More notes from bilateral day 1

I discovered the volume wheel last night. With cochlear implants, a quantitative change creates a qualitative change. In other words, when I turn the volume up, it doesn’t just sound louder; it sounds different. Frequencies that I couldn’t hear at all at a low volume jump out at a higher one.

So while listening to Gloria Estefan’s Live for Loving You, an auditory touchstone of mine, I found that when I turned up the volume to maximum — yes, the very top of the dial — it began to sound like music again. The lows and highs of her voice filled in. It’s nowhere near as good as the left ear, but it brought the right ear closer to being a partner of the left.

It occurred to me that playing my CD at top volume might be distorting the sound, so I tried lowering it; I’m not sure what that did yet.

While sitting in my chair I kept subtracting one ear after the other to figure out what each was contributing to the soundstream. It’s hard for me to put that in words just yet. But the total of both ears is more than their simple sum.

I also discovered dimensionality. I found that if I stood in front of my computer and rotated 360 degrees while listening to NPR, it sounded different depending on my ears’ angle relative to the speakers. When my right ear was toward them I was getting a crisp sensation of speech that matched, but also differed from, my left ear. And different angles gave me different total perceptions.

Whether I’m hearing the difference because of simple loudness — one ear being closer than the other — or because my brain is recognizing the time difference between them, I don’t know yet.

The right ear is also picking up bits and scraps of speech on its own. Words like “Valentino” and “Barack Obama.” And damn, the soundstream sounds like language now. It sounds exactly like spoken language, with lots of firm and clear phonemes, but the ear can’t understand most of it yet.

Wearing the right ear at top volume is making it a somewhat closer match to the left ear. It shakes me up a bit to have so much coming in from the right side. I soft-footed it around my apartment for a while. It’s not uncomfortable, just startling. It’s like suddenly discovering a new room in a house that one’s lived in for decades. All that new space! What do to do with it?

I’m heading in for my second mapping session soon.


  1. I had a mapping the day following my activation, and I had already cranked the volume dial nearly all the way up too. It sure doesn’t take long for a new implant to want MORE!

    Regarding spacial location: are you using 100% T-Mic in both implants, or a mix? I think 50-50 is the default. For me, with just one implant, I so far like the 50-50 mix because sound is clearer from a wider field. I only use 100% T-Mic for the phone and windy situations. But I do notice that 100% T-Mic has better spacial location properties.

  2. Micheal…AWESOME!! It sounds like you’re doing REALLY well!!!!

  3. I love reading your new experiences. . . you say them so well! I, too, have discovered a better quality when I turn up the sound a little bit (but not too much.) For example, when I get in the car and the fan is running loudly, it drowns out my CD or radio. So, I have to turn the radio up a bit to hear over the fan that is trying to “take over.” And after the car is warmed up or cooled down, the radio gets turned down again.

    You’re doing so well and discovering the world in a wonderful new way! Can’t wait to read more!

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