.

Overall, things are gradually getting more normal. Not “normal, normal,” but close to what I think normal might be — for us.

Finally, we are close to his getting all that fancy techno-headgear that should enable him to really hear. Pretty exciting!

Garry will get his own superpower.


A class you wish you would have taken?

I still wish I’d taken a few photography courses so I’d have a better grip on the terminology of photography. I know how to do most of the stuff, but I often have no idea what it’s called. I took one course, a long time ago on wedding photography, but that was more than 50 years ago.


I decided to take a webinar given by Topaz this week on how to use the filters to make the pictures better, but more natural. There are a lot of free webinars online and I usually skip them because I’m at a point where “going to school” is on the bottom of my to-do list.

But since I don’t have to travel and it’s free, why not? Maybe I’ll learn something useful! Can’t hurt, can it?

Are you scared of heights?

Not as much as I was when I was younger. I get dizzy on the edge of a drop and I have what I think is a healthy fear of falling. That includes falling individually or falling in a car or on a horse or any old way.

Falling off horses is what did my spine in the first time around. I hesitate to imagine what it would do to me now.

Ouch.

Are you a good cook? If so, do you consider yourself a chef?

I’m a good cook. I’m definitely not a chef because I’m simply not careful about measuring quantities and reproducing the same recipe the same way each time — and that is the difference between a cook and a chef. (An actual chef taught me that.)

 

Measuring.

Making sure the same recipe comes out the same way each time. I’m much more of a “what do I have in the fridge?” kind of cook. With a couple of exceptions, I doubt any two meals of mine have ever come out the same twice!

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? 

 

I was very happy with the Manhattan chowder. I should have cooked the bacon longer, but otherwise, it was as good as any red chowder I’ve ever tasted.

HOME AND HUSBAND – Marilyn Armstrong

I really haven’t been getting out there to take pictures. Between Garry’s surgery and the intensely hot, steamy weather, it just hasn’t been all that inviting outside.

Four orchids, still blooming

But, yesterday, because Owen had just hacked down the insanely overgrown forsythia hedge that had fully intertwined with strangleweed and wild grape vines, it was an almost respectable yard.

Still blooming after all these weeks

And then, there was Garry. I was determined to take a picture of him where he didn’t look like he was half asleep.

August woods are the darkest green of the year

Today, when we got to the doctor’s office — 15 minutes early — we were sitting on the steps waiting for them to get back from lunch and I realized Garry looked better than yesterday, so I took a few (three is a few, right?) pictures.

A bright day with temperature nearly 100 (that’s about 38 for you metric folks). Note the missing hedge. You can see the fence!

So this is our life, for the moment. The garden has gone to weeds now that the daylilies are dead. Not to worry because I have a ton more pictures of them, as well as the roses.

Today, Garry heard from our own doctor that he’s doing really well. Now, all he has to do is start to feel well. This is often harder than it seems, especially when medically, you’re doing fine, but all your body wants to do is go back for a very long nap. But his blood pressure is perfectly normal, healing is fine. All the magnets, wires, coils are perfectly placed and he has more hearing in what was thought to be the “dead” ear than anyone thought.

It takes time to feel as good as they (your doctors) say you should feel. Been there. But you get there. It merely takes more time than you think it should. We all want to be “fine” immediately. It doesn’t usually work that way.

I’m sure I took more shots of the orchids which are, remarkably, still blooming happily in their pot by the French doors.

Old wooden lawn chairs in the shade

Life in the hazy, hot, and humid northeast.