Saturday, July 24, 2010


How odd, having a magnet stuck to my head. The researchers who developed CIs were certainly ingenious about the whole concept of electrical-signals-transmitting-sound, but I wonder if they realized how much of a pain the external processor can be.

Now, hearing aids are relatively easy: stuff the earmolds in, turn the thing on, go on your merry way. In a sense, the CI is even easier – it eliminates the hassle of getting earmolds fitted, for instance – but it's introduced a whole new set of logistical complications I’m still adjusting to. First of all, every time the external magnet sticks to its twin on my head, it completes the circuit, rocketing me from silence into full-blown sound. Sounds simple enough, but the ensuing ROAR makes for many noisy surprises. If only I could ease the magnet into place, rearrange my hair, get comfortable, and then turn it on. This, unfortunately, isn’t possible. As soon as the magnets touch, the power of Magneto takes over, and all constraints are off – brace yourself! I cope by turning the volume way down before unleashing Magneto, but sometimes this backfires and I find myself gasping like I’ve been plunged into a tub of icy water.

Once the CI has been on for a few minutes, though, I settle naturally into the thrum of the sound. It’s as if my nerves need time to get humming, to remember what all this means. That is, until the magnet falls off. Wait, why did everything go quiet all of a sudden? I’ll wonder, only to feel an unmistakable cord and object dangling against my neck. Dang. It doesn’t take much sometimes. Pulling a shirt on, straightening a stray wisp of hair, flicking my fingers so they catch on the cord anchoring the magnet to the processor. When Magneto comes unanchored, I stick it right back on, only to feel myself jolt back into the world of sound. ROAR. Sometimes I switch earhooks (from the one I use for audiobooks and music to the standard T-Mic), only to find that the volume is so loud it's making my face contort in shock. No harm done, once I shift down to quieter places, but not pleasant either.

Magneto may be all-powerful, but hold on when I'm exercising? Never! Stretching, running, biking, working outside – all of these have introduced problems, and I've concluded that CIs just weren’t designed for athletes. Headbands help keep the thing on, even if the result looks strange, a bulge on the side of my head like I'm sprouting an abnormally large goose egg. Hats and helmets don't fit too well anymore, what with that magnetic bump, but I've found ways to cope. We tailored my riding helmet to have a groove on one side, where the magnet nestles inside (although it still tends to shift around, screeching and then going suddenly quiet, when I'm on my horse). I'll have to keep working on that.

Not only Magneto insists on parting ways when times get tough - my BTE processor does, too. It's at least twice as big and heavy as my hearing aid, something which made my ear cartilage sore at first. And, since there's no earmold holding it in place, when it decides to tumble to the ground, there's no stopping it. Tilting my head to rest on my hand, bending down to pick up something, the aforementioned forms of exercise - all of these are enough to make the BTE jump ship. (Interestingly, sometimes it's only Magneto, along with headband, that keeps the whole thing from crashing on the floor.) I'm determined not to become sedentary because of these new challenges, though!

So what do I think of myself as Magneto? I admit, getting used to this new self-image has been an adjustment. I glance in the mirror and see someone who looks like she’s been plugged into a computer, silver and glinting. Literally bionic. I didn’t like the look at first – it’s more obtrusive and space-age than hearing aids – but if I can hear and function well, who really cares? Amusingly, I’ve already been asked by strangers and passersby, “Is that a cochlear implant?” They ask it with an air of fascination. No one was ever this curious about hearing aids, I suppose because they're associated with the elderly and senile. The CI, on the other hand, is cutting-edge. The conversations that arise are interesting, and I realize that I'm settling into the role of CI poster child. Who'd ever have thunk?


  1. Cool post!

    Hearing aids are definitely pooh pooh.

    AB Cochlear implants look very blue toothy and I'm looking forward to getting mine!

  2. You should become a consultant for AB =]