Various bits of good news

Yesterday was an amazing day because I inked deals for three speaking engagements: one at my alma mater Brown, one at a government policy conference near Yellowstone Park in Montana, and one at the SV Life Sciences CEO Connections Summit in Key Biscayne, Florida. Details on these can be found on the Events page.

Also yesterday, Amazon posted a book I’ve been co-editing, titled “Educating Learning Technology Designers: Guiding and Inspiring Creators of Innovative Educational Tools.” It’ll be published by Routledge this summer.

A few days ago I published Looking into the Brain with Light in Technology Review. This story’s about monitoring oxygen levels in the brain using light. To me this technology seemed almost like magic — a bright laser light illuminates brain tissue through the skull, and ultrasonic waves “tag” a particular location so that its color can be measured by a light detector.

I was told today that in the next few weeks, NPR’s Radiolab show will be airing a show on musical hallucinations in which Oliver Sacks and I are guests. (Back in 2001 I experienced incredibly loud, vivid musical hallucinations during the three months I was totally deaf – the auditory equivalent of phantom limb. They stopped completely when my first implant was activated.)

I was also interviewed by The Economist a few days ago.

My buddy Josh Swiller, author of the remarkable memoir The Unheard: A Story of Deafness and Africa, is giving a talk in the Bay Area next month, March 22nd, at the California A.G. Bell meeting in Milpitas, near San Jose. For details, go to the “Annual Conference” page on their website.

My new right ear’s getting better at understanding speech. I find that when listening to Winnie-the-Pooh tapes I get whole sentences about 30% of the time. Names and numbers are easy; they jump out at me. I’m still not able to get the gist of the story, but the ear is clearly making progress. (My much more experienced left ear understands it easily, of course. It still seems strange — it’s as if half of me knows French fluently while the other half is fumbling around trying to learn it.) I’ll be going to a mapping session on Friday and maybe there I’ll be able to buy some more vowels. (I talked about vowels in my entry Shopping around for vowels.)

So, lots of good news.

I plan to start formally training the ear soon – more on that coming up…


  1. sam alapati says


    I’m curious to read about the “formal training” you’re planning. I remember reading a while ago your comment that you hadn’t done that after the first implant. Well, formal training can only enhance the potential, I guess, to get more out of the implant…


  2. Marilyn Devine says

    I’m also VERY interested in the formal training part of this gig. My first implant “training” consisted of a tape my audiologist stole from her 2-year-old son, and was comprised of nursery rhymes. I didn’t even realize there was music on this tape until one day I was driving out of my ad agency parking lot and suddenly the other side of the tape started playing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” This was 18 years ago when the technology was still pretty crude and the music sounded as if it was being played through huge industrial fans . . . but it was music!

  3. I thought we are all required to get aural rehab after implants are activated. I just started for my second implant, which was activated in October.

    For my first implant (left ear, April 2007), my rehab consisted mostly of “tracking” – either someone read to me as I followed along, or I read npr transcripts while I plugged directly into my CI headphone jack and listened to the original broadcast at the web site.

    The rehab specialist usually covers easily mistaken sounds, too.

    My homework is similar to the Winnie-the-Pooh tape method. :). Audio books are downloadable from most libraries these days, and then you can get the print copy to follow along. Be very careful of abridged audio versions – that messed me up the first time around. A good choice is “I, Robot”, which I found easy to get in both forms.

    In other news, I found out Cochlear Americas is coming out with music-listening software so I no longer have to be jealous of you guys with Advanced Bionics CIs. Now I don’t have to nag my long-suffering audiologist about it anymore – my appointment is in 3 weeks . 🙂

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