Welcome Message

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, October 28, 2012

Cochlear Implant Miracles: Opera! Bravo! Encore!

I'm no novice with cochlear implants, having gotten my first CI in 1997, and being bilateral since 2008.  I always was able to enjoy music with my CIs - it took a while to adapt back in 1997, with some music genres taking longer than others to sound "normal."  I had never been an opera buff prior to losing my hearing, though, but being deaf and enjoying music has made me want to try it all.  I do listen to classical music, so opera wasn't exactly a huge leap.  I learned about the Metropolitan Opera HD simulcasts a few years ago - these are live performances that are beamed by satellite into local movie theaters. The ticket price is a fraction of a live Met performance, and in some respects, the simulcast experience has additional benefits unavailable in the live theater.  

With that as background, I looked forward to the first opera of the season - Verdi's Otello - which had Renee Fleming in the leading female role - a wonderful opportunity to see the best!  This opera would run 3 1/2 hours with one intermission.  The interesting part about going to the opera is that it is wonderful music practice.  Even though I do well listening to music, it still does get "better" after listening for 3 1/2 hours.  

There were several movie theaters in my area showing this performance - a few of them sold out.  Arriving a bit early  ensures getting the pick of seating location - no extra charge!  And so, waiting for the 1 PM curtain, I always pack a picnic lunch - the theaters don't mind, understanding that popcorn and Verdi aren't really made for each other.   The countdown to the opera begins about 5 minutes before, with this on-screen update: 

Waiting for Otello to begin 

Knowing that this is being broadcast live is exciting. There are rebroadcasts at other times, which I've attended.  But there's something special knowing that a mere 10 or so miles away in NYC, all this is happening "live from New York"!    And then, the focus is on that massive curtain and stage!

Metropolitan Opera awaiting the beginning of Otello

There are several benefits to attending these simulcasts:  
  • Subtitles are placed right on the screen, in perfect sync with the lyrics, in easy-to-read font size.
  • They always have some famous opera star doing interviews with the performers at the intermission (but not captioned). 
  • The cameras zoom in on the performers so you can see them up close - much closer than even front row orchestra seats!
  • The camera also zooms into the orchestra pit to highlight the instrumental passages.
  • The cameras are behind the curtain during scene changes, showing the incredible infrastructure that allows for these elaborate stage sets. And they interview the production personnel as well.
  • And, my absolute favorite part, which begins the excitement, is when the production manager speaks into the intercom, "Maestro to the pit!" - signaling that it is showtime, the production is ready to begin, and the conductor is needed to start the overture!
And now to the music!  This was the first time I was going to be listening with my new software program, ClearVoice, set on my processors.  I've listened to music with it, and actually prefer the sound with ClearVoice on, but this was my first opera, so I was curious about how everything would sound.

And  . . .   I liked it!  ClearVoice seemed to give greater clarity to the instruments and to the voices.  I switched back and forth to my non-CV program, but CV won every time.   The bass voices are the ones I have the most difficulty with, as each ear hears that register slightly differently. But as I expected, I was doing better with this during the last act than in the beginning. The tonality was still good, it was just hearing the baritone as low as it really was. The sopranos were angelic, as usual.

When I first started going to these performances, I thought I'd never be able to sit through hour upon hour of opera.  But the sound, the sets, the costumes, the subtitles, the camerawork, the interviews - all make it a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  And with each opera, I sit there in utter awe, never forgetting that I am a deaf person, enjoying the enchantment of the Metropolitan Opera - and I still can't quite believe it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bilateral Cochlear Implants - happy feelings again

I had another "better hearing" experience today - and the happy feelings that seem to go along with that.  I'm still adapting to the new software on my processors, called ClearVoice.  It's geared to dimming droning background noise, but in doing so, it seems to have benefits on beyond obviously noisy environments. It seems to enhance all environments, and seems to keep getting "better" - especially with two ears.  And that's what happened today.

I was having a routine diagnostic x-ray procedure, done as an out-patient in the local hospital.  To navigate this appointment, I ended up speaking to a half-dozen people in a variety of environments, on all sides of me, and sometimes without looking - and I did it all!

First was the valet parking guy, then the information desk attendant, and then the receptionist.  These offices always have you sit in a waiting area and then call your name. Even if you tell them you might not hear your name being called (one never knows with acoustics, voices, distance, etc.), they don't always "get it."  Because of this situation, though, I found myself in a lively discussion with the receptionist, explaining my cochlear implants. It was a wonderful conversation, and we were really getting along!

Then to the waiting area - and I had no problem when they called my name.  YAY!  Then into the x-ray area - and these rooms always seem to have ever-present fans or electronic hums.  I was doing fine hearing the radiologist. But then she moved across the room, and kept giving me instructions. I hadn't really expected her to talk to me from that distance, but before I could tell her that I might not hear her, I realized that I had heard her clearly.  I mean CLEARLY.  Unexpected dialogue, without looking, across the room (okay - not a big room, but still not standing next to me) - and the words went straight to my brain!  That is definitely "better"!

So then I started having a chatty conversation with her - even asked her name (Carolyn.)  This was definitely not my "usual" behavior, but it felt good, and there was that happy feeling coming on again.  As I left the room, I had to pass the receptionist's desk - and then, for some reason, I backtracked a bit, and said good-bye to the receptionist I had chatted with when I first came in.  I had connected with her as a human being, and it was so interesting - the connection flowed both ways.

Socialization bumped up a notch - that's what I was experiencing.  The words coming in "better" were somehow allowing me to interact faster, easier, and in a more meaningful way.  And that definitely registered on my brain's "happy" scale.  Makes me think that on the four-year anniversary of my bilateral hearing, I'm up to what a normal 4-year-old would be mastering - socialization skills with strangers in new situations.   Just what I need to "work a room"!