I finally have my new cochlear implant processors!
They are N7’s by Cochlear, and these puppies offer some pretty impressive iPhone compatibility via wireless technology. In addition to controlling the processors right from my iPhone instead of with a separate remote, I can take phone calls or listen to music via Bluetooth. It’s private. It’s awesome. It was worth the long fight with insurance to finally get these replacements.
Whether I’m using my iPhone for calls or to stream music, the clarity is phenomenal. It’s like having my ugly brother from New England right in my head when he calls or being in the studio with The Beatles while they seemingly knock out a tune just for me.
And the coolest thing? When I’m listening to anything over wireless, I’m the only one hearing it. Unless I sing along (which frightens animals and small children) one would never know I’m listening to Harry Nilsson singing Coconut, Mark Williams performing Out Past the Moon, or Clapton wailing his guitar on Motherless Children.
Listening to music is my once again my greatest joy.
That’s no small thing.
Music, you see, is by far the biggest challenge for many folks with cochlear implants. With this processor, listening to much of my favorite music is approaching (for me at least) a quality close to what I remember before my hearing loss began as a teenager.
I understand lyrics better than I can ever remember doing so. Even before losing my hearing entirely, I struggled with that. Back when I used to play in bands, I often deliberately slurred words I didn’t know simply because I couldn’t make them out. (There was no Google in those days, and most albums …yes, those vinyl things that we put on turntables back in the stone age …didn’t include printed lyrics. Did anyone notice I was fudging? Probably not. We played in noisy bars, most of the audience was drinking, and it was loud rock-n-roll.)
It's not perfect. There may never be a perfect replacement for natural hearing. Some musical artists remain more challenging for me to listen to than others. Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street wall of pure sound is still somewhat overwhelming. The same with ELO. But Springsteen’s bare-bones Nebraska, always my personal favorite by Bruce, is something I love even more.
Neatest of all, I hear things in the background I never even knew were there. Instruments I never noticed before on a track. Crosstalk in the background. Sometimes, even the clash of a pick against a guitar string.
Before this upgrade, my brain sometimes had trouble identifying songs on my iPhone that I’d listened to countless times before. If I knew the song was coming, there was no problem. But if I was shuffling songs on my phone and didn’t look at the screen to see what track was playing, it might take anywhere from ten to thirty seconds to recognize the song …even if I’d heard the song a thousand times before.
This issue has been virtually eliminated. I either know what the song is the moment it starts, or within a few seconds. It’s because, I believe, that the quality of sound is so much better that my brain recognizes the song immediately, or very nearly so. I haven’t had a chance to see what happens if I catch a song already underway. I suspect that I’ll recognize songs faster than I used to because the clarity is so superior to my previous processor technology. I also haven’t really listened to any music that wasn’t delivered by Bluetooth, so radio and live music are still untested, but they will certainly be superior to what I had before.
One problem I don’t any more have is an inability to listen to new music. That was an annoyance for the first few years after my implants were done in 2009/2010. I’ve been blessed that I am one of the fortunate CI recipients who can experience and enjoy new music (or at least new to me). Carlene Carter and Jill Hennessey were artists I’d never heard before and all their music was previously unknown to me. (Carlene Carter was also the first performer I heard live after my implants. She opened for John Mellencamp in Hershey and I fell in love with her work. She’s a hard-working gal, too. She performed a magnificent solo set then hustled right out to the lobby to talk with fans and sell her CD’s. As to Jill …can someone ask her to perform here in Da Valley? I’ll buy her wings if she does 4 Small Hands and Edmonton. Oh, hell, if she does ANYTHING. I love her work.)
And it is a special treat when I get the opportunity to listen to Mark Williams, who has become one helluva songwriter. Perhaps it was all those practices we had in his family’s garage in West Pittston or in that hillside tilted shack just off Route 92 in Harding, but my brain seems almost pre-wired to anything he does. I am thankful for that.
Long and short, I went from being single-sided deaf with one barely functional processor on my left ear to being fully bilateral again with the latest and greatest technology. I still have at least one more visit to my audiologist to tweak the mapping for the right ear a bit. My brain must adjust to the right implant working again. (The right side used to be dominant, but now the left side is strongest after carrying the load alone for nearly a year.)
As I’ve said before, we live in an age of miracles. It remains to be seen if I can write music again or sing on key, but I think there is an open door there that was previously shut tight.
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I am writing fiction again, though it is most definitely not like riding a bike. There’s been an erosion of skills, and that can be a tad overwhelming. I have lot of self-doubt and some trouble concentrating. I think the only solution is just to write every second that I can. Just keep at it, and perhaps I can get back on track.
I’m also doing “car chats” which are short little posts on Instagram. They are generally humorous. I get to let my hair down. What hair I have left, that is. I might do more with that because it’s a good pressure-release for me. I’m also fairly certain I’m entering my second childhood (assuming I ever left the first one) so I make no excuses for my behavior.
When I did a car chat on Sunday, my wife asked why I would post about the topic (erectile dysfunction commercials -OR- the great wussification of the American male, whatever you believe my point was). Hey, I’m a recurrent prostate cancer survivor. If want to spit in cancer’s eye, I’m qualified.
Here is the post. Think whatever you wish. If you don’t like what I said tell me. Don’t be a bunch of wusses.
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Finally, I’m pouring y'all a double shot.
First up, a song of great social and political import:
Next, a song of hope and inspiration. After all, if life’s been good for this guy maybe it can be good for all of us:
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…and now a message of perhaps the greatest social and political import of all:
...Be good to each other.
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