Friday, March 4, 2011

When the Ground Sways Beneath Your Feet

I stumbled across this video from Advanced Bionics today and thought I'd post it. It fits into the lines of what I've written on this blog before, but there's still no getting over how incredibly sophisticated this whole CI concept is. And the best part: it sounds great!

I've been having a lot of moments lately (okay, maybe all along) of surprising complexity, destabilizing moments where it seems like my brain, under the surface, is working on a new breakthrough. Or when it seems like the meaning of something is just within reach, although I can only brush it with my fingertips. It'll happen quite suddenly: I'll be walking and talking with a friend when I notice that the sound of her voice is different than before, that it's making me gasp with its smoothness and resonance, even if I can't say exactly how or why it's changed. I'll get distracted by its rich ebb and flow, like little green tendrils are starting to blossom beneath the previously barren surface of syllabic patterns. Those are delicate roots that don't funnel down very far right now, but I can almost physically feel them growing. So, in my mind I'll gasp and then realize that I'm not paying attention to what my friend is actually saying. Why would I, when her voice by itself sounds so wonderful and strange? Earth to Rachel. Hello there, lipreading.

Speaking of which, I still do lipread extensively - but, when it's quiet, I've been having more and more moments where I'll turn half away or not quite see the shape of a word on someone's lips. Instead of panicking, I'll feel my brain gently slide in and hand the phrase to me. Oh. Thanks. That wasn't a big deal. A lot of times it's only afterwards that I realize I wasn't seeing, but hearing. My auditory therapist commented on this the other day - I'm not asking for as much repetition with her as I did during the summer, I'm more confident and self-possessed and more active in the conversation. This is something I might not have noticed on my own, but the feedback is a great confidence boost. Upon further reflection, it's true. When I'm not fried from processing all this new information, I have more room inside my own head to think.

In those quiet situations, there is a constant give-and-take between sound and sight, the two of them uncertain allies (and sound, the newcomer, often shuffling into the corner feeling unwelcome) but gradually learning to work together. But in noise it's a different story. Then, sound will rush headlong into the path of chaos while sight pulls back, disgruntled, and attempts to restore proper balance to my brain. With more small noises entering my stream of consciousness from farther away, this tug o'war is something that will continue for a while. I've found that I have a very hard time taking exams now because of the shuffling, rustling, coughing, creaking noises going on through the hush, whereas before the CI I was always perfectly content in my mental bubble of silence. I stormed out of my room the other night wondering what the heck the ruckus in my house was, only to find three people having a table conversation (okay, a lively conversation, but still, only a conversation) three rooms and two closed doors away. Really? It was hard to be upset when I realized I'd actually heard that. And heard it so loudly. Sight keeps wanting to seize sound's head and bang it on the table (okay, the rest of my body does too - it's a collective mutiny) but sound keeps holding its own, becoming bolder than ever. And, of course, more useful.

All of this, to be honest, has set me on the path of considering a second CI. There are frequent moments now where I have to check to be sure my hearing aid is still working, that side of my head feels like such a dead zone. But that's something I'll write about another time.

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