A look backwards

Here is a post from Sam’s (My Hobbit) blog in 2003 I thought you all would find interesting regarding his CI and how he dealt with Division of Blind Services (and this was how he dealt with many, many people especially before he became fluent again in ASL). I thought you’d find it as interesting as I found it comforting to look back and see what a great thing the CI was for him/us.

Saw my parents yesterday. My mom told me that she had called Shand’s hospital and that they are going to get back to her about the cochlear implant surgery. I’ve already set the ball in motion by going to have the MRI, and I feel like it’s almost out of my hands already. It’s not, I know. I could say, at any time, “NO, I don’t want the implant.” But I haven’t done this yet. What have I got to lose by going through the operation, my mom and other people ask… well money for one. Plus I don’t know if the operation will work or not. It’s a gamble. But my hearing has gotten so bad that I think I’m willing to try this.

At first when you get a cochlear implant, everything sounds funny. The way the audiologist in Gainesville described it, people tend to sound like they have cartoon voices at first. Then once you get adjusted to the new way of hearing, people begin to sound normal again. This takes a few months of trial and error, with adjustments to the speech synthesizer. I don’t in any way see this as some kind of miracle or answer to prayer. I’m sorry, but this is purely a technological hack, and I don’t see anything divine in it at all. But my parents act like this is supposed to be some kind of miraculous gift from heaven. Bullshit. It’s a completely manmade solution to severe deafness. I think I am going to go through with it, but I don’t have any illusions or expectations that there will be some kind of miraculous turnaround in my hearing.

My digital hearing aids drive me almost up the wall sometimes. Unlike the old analog hearing aids, whenever the battery gets low on these they start to beep in high pitched frequencies. I tell people that it sounds like R2-D2 on crack. Heh heh! But I should be (and am) grateful for these hearing aids, since they were provided for by Division of Blind Services. Sometimes I feel a little guilty for accepting assistance from the state, but I shouldn’t. I worked for plenty of years, and paid plenty of tax dollars, so I accept whatever assistance I can get with gratitude.

I went to see Sue at DBS yesterday. We talked about the possibility of supported employment. Sue and I have a unique way of talking… I talk to her, and she types in Microsoft Word at 72 point font so I can read what she’s saying. Neat arrangement. I told her I think I want to wait until after I get the cochlear implant before deciding to jump back into the workforce again. I live on Social Security right now, and I’m able to take care of myself pretty well. I’m lucky to be living where I am. The rent is only $300 per month, plus $150 for food. So that’s only $450 + the telephone and Internet bill which comes out to another $50. So I can pretty much live on about $500 per month. It’s not a luxurious lifestyle, but I’m content for now. I often wonder what I’ll do once I move from this place. I don’t want to think about it, but I suppose I should. I don’t think I’ll be living here forever.


Three Cheers for the Kindle Fire HD!

The Kindle Fire Experiment

Last Saturday I was bemoaning the fact that I can’t really listen to radio. I mean, I can listen to it, but I can’t really follow the conversation. My word comprehension with lip reading is perhaps 60% with the CI but it drops to around 40% without lipreading. So when you can only hear 4 out of 10 words, listening to the radio is like an aggravating game of Wheel of Fortune.

Noelle suggested that I try plugging in my CI to her Kindle Fire HD. I sighed mentally (and perhaps audibly) because I had already tried connecting a double-sided headphone jack from the CI to my computer, and the sound quality had been terrible. I assumed it would be more of the same. But, on the other hand, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try connecting the CI to the Kindle, and I reasoned that I might be pleasantly surprised.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. VERY pleasantly surprised.

First, Noelle had me read and listen to an ebook/audiobook combination via something called WhisperSync. This program syncs the exact text to the exact words on an audiobook read by a human. In other words it wasn’t text-to-speech software, but text-to-audiobook sync. She was able to magnify the text on the Kindle Fire HD so that I was reading four lines per page at the “wide” angle (landscape mode), in reverse video (white text on a back background). The cursor jumped from word to word in sync with the accompanying audiobook.

It was fantastic. I then decided to close my eyes to see if I could understand the audio without cheating, and to my surprise I could understand it very clearly. I’d estimate I understood maybe 75-80% of the text just from the audio alone. I hadn’t experienced anything this good with my CI since I had it turned on in 2003.

I had tried connecting my CI to other devices, but apparently none of them were very good audio quality. The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, worked extremely well.

I even tried listening to an ambient music station on Pandora. At some point after I got the CI in 2002 I decided that I liked ambient and synthesizer music (Vangelis, Brian Eno, Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, Peter Gabriel, etc.)

That’s probably because the CI already has a certain degree of synthesized sound, so ambient and synthesizer more naturally (or unnaturally) fits with the synthesized sound of the CI. I often joke that I listen to Borg music (a la ST:NG).

I could tell that I needed to get my mappings upgraded to be able to appreciate the music, but I am certain that once I do get a new mapping that the music clarity will improve substantially. It is quite good as it is.

So Saturday’s experiment was a fantastic success. And now I actually want a Kindle Fire. Everybody else in our house loves it, but I didn’t particularly care about it because I didn’t think it would be all that accessible. But it turned out to be a big accessibility WIN.

So it turns out that I can listen to radio after all, if you count Pandora (and I do). And in case you were wondering, the ebook/audiobook I experimented with via WhisperSync is called “Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues” by Mark Eddy Smith. As you might have guessed, Tolkien has a rather large influence in the Realm of Calinor.

+Sam (aka The Hobbit)

I Am Borg – guest post by my Hobbit/Sam Campbell III

Sometimes being part Cyborg is worth it. Noelle asked me to put on my cochlear implant so that she could tell me (ie: complain) about her day at work. So she was telling me (ie: complaining) about her day at work when, suddenly, her voice changed mid-sentence like this:

“…and they hired this guy to do the database and — OHMIGOD it’s a HUMMINGBIRD!”

But reading it doesn’t really do it justice. The change in her voice from “my day kind of sucked” to “OHMIGOD a hummingbird! The world is WONDERFUL” just cannot be captured in text.

When I wear my CI, I am not really hearing, but I’m not really deaf either.

I am Borg. I have been assimilated.