Switch on

Mon­day, March 19th

I come to the cen­tre in the morn­ing, but it turns out that the speech proces­sor pro­gram­ming — the first time my implant is going to be switched on — is at 2 pm. There is a group of new Nucleus Free­dom users, three grown-ups and some chil­dren with their par­ents. Before the switch-on we have var­i­ous exam­i­na­tions and meet­ings. First we get the big boxes with our new toys. I am the only per­son who wants to a black proces­sor. We are to make our­selves famil­iar with the device and all its acces­sories, and to read the man­ual. I can’t wait for the switch on. In the mean­time I meet the speech ther­a­pist, the doc­tor (I can go swim­ming, finally!) and I learn one very impor­tant fact: I have not lost any­thing. My audio­gram for the left ear is pretty much the same as before the surgery. Praise to Pro­fes­sor Skarżyński.

Finally the appoint­ment with the engi­neer W. He turns out to be a young, easy going per­son. He explains what he is doing and answers all my ques­tions. He tests the device. Every­thing is OK. So — we switch on the signal.

At first — noth­ing. Noth­ing?
Sud­denly I say:
’I have ver­tigo’
’Right at this moment?‘
’Yes.‘
’How about now?‘
’No.‘
’And now?‘
’Yes, I feel it again’.

This way I real­ize that this is my new sen­sa­tion from the implant. It has noth­ing in com­mon with the sound. It is as if some­one was hit­ting me in the head with some­thing big and soft every time there is a sound. It is not unpleas­ant, just very, very strange.

Dur­ing the fol­low­ing tests I ‘hear’ some sounds as sounds, though. Sur­pris­ingly, these are pretty high sounds, not the low ones which should be expected. The engi­neer says that in the cases of a pro­found hear­ing loss since birth it can hap­pen that the part of the brain respon­si­ble for hear­ing starts doing some­thing else. He tells me about a 18-years-old girl who dur­ing the first months after the implan­ta­tion felt the sounds as twinges. She started to hear sounds after a few months.

For the ini­tial adap­ta­tion I get four pro­grams, every one a bit “louder” than the pre­vi­ous one, and I am to change them every hour. I get used to every set­ting quite fast and the ver­tigo dimin­ishes slowly. Any­way, I feel that this ver­tigo is a kind of illu­sion, because I don’t seem to have bal­ance prob­lems. I am to wear my hear­ing aid on the other ear. I switch it off from time to time to con­cen­trate on my new sen­sa­tions. I react to var­i­ous sounds. It is very strange when I knock the table with a pen­cil and I have ver­tigo. This is really an illu­sion, because I don’t have any prob­lems with my bal­ance. I feel dizzy and con­fused any­way. W. is hear­ing clanks and squeaks, the same as the major­ity of the newly implanted. I think I would like to hear squeaks. All in due time, I think.

At 6.42 pm I notice that when I rub the micro­fone with my fin­ger, I hear this as a sound. It is soft, but a sound for sure. The first one I hear with the implant, apart from the tests. I rub the micro­phone all the evening to check if this is not an illusion.

Tues­day, March 20th
I get four new pro­grams for the proces­sor in the morn­ing. This time I am to change them every two days. The engi­neer says that the next set-up is in a month and that I shouldn’t expect too much in my case. I know this all: that I am no more three years old, that the effects are hard to pre­dict. Nev­er­the­less, I am going to make out of my implant what I can.
The speech ther­a­pist gives me a set of exer­cises I am to do at home with some­one. Just like 25 years ago, when my mother prac­tised with me a lot and I was try­ing to avoid it in every way. But now these first months are very impor­tant. I should prac­tise using both my implant and my hear­ing aid on the other ear. It seems that at this stage this is con­di­tion­ing, like with Pavlov’s dogs.

This evening, after leav­ing the hos­pi­tal, I clearly hear the rustling of foil behind my ear. I hear also — very softly — when my mother says “shh­h­h­h­h­hhh” and other rustling consonants.

Note: some­thing hap­pens inside. When I have my proces­sor turned on, I actu­ally hear worse with my other, aided ear. Some­thing like an inter­fer­ence. This is fascinating.

Wednes­day, 21st March
I have ver­tigo from typ­ing. When I drive, I turn the hear­ing aid off and I lis­ten to the sounds from the implant. I hear some noise, and a lit­tle bit of my own voice when it is really loud (alone in the car on the road I can shout all I want), from time to time I hear the sound of the pass­ing vehi­cle. I think I have heard the sound of coins click­ing on the table in the gro­cery store.

I notice all this with my hear­ing aid switched off. When it is on, I hear most of these sounds as usual and I hope that my sub­con­scious­ness is doing its job to tell the cor­re­spond­ing parts of my brain that there is a sound.

When I take off the proces­sor for the night, I have a bit of ver­tigo after los­ing con­tact with the magnet.

My friends ask me how it is going:

[yacoob] I hope that it will meet your expec­ta­tions, I cross my fin­gers for it :))
[cyborg] I will need it ;-)
[yacoob] is there some crit­i­cal thing more to do?
[cyborg] brain repro­gram­ming.
[yacoob] our tech­nol­ogy does not allow for this yet…
[cyborg] no, this should be the effect of stim­u­la­tion.
[yacoob] sure it will, but wouldn’t it be more con­ve­nient to load a patch?
[cyborg] yeah ;-)

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