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I have a lot of work to do this time of year, but wanted to post my first thoughts on this TED video.

First – no captions yet! gah! I can understand the main speaker, but the video clips aren’t clear enough to hear.

Second – I’m entirely happy with my two CIs. It’s been almost 2 years since the second one was activated and this is definitely my new normal and I wouldn’t go back to hearing aids if given a chance.

Third – I’m still playing saxophone in the sax sextet and in the band. We often play music in the house from Pandora, usually classical or jazz. Music I know well sounds the same as I remember it (because I’m remembering it), music that’s new to me starts out a bit muddled but becomes clearer with repeat listening (kind of like band, but there I’d expect it’s people learning their parts instead). I hear different things than I did with just hearing aids. I hear less of myself, and a little less of the people on either side of me. More of the trumpets, much more of the percussion, and Piccolos! There are definitely moments of beauty and emotion.

That said, you’ll see in this TED Talk video that cochlear implants are designed for speech and don’t do a very good job with music.

Embed code not working, so here’s a link to the video:

As happy as I am with my CIs, I really do agree with this video.

If you watched the video you’re probably wondering what I thought of the sound clips.

There are some sound clips in the video that portray music which sounds badly if you have normal hearing… I can’t really tell it sounds bad, in fact, the first clip of the MIDI file with pitches moved a semi-tone – sounds the same to me as the original. The trumpet clip vs violin – very similar, the violin had more vibrato, both sound a bit synthetic to me still – like the trumpet sound on electronic keyboards from the early 1990s. The clips of the Usher song, well, I can tell the difference between those… not sure either one sounds great, the second lacked percussion which seems more like a hearing aid issue than a CI issue.

I’m curious to hear what others think and encourage those with CIs to watch the video and then share here or in the comments on the TED page.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

sajego: (Default)

Let’s see how I do with my last post’s list.  I’m going to take CI/hearing topics today.

1. 4 months with CI

That’s right.  I was activated way back on May 4th.  I’ve been in for just 3 mappings since then at 2 weeks, 1 month and 3 months (though all were a bit late).

My audiogram has remained hovering around 25-35 all the way across.  I think it is low because my maps are still getting a bit louder each time and they do the test Before I get a new map.

I still prefer the Med-El FSP (Fine Structure Processing) versus the HD-CIS program.  My audiologists still insist that I keep trying both.  So one of my program slots is still HD.  They both sound good to me, so it’s just a matter of what I am used to.  Music sounds more musical in FSP.  FSP may also work better with background noise.

On being bimodal (that’s CI + hearing aid), at my 1 month map my audiologist said I could start wearing my hearing aid again whenever I wanted to, but suggested I decide one way or the other and stick with it.  So I have been wearing both all of the time. Thankfully my CI and HA are working together now.  Originally the CI was canceling the HA out and I couldn’t hear anything at all through it.  It was strange and scary that even with the CI turned off my HA didn’t sound “right” after the implant.

One thing this has really reinforced for me is that Ear Molds Suck!  My unimplanted ear with the hearing aid is always going through a cycle of scabby, sore, gooey, sore, dried out, scabby, etc.  I think this is worse because I have been swimming at the gym once a week.  My implanted ear is perfectly normal. No ear mold is a nice thing.

At my 3 month mapping I was tested wearing both the HA and the CI in noise.  I scored in the 90s.  With just the CI I scored in the 70s.  So it’s helping in noise, or maybe the second set of sentences was easier.  It seemed a lot easier.

When making my next mapping appointment (6 months, in November) they suggested I see my ENT just in case I want to talk about implanting my other ear.  I agreed to this because there are monetary insurance related reasons for doing it in 2009.  I’m trying not to let that influence my decision too much.

2. CI #2?  2 CIs versus 1 CI and 1 HA versus bilateral EAS

I’ve seen a lot of articles claiming that a CI + a hearing aid gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to sound, especially music.  I’ll agree that this has been my experience.

We went out dancing at a club in Washington, DC last weekend.  Instead of the normal bass that sounds the same with or without my hearing aids, the CI was adding the rhythm section to it.  It was a nice effect and helped me appreciate the faster beat that’s on top of that boom boom boom of the bass.

I asked my audi about CI+HA versus 2 CIs and she suggested I contact a researcher.  Small world, he was someone I had emailed with last spring.  I owed him an updated.

His answer was that you can’t make any kind of decision without knowing exactly how well you’re doing right now.  Just CI, CI + HA, HA in implanted ear + CI + HA.  But his gut feeling was that Two CIs are great for localizing sounds, but One CI and One HA are better for lower tone quality and hearing in noise.  He also said that they have been very impressed with  CI + bilateral hearing aids.  But that 25% of people who preserve residual hearing after implantation are still losing it later on.

In the end he asked if I’d be itnerested in visiting the Mayo clinic for some research at some point, so I’m waiting to see if that gets set up.

My own feelings, the CI provides SO MUCH sound, and it does not sound bad at all.  It sounds very normal apart from the timbre of music sounding different than before.  If I can get use from a hearing aid in the implanted ears that would be the best of both worlds… but we will see.  Technology is always changing too.

3. Music lately

With bimodal hearing music sounds better than ever.  My hearing aid ear picks up the sounds I’m used to hearing and the CI adds the higher sounds I’ve not heard in years.

Some singing voices still have a bit of a chipmunk-like tinge to them – not in pitch, just in quality.

The sound “Oooooooo” never sounds right.

Some instruments have a harmonica-like tinge, or a squeaky violin timbre.

Sometimes listening to a single instrument, or playing my saxophone alone, I will hear double.  The HA and the CI have different qualities and in some frequencies my brain doesn’t automatically blend them into the same single sound.

For a while I couldn’t hear the difference between two notes that were a half-step apart when I was playing.  This resulted in many jabs from the people sitting next to me.  I seem to have gotten over that now.  I need to do a listening test to see how my pitch recognition has improved.

I also bought a pair of t-coil headphones of the type that stick behind your ears.  I think the quality of the sound on these is better than the sound that comes through my Med-El direct input cable. Not sure.  Maybe a richer sound.

10. Using the phone, for work, for home, CapTel

I’ve never been a fan of the phone.  At some point I will probably decide that it makes my life at work easier to use it… but the way things are now, my boss loves to make phone calls and so he does that all day while I type reports on the computer (something he “can’t” do, he writes things by hand and the secretary types them (even though she isn’t really a secretary)).

I still call the Cochlear listening line to see how things are sounding.  This week one of the lists was impossible.  Ought, It, Ash, Own… yikes.

At work I have an old school CapTel phone set up with 2 lines, but the ringer is turned off and I don’t take incoming calls.  If someone leaves a voice mail I will call in to see what it is.  If I could get the new CapTel that works with our digital phone lines and the internet I might be able to see caller ID and that would be excellent.  I hate not knowing who is calling – it makes it impossible to predict the conversation.

On another note, I love my Google Voice line.  The transcription doesn’t work perfectly, but it highlights the text as it plays the recording so you can try to follow along.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

sajego: (Default)

I play saxophone in the Charlottesville Municipal Band, specifically tenor saxophone.  I found the band after moving to Charlottesville in 2006.  I waited until January of 2007 to join though as I didn’t get settled in at my job until late October and it’s always easier to join a group right after a concert.  So we attended the 2006 Holiday Concert and in 2007 I became a member.

There are almost 90 people in the band but overall I find the instrumentation quite well balanced.  We have a decent rhythm section, and I believe as many as 5 tuba/euphonium players.  The sax section seems to hover around the size it should be. If we are short saxes then there’s a clarinetist or two who can help us out, and if we have too many, we can send them back to the clarinets. ;)

We play around 10 concerts a year with 7 in the months of June, July and August. This weekend, being July 4th, the band is playing a lot of Partriotic music.  We have a concert tomorrow evening starting at 7:30 in the Pavilion downtown.  If anyone is going, let me know, there is free parking available at the Lexis Nexus just off of Market St:

We also play music before the annual Naturalization (citizenship) ceremony held every year on July 4th at Jefferson’s Monticello.  Last year the (then) president of the US was the guest speaker.  The band had to be on the bus to the site at 6am, had to pass through the metal detectors and was surrounded by secret service the whole time.  This year the guest speaker is Virginia Congressman, Tom Periello, and the band’s bus doesn’t leave until 8:30 am.

The next two concerts should provide All the patriotic music anyone could ever want…  (and then some?)

Days of Glory
Irving Berlin’s songs for America
El Capitan
King Cotton
American Anthem – Tuesday Folder
Fairest of the Fair – Jim Simmons conducting
Semper Fidelis
Armed Forces Salute – Tuesday Folder
Washington Post – Tuesday Folder
Albemarle Overture – Tuesday Folder
March Independentia
Americana Two Step
Men Of Ohio
America the Beautiful
Stars and Stripes

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

sajego: (Default)

I can’t get myself to start typing this because I’m listening to music on my iPhone (built in iPod) and I’ve managed to load lyrics to almost all of my 1500 some songs.  If I type then I can’t read along and the lyrics get lost.

Music is sounding pretty good, even with just my CI.  The bass is a bit tinny… the vocals quite squawky, chipmunky but not high pitched. I can recognize Frank Sinatra as Frank Sinatra (very low voice).

Songs that I know really well sound the best. For the curious this includes all the songs from RENT, a few Moxy Fruvous CDs and a couple of Phish songs… But not the Damien Rice album I bought right before my surgery… and not any of the albums that came from Don’s CDs.

I’ve noticed in band as well as in recorded music that sustained notes will have a very accurate pitch, but short notes sound monotone.  If I know the song I don’t notice this too much though.  When the band plays a scale it sounds very monotone because the tones are far from pure with 90 of us playing at one time.  This takes me back to 5th grade band though and the first time we ever heard a band from sitting within the band… it was a new experience.

The Sound and Way Beyond aural rehabilitation DVD has a lot of music practice exercises.  I can’t hear the difference between notes closer than 2 semi-tones.  This means that when I’m playing in the wrong key I don’t notice at the first wrong note. But I use a million visual cues in band. I watch the fingers of the people next to me, I watch their toes, I watch the director, all while reading the music.  No wonder I miss the key change!  I’ve made a point to pay closer attention to them after missing every single one at one rehearsal.

Also on the Sound and Way Beyond DVD is a listening exercise that would be tricky with perfect hearing – it plays 2, 3, 4 notes and you have to choose what they are on the staff based on the starting note.  It would be better if you could experiment until you found the right interval by ear rather than getting just one guess and a right or wrong score.

Another music exercise involves identifying different musical instruments, but you’re supposed to be able to tell from one note if it’s a trumpet, piano, violin, etc.  I don’t know how good their recordings are.  I can hear the difference between them all, but I can’t easily pick out which one it is with just one note to hear, except maybe the piano.

I listen to music every day on my way to and from work in my car but of course that has a ton of background noise too from being on the road.

Bass is still a bit thin and rumbley rather than musical. I’m working on setting up a bilateral / bimodal headset. I ended up with 2 med-el direct input cables on accident somehow so instead of buying a bilateral one I’ll probably buy a $2 dual connector/splitter from radio shack and plug both into that. For some reason my FM system won’t consistently switch to direct input anymore, but I might be able to use it via bluetooth for my iphone now.

ETA: Ironically, one of the worst sounds for me right after activation was saxophones…  I have a ton of saxophone ensemble recordings that I know very well.  I’m happy to say that they are sounding Great now.  I’m currently listening to Beppo’s To Ballard by The Tiptons ( and it sounds almost as good as I remember.  Not a long memory as this was my newest CD…

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

sajego: (Default)

It was only a few weeks ago that my boss at work asked me what frequency an octave is.  We were planning to do an acoustical test for some fire insulation and it came up in the discussion.  He figured as a musician I would know.  Never having studied acoustics, I didn’t, but Google did of course.  An octave is a doubling in frequency.

Right after I looked this up I received a package from UNC with all the different CI literature in it.  It talked about frequencies and the piano keyboard and frequencies and the cochlea.  So interesting.

In all these years I hadn’t really thought about my audiogram and a piano keyboard.  Looking at my audiogram it looks like my hearing vanishes somewhere between 1000 and 2000 Hz.  1000 Hz is C6 - 2 octaves above Middle C.  Yeah, that sounds about right from my memory of playing with a keyboard.

This page has a list of all the notes and their frequency and wavelength: Frequencies of Musical Notes

And this page has a Flash keyboard to play with: Flash Piano - the Method Behind the Music

Edited to Add: Here’s an even better piano to play with that goes from C2 to C7. Virtual Piano: Online music innovation at its best

I was looking for a piano online that went above C6 but haven’t found one yet.  In Garage Band on my Mac however there is one that goes from C2 to C8 (except it has middle C as C3?! let’s ignore that).  Above C6 (1000 Hz) notes do not sound distinctly different to me, and above C7 (2000 Hz) I can’t hear much beyond the F (2800 Hz).

What does all that mean to a non-musician, or non-piano player? Well Middle C is an easy note for men and women to sing. High for men, low for women, but not a stretch for either gender.  C6 is a very high note for a woman to try to sing, I think A5 was the highest note I ever saw as a soprano in choir.

What does all this mean to me in my cochlear implant journey?  Well it means that the human singing voice, and I suppose the frequency range of most instruments in a band (minus piccolo!) are less than 1000 Hz and thus in the range of what I can hear with my hearing aids.  Wait, really?  So why get a cochlear implant if you can already hear everything?  It all comes back to understanding speech.

Here’s the speech banana:

graph known as the speech banana

If you look at the line from 1000 Hz at the top down - anything to the right is what I can’t hear, even with a hearing aid. I’m deaf in those frequencies.  A CI helps a lot with those frequencies, but can often make the frequencies below 1000 Hz sound strange or at least different. How strange and different? I can’t tell you that as I haven’t experienced it.

Traditionally a cochlear implant meant that you would lose all hearing that you had left.  It would be replaced by hearing through the implant.  The new technology known as the hybrid implant, or electric-acoustic stimulation (EAS) tries to preserve residual hearing so that you can continue to use a hearing aid for the low frequencies and add the high frequencies through the CI.  I promise I’ll write more about this next time.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


Feb. 16th, 2009 07:34 pm
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Lately I keep finding myself with songs in my head from Sunset Boulevard. It’s a musical that won Tony awards in the early to mid 1990s. The sound track is from 1994 and features Glenn Close.

I listened to many, many broadway musical soundtracks when I was in high school. I generally liked the stories and and the music. They usually included lyrics in the liner notes and I could follow along and it was engaging, like with books on tape. I still love the subtle humor found in most shows (or not so subtle sometimes).

Seeing a show on stage was something I didn’t experience very often. But for me seeing a musical was amazing because I’d know the words by heart from reading along for months or years at home. It’s hard to describe as each show had different aspects that amazed me. When I first saw Phantom it was the pyrotechnics that I remember. I could feel the heat on my face from my seat in the balcony. With RENT the first time we had second row seats and I experienced the energy and emotions of the cast. We all cried for almost the entire second act. With Les Mis it was the amazing staging and set scenery and Colm Wilkinson as Jean Val Jean and being one row back from the orchestra pit. And for Lion King the amazing puppets, costumes and acrobatics stand out.

There’s a lot to a musical beyond the music, but listening to the soundtrack at home and reading along and learning to love the characters and their stories makes it all come together. It makes it very enjoyable even if you normally would not be able to understand the lyrics or follow the story at a show.

Sunset sounds great tonight even if I sometimes lose the thread of lyrics when I don’t focus on listening.

Originally published at Sarasera. Please leave any comments there.

December 2011



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