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Cochlear Implants, hearing loss and more! I carry an interesting perspective: someone who had normal hearing growing up, lost it all slowly as an adult, then regained it with cochlear implants. So I'm deaf, but I can hear - a true miracle. If you'd like to know more about me and my bilateral cochlear implant experiences right away, my two books have a wealth of information - see the links below. Check out the list of upcoming events too - perhaps one day we'll get to meet!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cochlear Implant Adventures Part IV: Headphones, T-mics and Dolls

My week in California continued - and I was loving every minute of it! The day I spent at Advanced Bionics had been so special, meeting and talking to the entire staff - the very people who created my miracle of hearing.  

I had researched the activities for the rest of the week very carefully - planning to visit friends and places - with practically every moment accounted for.  The Nethercutt Collection, with its vintage cars and amazing music machines, had exceeded my expectations - I loved everything I saw and heard.  From there we headed east to visit friends in Palm Desert.  It was then that we got an education in Los Angeles traffic jams!  What should have been a two-hour drive ended up taking four hours! 

But it was worth the drive - visiting with friends from college, and taking in the fabulous views from their house on the hills.  
Palm Desert Vistas

These friends knew me before I lost my hearing, and kept up all the years since.  The last time we visited them in Palm Desert was when I visited Advanced Bionics last time, in 2009, to do the Connect to Patient presentations (Click here to see that video.)  The weekend was very relaxed - and there's no doubt that improved function with my bilateral cochlear implants contributed to the increased ease of socialization that I felt.  I found myself catching casual comments right away - feeling more connected, not needing repeats. It changed the dynamics of the visit - at least for me, anyway.  

After a relaxing weekend, we headed back towards Los Angeles, stopping to tour the marvelous Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens just south of Pasadena.  This was another "diamond" attraction in the AAA book - and I brake for diamond attractions!  We had just two hours to spend here, so thankfully, we had no traffic problems this time!  We walked straight to the mansion that housed the main art collection.  

Main hallway at the Huntington mansion

When we entered, it was more impressive than I had imagined - seeing that grand staircase, and knowing what treasures those rooms held.   The very first stop was where they gave out the recorded tour guides and headphones.  I always love following recorded guided tours. I always heard them so well with my CIs, just like the recorded books I used for listening practice.  But what happened next was intriguing and unexpected. 

The woman behind the counter handed me the digital tour guide recorder, and then proceeded to put the headphones on me.  My husband looked at me - I looked at him - we both knew that my "ears" were really my Harmony processor t-mics - the ear-level microphones of my cochlear implant processors that allow me to use headphones just like someone with normal hearing.  I thought for an instant to tell the woman about my equipment, but then I thought WHY?  So I just let her put the headphones on me, just like a person with normal hearing.  This is what people looked like walking through the galleries, and I looked just like that, too!

Visitors using the recorded tour guides with headphones
This was actually the first time I had used headphones with two CIs for a guided tour, and I knew immediately it sounded better than I had expected. The sounds were merging as one, and made listening easier.

The Huntington mansion had some very famous paintings, namely Pinkie and Blue Boy:



I was expecting to see those paintings - I had read up on this museum, but it was this little treasure that caught me by surprise - Girl Holding a Doll by James Peale, done in 1804.  
Girl Holding a Doll - Peale

I collect dolls, and I also collect pictures of girls holding their dolls.  I had never seen this oil painting before, or even knew about it.  I was intrigued.  One of the most interesting pictures I had ever come across of a girl holding a doll was the one of Helen Keller, taken in 1888, when she was 8 years old.  It was the only one ever found of her with a doll, and it only came to light 120 years after it was taken - in 2008 - the week that my first cochlear implant stopped working.  I wrote about this in my book, Listening Closely (page 38).

Helen Keller with her doll in 1888

I knew I had to buy a postcard of that Girl Holding a Doll painting, and was so glad that the museum's gift shop had them available.  What was rather curious, though, was that when I went to purchase two of these postcards, the cashier asked me about them. I found myself discussing "girl with doll" pictures and my doll collection. What occurred to me later was that even in that noisy gift shop, I responded immediately to that cashier without asking for repeats. My behavior was just "normal" - thinking about what I was talking about rather than wondering if I would hear her.  And I only realized this afterwards, and am still marveling at this experience, because it was so odd to be asked those questions in that busy shop - and unexpected dialogue is the hardest speech to understand.  Score another little victory for my bilateral cochlear implants!

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