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.

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.

FANDANGO’S ONE WORD CHALLENGE – THE SETTING : DOCTORS! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Setting

Yesterday’s setting was Garry’s first post-surgical checkup at UMass Memorial. Today’s setting is going to be (in an hour from now) our regular family guy to see if we can get his blood pressure a little lower

Doctor’s office in Douglas

Mostly, it’s good news.

We discovered that he has residual hearing in his right ear and more of it than we expected. This is a good thing because it will make getting “natural” sounds in his “implanted” ear easier. The device with his own hearing will give him better highs and lows.

He won’t get all his super-high-tech equipment until August 24th, but the doctor is pretty sure he’s going to have good hearing fast. Like maybe immediately.

A sunny day in the backyard while the temperature is almost 100.

No one can explain how in the world he got Blue-Tooth from my speaker without external equipment, but he did. My speaker also has a small transmitter and Garry was wearing powered headphones, so something happened. But regardless, once he has all the rest of the gear, it won’t happen without special equipment.

Definitely the right shirt for the season. Do you think the extreme heat may have something to do with being tired? It’s really hot out there!

The incision is healed and all the wires and magnets and coils are in the right places in his head. Neat and clean. I’m trying to get him to send me a photograph of it, but we haven’t figured out how to turn the x-ray into a photograph. Yet. But I’ll keep trying. It’s really interesting.

Garry is very tired. He thinks it’s because he’s a “right-side” sleeper and that’s the ear that had the surgery. He hasn’t been able to sleep in a comfortable position since the surgery, but he can at this point if he wants to since everything is nicely healed.

He also looks sleepy all the time. I think he’s still got a bit of hangover from the anesthesia. He also needs to get back to doing normal stuff, including exercise. Sitting around all the time isn’t his most healthy choice.

Now, we wait another 18 days and then — magic.

He’s ready to go now and I don’t blame him, but they won’t put the technology in place until everything is 100% healed, so they always let it go slightly over a full month. Just to be sure.

Meanwhile, to keep him sane, the Red Sox are winning and it keeps him from watching the news and getting completely crazy.