Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Watching AMERICAN IDOL with a Cochlear Implant - Take 2

This last week has been pretty rough in terms of listening out of my right ear (and the word "listening" is used loosely.) My ear has been taken over by bells that only Edgar Allen Poe might have done justice describing. If I didn't have a fellow blogger in cyber space doing similar and only a week and half ahead of me in activation, I might be feeling a little more isolated right now. (Hi Kelly! :-) I know I'm not alone though, and my experience might be one of the slower success stories to be. I have no doubt I'll be a success story, I just didn't expect how much work and time would be involved before I got somewhere more productive, but like Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."

From my casual observations so far, it seems like life long hearing aid users with severe to profound hearing loss having cochlear implant surgery as adult don't come out of early activation with the more exciting, quicker results of those deafened later in life. I haven't heard Donald Duck talking to me, distinguished the blinker in my car ticking away, and I've definitely not heard birds singing YET.

I'm wondering if most new adult cochlear implant users, in general, tend to be the later deafened and if that is why there seems to be much speedier rates of success when reading blogs in the CI community? I could be wrong, but it seems like most people choosing to have the surgery as an adult are not the ones that grew up with a severe-profound hearing loss using hearing aids and even more rare are the adults that not only lip read but use sign language as a mode of communication. Any thoughts on this? Please note, I did say MOST, as I'd be an exception to this myself as would Kelly, since we've both being hearing impaired forever and a day (and her blog is listed on the right side of this page and titled "Life is about Creating Yourself" and definitely worth checking out.) Also, I am in no way saying that those later deafened just breeze through the process. I think it's just one of those things where past experiences greatly affect early and overall success. I also think this is where some complaints come in that there's so much "hype" about initial success, when probably it's not so much hype as it is the actual experiences of a certain demographic and their triumphs with the implant.

Last night, I tuned in for my usual Tuesday night dose of American Idol. I actually enjoyed it more than any time since I had surgery. It's a little difficult to explain, but one quick way to sum it up is, I would have preferred to have my cochlear implant ON than off during last night's episode. There is no miracle on a grand scale to report, but on the small scale, I think God is helping me figure things out a little at a time and maybe granting me a bit more patience through this process.

So, what was different? For starters it was probably in my favor that they were singing songs from their birth years with the oldest (Danny) born in 1980 and the youngest (Allison) born in 1992, and those songs were definitely "old school" for me. On a side note, I can't believe I'm old enough now that years of my youth are considered recycled pop culture..... but moving on as I'd rather not dwell on that thought too long... happy thoughts...happy thoughts...... With only one hearing aid on post surgery, I've been pretty lost listening to the show on Tuesday nights, but I've kept trying regardless because I just love that ridiculous show. Last week was exhausting and annoying with the ringing in my right ear (and it just happened to be activation day #1.... oh... wait... so last night was the culmination of week one and I finally found something nice to say about it? Cool!)

Last night, I noticed that I wasn't feeling impatient or annoyed (unless it was directed at Simon's biased commentary.) The singing voices seemed to be richer and have more clarity. I was confused. What was different? I pulled the magnet off my head and numerous times, and the world would become a little too silent with only one hearing aid doing all the work. I'd pop it back on and the ringing would be back, that annoying ringing, but the volume and clarity of the song would increase just a little somehow, some way. I'd turn off my hearing aid and let the CI go solo, but my right ear (CI) just mocked my left ear (HA) for thinking such crazy thoughts. The ringing has become easier to tune out, even though I know that's me hearing things I don't have a clue how to sort yet, but together with my HA, the implant, seems to be providing the role of supporting actor... (a very small role, but we're getting somewhere nonetheless.)

I think I'm going to play the show back on DVR today and see if I still feel the same about the clarity I felt last night. Just a little disclaimer though, I did use the captions and having heard most of those songs for years also helped. Then again, AI isn't known for showcasing anything remotely modern in song choices most of the time, and I usually do know several of the songs being sung on any given week. In fact, if I don't know something, it seems like that is when Simon will call someone indulgent. Go figure. It's such a pet peeve of mine.... if the kids sing something different on the show, it's indulgent, but Simon doesn't hesitate to complain how karaoke his non-chosen ones sound singing the same old, same old done to death songs... Maybe another show I'll write a post venting about even more hypocrisies on the show, like how Kris was told to be more like the original and the next song Lil was told she was too much like the original. I'm still reeling from whiplash, but it's a frequent side effect of too much American Idol anyway.

I am curious if any other deaf/hard of hearing CI or hearing aid users watch the show, and your thoughts. Anybody else get ticked off when the word "deaf" gets thrown around a little too lightly on the show or the message boards to make a dig at the singers, judges or other audience members who disagree on what they heard? I think the new judge was the last one to use it on the show, and my husband looked at me quickly only to see me baring fangs and snarling. I ceased before I got foamy and slobbery though.

Feel free to add your two cents about the advantages/disadvantages of being implanted after being late deafened or as a life-long card carrying member of the deaf and hard of hearing world.... and PLEASE feel free to snark or praise anything remotely related to your American Idol viewing and especially, "hearing" experience.


  1. I can't say anything about AI as I don't live in the States..

    But about the ringing etc..I heard right , from the start..although voices WERE funny..I suffered from tinnitus though when I didn't wore probably it depends from persn to person...

  2. Vivie, after the last week listening to continuous ringing, I can only imagine what it must be like for those who have to endure the ringing after taking off the processors and HAs. Very cool you heard voices from the get go. Did you lose your hearing later in life? I'm making a mental note to check out your blog soon for myself.

    DD, I wasn't diagnosed with a hearing loss until after I started acquiring language at age 3 and have worn hearing aids since I was five. I am considered post-lingual.

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. *waves* Hi!

    You bring up some good points. I have thought about some of these issues. I do wonder if it has to do with the area of brain we use. If by nature we're visual people (regardless of if we're deaf or not) and that overseeps into the are of the brain we use for auditory information.

    Not sure if that made any sense. I've just heard somewhere that it's thought that deaf people use the auditory part of the brain for visual information.

    I'll have to do some research into this, because I am curious.

    I was talking to 2 CI user friends about their experiences with their CIs. Friend #1 got his at age 21 and Friend #2 got his at age 18. Both friends were oral and used sign language...however....Friend #1 was more oral than Friend #2. Friend #1 also benefited more from his hearing aids than Friend #2 did. Other than that their background are very similar. They both had very different experiences the first week with their CIs. Friend #1 was on the phone 3 days after activation and Friend #2 went through the same thing we both are going through right now.

    I think this is where more than just our hearing loss background comes into play. I'm thinking there may be other factors that may not necessarily be related to our hearing play a role in this. Who knows.

    Oy! I didn't mean to ramble!

    Btw, I keep meaning to say how cute your little boy is in those pictures!

  5. Thanks for reading, Alanna. :)

    Kelly, what you said makes sense... PLEASE do research this. I'm curious too. Of course when you come back to splain it... try layman's terms... I'm not technically minded. LOL!

    That's fascinating about your friends two different stories with the similar backgrounds. Wow, 3 days on the phone? I've got some words coming through since I wrote this particular blog... last night they reminded me of Donald Duck... today it sounds more like being under water... the words are there if I concentrate but tend to be pretty muffled.... (did you ever get water in your ear or in the tube of your ear mold? It's kind of like that, but moreso...)

    Ramble all you want any time you want!!! Thanks for the compliment on Aidan... I'm quite fond of him. ;-)