It’s now been two weeks since Lori’s activation date and it’s been two of the most interesting weeks in my life. Trying to describe how I’ve felt has been hard. I can only imagine that it must be close to the excitement that parents go through when their child begins to crawl, then walks, and then talks for the first time.

Some definite highlights:

Lori and I were walking to some friends house for breakfast. Up on the telephone wires some birds were declaring their happiness in living in such a beautiful town as Ferndale, especially on such a fine morning as it was. Lori was able to hear the birds and I rejoiced. This had a lot of meaning for me because on her gradual trip to deafness, one day that stands out among the others was another walk. This time we were walking alone up Williams Creek Road. I had brought a note pad along because this was before she got her hearing aids. I realized that if she couldn’t hear me, then she couldn’t hear the birds, and it hit me hard how much pleasure had gone out of her life. But now the birds are singing again, as they should be.

Another thrill was the moment Ricky climbed up on the back of the futon right by her head and she recognized that Ricky was purring. That’s one sound I know Lori really missed. But now the cats are purring again, as they should be.

We watched a couple of episodes of Fawlty Towers the other night. Since we were streaming them from Netflix, there weren’t subtitles, but Lori was able to get most of the dialogue. Which given that the actors all speak with English accents (or in one case Spanish), that’s pretty good. But now John Cleese is funny again, as he should be.

Best of all, we were watching a movie a couple of nights ago, and it did have subtitles so we turned them on. But what was so wonderful was that I could talk to Lori and make comments about the movie. Aside from not having your feet glued to the floor in a theater, isn’t being able to talk during a movie one of the things that makes home theater so great? I really missed being able to make witty remarks and enjoy Lori’s laughter. But now hopefully I’m funny again, and I guess that’s as it should be too.

In the last two weeks Lori and I have been explaining this amazing technology to lots of friends. So I decided to do a bit of show and tell today. If anyone has kids in school that would like to bring in the real bionic woman, I’m sure Lori would be cool with that now.

Lori wearing her cochlear implants
Lori wearing her cochlear implants

Initially, when I showed Lori the info on cochlear implants, she was pretty disgusted with the idea of wearing something stuck to her head. I tried to explain to her that these days people are going around with all kinds of bluetooth devices stuck to their heads, and that people would barely even notice it. Then we went to a picnic for people considering getting the devices and they put pink dots on the nametags of those that already had them, because most of the women were able to hide them. With the way she normally wears her hair, the coil and the processor are barely seen.

Med-El Speech Processor
Med-El Speech Processor

If Lori wears her hair back, then you can see them, and this is what you’d see. The circular disc is the coil. This has a magnet in it, surrounded by a coil. The magnet sticks to the implant. The implant sits under her skin, and it has a probe with electrodes that was inserted into her cochlea. The electrodes directly stimulate the auditory nerves. The coil transmits both the power and signal to the implant through radio waves. The implant has no battery power of its own.

The part that rests on her ear is the processor. It has microphone and takes the sound input, does a bunch of processing depending on the program and maps loaded into it, and then sends the resulting digital signal to the coil. Lori can choose from 4 different programs. When she visits Stanford, they load the programs by connecting the processor to a PC. Yep, Lori’s hearing is being controlled by a Windows program. Let’s hope she doesn’t pick up a virus. (True to form, during her last visit, the computer had to be rebooted.)

Ears to go
Ears to go

As I mentioned earlier, each implant comes with a complete backup and some nifty accessories. Here’s the James Bond case they ship everything in. Since she got two implants she got two cases, but I was able to consolidate it enough to get everything into one, which will make traveling a lot less conspicuous.

Accessories
Accessories

Open the case and here’s some on what you’ll see. On the left is the remote control. The remote can be used to chang the volume, sensitivity, and the program for the left and/or right ear. There’s also a few other buttons that will perform something in the future but the audiologist didn’t mention what that was yet. Very James Bondish. The cool thing is that since Lori got two kits, one for each ear, there’s an extra remote. I’m envisioning all kinds of practical jokes based on this spare remote. I’m also thinking that most men would love to have a remote that silenced their wives from time to time, but that’s a different subject.

To the right of the implant are the accessory covers, in six different fashionable hues so that when Lori gets tired of sienna, she can change to blue or red, or to match the sky in Ferndale, grey.

The cable plugs into the bottom of the processor and can then be plugged into a battery powered sound source like an iPod, iPhone, or an FM transceiver, such as movie theaters use for the hearing impaired. Med-El currently has two cables available, this one doesn’t cut out the ambient sound so she can listen to her music on her iPhone at work and still hear people talking to her. In one of the books we read, the author felt very funny carrying around a Walkman (written before the iPod obviously) and not wearing a pair of headphones to go with it. 

The good news is that Lori is already finding some music that she enjoys. Not that it sounds anything close to hi-fi, and it never will, but the fact that she’s even finding it tolerable is great at this early stage of the re-learning process. So music is making her happy again, and that’s the way it should be.