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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!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cochlear Implants and Auditory Memory

My cochlear implant odyssey continues, and today the subject is auditory memory.  I have written about this before - in my book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing.  

Auditory memory can be defined as "the ability to process information presented orally, analyze it mentally and store it to be recalled later."  In Listening Closely, I described the most amazing occurrence when I had just gotten my new upgraded CI processor, which had better capacity to represent pitch and music.  I was playing a Chopin Nocturne, a piano piece I had originally played as a teenager - and rather than branch out to master new music, I preferred to play this familiar work over and over, just altering the tempo and phrasing. The moment I played it in a very slow and mournful way, my brain immediately informed me that was the way I had played it on the day President Kennedy was shot, 45 years before!  (I don't bother writing about things unless they are truly newsworthy!)  My brain was absolutely right - that was exactly the way an impressionable teenager coped with the enormous emotions that day, by playing a mournful rendition of that romantic piece. So much for my auditory memory - and the power of cochlear implant technology to replicate that piano sound so accurately as to trigger that long-buried memory!  If you'd like to find that passage in the book, it's on page 82, in the section entitled, of course, "The Persistence of Memory."

Fast forward to yesterday - and some of my new "toys."  I had just purchased Bose high quality "Quiet Comfort 15" headphones that had been recommended by some of my techie CI friends.  They would fit over the "t-mic" microphones of my CI processors, while providing the best sound quality available.  I had just gotten a brand new iPhone, too, so I could plug these headphones right into that device.  I wanted to do more music  listening and practice, to develop my listening skills even further - and also to listen to speech as well, also as practice.  

Here comes the fun part.  I was discussing all this with my husband, and showing him how the headphones would fit right over my t-mics, when I suddenly shouted out "CAP-TAIN VID-EO," with a robust intonation that I hadn't thought about in decades.  Readers of a certain age will know that Captain Video was a TV show in the early 1950's - so early, in fact, that I don't even remember watching it.  But I evidently did remember how the announcer pronounced the name of the show -  "CAP-TAIN VID-EO!" - with a certain rhythm and tonality.  Now that is auditory memory!  And for those who don't remember, or aren't old enough to know, Captain Video - listen to the beginning of this YouTube recording of the beginning of the show - and pay attention to how the announcer says "CAPTAIN VIDEO!"   

The title at the beginning of the TV show

Now comes more fun stuff.  Here are two pictures of what Captain Video looked like, along with his Video Ranger:

Captain Video and his Video Ranger

And here's what I look like with my new Bose headphones, that triggered that auditory memory!

Bionic Arlene as Captain Video!

Now, you can really appreciate the impact of speech and hearing in children.  I was so young that I don't even remember watching this program, but the sound of that show evidently made an impression - and an auditory memory - over five decades ago.

And the interesting part is that Captain Video was all science fiction - but Bionic Arlene with her Bose headphones on her bilateral cochlear implant processors - allowing this deaf person to hear music in stereo - is most definitely science reality.


  1. I found your blog on Hearing Journey. I, too, have a CI and play the piano. The first thing I did after getting my implant was rush to the piano and play some familiar pieces. I was overjoyed when I was able to hear them, even though the sound was tinny. I had expected to lose the sound of music.

    That was 3 years ago and hearing music has been a struggle since then. I was not aware when I played the piano that memory was filling in the missing notes. After spending hours listening to familiar music I am able to hear some renditions, but not others. If I don't know what number an orchestra is playing it's just sound to me and I can't tell what they are playing.

    You are fortunate in being able to hear music. I read about others hearing music, but it just hasn't happened for me.

    I, also, write a blog. wwww.darleneshodgepodge.blogspot.com/

    1. Some music will sound better than others. Simpler arrangements are easier to listen to than more complex arrangements. The conventional wisdom is to listen to what sound goods, and keep practicing listening. And familiar music will sound better than unfamiliar music. With my first CI processor in 1997, it took me two years to comprehend organ music. Focus on the positives of what you can do. That's a good life philosophy as well.

  2. Hi arelene

    I have the dr beats hd solo headphones they also cancel out surrounding noise and music and speech sound awesome, I will have these with me at the halls convention in June and you can try them out when we hopefully meet up....

  3. That's great! I grew up in Britain so I never saw Captain Video. The thing I remember was TinTin. It was a cartoon and I think it was in 15 minute installments every day at 5:45. Anyway, it was introduced by a stentorian basso profundo saying "Herges Adventures of .... TIN TIN".

    This topic of auditory memory is interesting. In the years before getting a CI, my hearing deteriorated quite noticeably and I found that it was very difficult to remember things I heard. So it was as if work meetings had never happened unless I took notes or had minutes! Now, of course, it's much easier to understand and follow meetings and I find I remember much more of what was said!

    An unexpected benefit of CI's.

    1. Steve -
      You bring up a good point about deteriorating hearing and having difficulty remembering things. All too often, seniors are misdiagnosed with dementia, when the real problem is hearing loss. Hearing impacts more than we would ever imagine.