Friday, July 2, 2010

Bang, Boom, Click

The battle of wills has started. Either I'll adjust to my CI and take off to amazing feats unknown, or it'll drive me insane. Jumping from hearing almost nothing, to pounding sound, all of the time, is a huge adjustment, to say the least.

To describe how I felt all day yesterday, and part of today: Harassed. On edge. Miserable. Overwhelmed. This cool video sums it up (might want to turn down the computer volume first):

When I turn on my CI, my entire body tenses. I'm being bombarded with noise, as jagged and unrelenting as sharp rocks or mountain peaks. What I hear no longer sounds like electric jolts or tones, more like harsh, static clicks. My skull is a metal can, and someone's shaking dice in it, playing Yahtzee. Rattle, rattle, rattle, BANG! This change is good, because it means the sound quality is slowly improving (only three days in!). But it's also bad, because I can't stand it. All day long, I'm being ground to a pulp, and the feeling of it is hideous.

I went back into the office yesterday, thinking that it'd at least be a quiet environment. Boy, was I wrong. I turned on my computer and started typing, and it was as if someone had set off an avalanche. A thousand stones tumbled off a cliff, banging and clattering down into my mind. After thirty seconds, I stopped and panted. Even the mouse made unbearably loud noises - click, click, click! I turned the scroll wheel to navigate a webpage - clickclickclickickickck! This went on all day. Whir. Click. Bang. Shhhh. Click. Roar! Utterly peeved and agitated, I would sit back in my chair to try to give myself a reprieve - and then immediately jump and tense when I heard myself exhale. Who knew my breathing was so loud? When my coworkers came in to talk to me, their voices shook my skull - boom boom boom. By the end of the day I was impossibly stressed, tensing and holding my breath so I wouldn't make a sound, inhaling before launching into another round of typing. When the phone rang, I almost leaped to unplug it and throw it out the window. I felt like vomiting, screaming, passing out, bursting into tears, or all four. Shut up!

Today has been a little better. Between yesterday afternoon and this morning, I've discovered some new sounds: birds squabbling in the trees by my front porch, cicadas buzzing in harmony, the dog next door barking incessantly. My horse is big and loud: crunching carrots by my head like a tyrannosaurus, clopping across concrete so hard I'm surprised it doesn't crack, snorting, whinnying whenever she sees me come out the door. I'm suddenly understanding her fear of flapping plastic bags. They do sound like monsters! In my house, the air conditioning is a constant buzz, and the refrigerator never stops rumbling. When I read I startle myself every time I turn a page and hear the rustle of paper. Clothes audibly slip on and off. How is it possible for that teeny little button to make a sound? Dresser drawers, doors creaking, keys rattling. It's inescapable.

But by far the highlight of my CI experience so far - music! I figured out this morning how to plug my sister's iPod into an adapter hook on my CI processor, and proceeded to rock out for the next hour and a half. I can only hear the bass and beat right now, but I could listen to it all day. Unlike the chaotic noises all around me, music is rhythmic, pleasing, and purposeful. How was I to know it was so nice? Right now, it's the only thing that I can listen to and actually enjoy. Everything else is a jumbled, nausea-inducing mess. I see more iPod days in my future, but in the meantime, I hope the other sounds clear up fast!


  1. So exciting and (I'm sure) frustrating, all at the same time.

    Can you listen to an iPod at work? Because I find the sounds of the office horribly distracting: the clack of the desktop keyboard, the whir of the printer down the hall, the whistling of the guy who fixes the copy machine, my co-worker's laugh, the shuffle of people's steps on our carpet and the tap-tap of their ID badges with each step. But I put on my iPod and it all goes away. The sign I've really been focused? I have literally no idea what's been playing.

    My father doesn't believe that I can have music on as I work, he finds it distracting. But I side with you. I'll take the rhythmic and predictable over the random and unpleasant any day!

  2. =( are you not allowed to have like 5 minute sound breaks? Sorry it's been rough! Stick with it.

    So I just texted you but I'll tell you again; my med school friend Howie is doing research with Advanced Bionics. He was kind of startled to learn you had an AB CI (small world?) He's doing it in elderly people who aren't congenitally deaf, so it's quite different, but he has an analogy for it that I think you'd find interesting:

    "It's like having to learn a new language, except you don't have a very good dictionary. It's all just noises; like learning Italian with an Arabic dictionary."

    Except with more headaches.

    Best of luck! Take it easy. Meditate? Your breathing is quite rhythmic too.

  3. glad you think my video is cool. you'll get used to the sound after a few years. i'm just glad that i can turn it off anytime.