Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Prayer for One Who is Going Deaf

A Prayer for One Who is Going Deaf
by William Barclay

O God,
The trouble about being deaf
is that most people find deaf folks a nuisance.
They sympathize with people who are blind and lame.
But they get irritated with people who are deaf.
And the result of this is
That deaf people are apt to avoid company
And get more and more shut in.
Help me now that my hearing has begun to go.
Help me to face the situation
and realize there is no good way to hide it.
Trying will only make matters worse.
Help me to be grateful
for all that can be done for people like me.
If I have to wear a hearing aid,
help me to do so naturally and not be embarrassed.
Give me the perseverance not to let this trouble get me down.
Don't let it cut me off from others.
And help me to remember, Lord, whatever happens,
Nothing can stop me from hearing YOUR voice.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

CI moment (or was it a MOM moment??)

At church last week, I was struggling to find the pitch to the songs at the end of the service. Because of my work at the piano and my sister telling me I'm not quite on pitch as I hum along, I no longer trust my implant to give me an accurate pitch. Or maybe it is I don't trust my voice to accurately match the pitch everyone else hears, wherever the glitch is. I leaned toward my son John, with my non-implanted ear, to try to hear where he was. I whispered, "I can't find the pitch." John leaned over toward my ear and sang into my ear unobtrusively but loudly and with excellent enunciation. He was so close he was touching the front of his shoulder to the back of mine...for three whole songs.

I haven't had that close to a "snuggle" from my 18-year-old boys in I don't know HOW long! It was a CI moment in that he was helping me hear...but it was a MOM moment for his sweet attitude and helpfulness. What a lovely way to end my time of worship. It was almost a week ago and it still makes me smile and sigh.

On Monday, John and I travel to Los Angeles for USC freshman orientation. I am so proud of this son of mine; he's growing up into such a fine young man.

I'm a happy mom on this post!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Auditory Rehabilitation Fun

I spent July 3 and 4 at my sister Marty's house in Wisconsin. She's an organist and a piano/organ teacher. (She tried having me as a student when I was in about 4th grade, but we were not very successful together. I never practiced.) She now has a whole room in her house as her music room, and a few years ago she acquired a brand new Steinway grand piano. OOoooo.

So, how about some auditory therapy on that beautiful piano, Marty? Of course she said yes. I sat down, not really knowing what to expect. I have 12 years of classical music training on four instruments. I sang in church choirs most of the time for the last 35 years. I totally lost my high frequencies in my left ear five years ago, and can hear them only at high decibel levels in my right ear. Most music was just very loud mush with my hearing aids. But now I have a cochlear implant. Music at church is at least vaguely recognizable if I know the song already, but not at all if I don't. What would her piano sound like all by itself, with no background noise?

I began way on the low end with C two octaves below middle C. It sounded like fuzz the first time, like a fuzzy tone the second time, and remotely like a piano note the third time. I hit C then D. D sounded like the same fuzzy note C on the first try, but I could discriminate between them on the second. It began to have appropriate pitch on the third try.

Can you believe this?!? The brain is such an amazing thing! It is dumbfounding to be able to observe my own learning process. I stand in awe.

I worked my way slowly up the C major scale, adding one note at a time. I replayed the scale to that point until I could discriminate each note, at least moderately in tune. Then I did another octave. Then, just for fun, I went down instead of up. Oops! My brain didn't appreciate that too much--it all went mushy again. Sigh. So I worked slowly down the scale. It went much more quickly than going up. I had already worked the notes, just not in that order.

I did one more octave, above middle C. That one got more challenging than the lower ones, which is not too surprising. So I asked Marty what the frequencies are for the pitches on the piano. She looked through her books and found a chart. It's kind of smack dab in the middle of the normal hearing range, but the higher pitches were indeed where I haven't heard much sound recently, up until my implant. Those were the hardest for me to discriminate on her piano. There was always a note or two that sounded flat or sharp. (And I know Marty keeps her baby in tune!!)

The next day I went back to the piano, and the first two octaves came pretty easily. The third octave did come, and I tried a fourth. Talk about stretching the limits of my comprehension! Wow. That octave was almost impossible to discern properly. I tried paying two octaves below at the same time, and that helped a lot. The higher notes wobbled around into the right pitch better, but still not very well. Then I kept getting the feeling of skipping a note somewhere in the middle, and getting a whole scale with only 7 notes, and the octave note sounded like it was beginning the next scale. Soooo weird.

So I tried humming along, to see if my own voice would help my ear (my brain, really) hear the right pitch. Marty was on the other side of the room working on the computer. After once through the scale, she put her head up, "You know, Liz, it's funny--you sing the first three notes right on pitch, and then the rest of them are a monotone." No way! I played the scale again, singing along, and she said it wasn't as stark as she had noticed when she wasn't really paying attention, but still markedly not on pitch. Whoa...another "Twilight Zone" feeling.

I already sing fairly softly in church, because the sound of my own voice will drown out the music group/piano. Now I have a new reason: to spare those around me the sound of an out of tune voice. If my voice sounds as bad as I thought Marty's piano did, I don't want to sing too loudly. Yet. Maybe with enough practice, I can begin to match pitch more accurately. But I can see it will take some doing.

Also on Tuesday, I had Marty play something. She started with, "See if you can tell what this is:" and played "Jesus loves me, this I know." It took me some doing, but eventually I did recognize it. Then we did a hymn. She played the soprano line alone, then both soprano and alto. The lower notes were much louder for me, so she played it with two hands and played the lower note as softly as she could. I could still hear them better. Then she played something out of one of her postludes and offeratories books, and it had a pleasing sound with lots of energy. It was "churchy" sounding--I could hear enough to recognize a hymn-like quality to it. The she played some Bach out of the Anna Magdelena collection. It was very nice, still fuzzy and hard to follow, but more pleasing than before.

I took a break from working on listening and went to get my camera while she played. I took a bunch of pictures of her hands, of her piano, of her silhouette against the window. Suddenly I realized that when I wasn't concentrating so hard, the music sounded even better. I'd read something to that effect from another CI user (Michael Chorost, in the book "Rebuilt," if you're interested in a great CI experience and fascinating read), and now I was experiencing it as well.

The real test of what difference the auditory practice really made will come when I go to church on Sunday--will the music sound any better?

I ordered some children's music CD's, for appreciating classical music, and they came just now. I'll have to stick them in, then go do some housecleaning or clutter control--and see how they sound in the second level of m y attention! It should be fun.