Sorry for keeping you guys in suspense ;) for so long, I wanted to be certain of everything before I posted about it. Now I am, so read on...
I know a lot of people mentioned that external equipment can often be the source of having an unusual amount of trouble with hearing. Whether it be a dirty microphone cover, a damaged processor, a loose coil,- they all affect how you hear. In my case, I changed out all of the equipment and it made absolutely no difference in sound quality. If you, however, are reading this because you're experiencing the same problem, I recommend changing out all external equipment, just to rule it out before proceeding any further.
So, last Friday (10/23) morning my orchestra teacher pulled me out at the end of class saying my mom had sent him an email that she wanted him to relay to me. I went into the office and read it- the Cochlear Rep woke up sick (darn you, H1N1!) and wouldn't be able to make the appointment- did I still want to go to the audiologist? I wasn't happy about that, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try yet again with my audiologist. I went to the appointment, and my audiologist told me that she felt like we were missing something and that a new set of eyes should look at it, but she wanted to try one last thing before giving up. It was either that or do some hearing tests, so I figured what the heck...
My audiologist decided to start from scratch and create an entirely new map- the same ol' measuring T's and C's just wasn't doing it anymore. My processing speed/rate on both processors has always been at 900, which is where most people start off, and usually stay. The processing speeds can range from 250 (on the oldest processors, mainly only used by people who have had their implants for years and years and don't like the faster rates) to 3600 (only available on the newest processors, but pretty much too fast for anyone to comfortably use.) My audiologist said that often times with her very elderly patients who aren't doing as well as you'd expect, as well as patients who had been Deaf all their lives, she moves the rate down to 500. The response is usually a sigh of relief, and an exclamation of, "Wow! That's so much more comfortable!" These patients usually find that things sounds "screechy" at 900.
So, how does that relate to me? Comfort wasn't the issue, but clarity was. My audiologist decided to take a leap of faith and see what would happen if we moved in the opposite direction, since I was having the opposite problem. So, starting with my (right) old side, the one I'd been having the most trouble with, she opened a new map with a processing speed of 1200. In addition, she changed the pulse width. When I first got my implant, I needed it so loud that the C's (loud sounds) were going too high up,and there wasn't any room left move them. Instead, my audiologist had changed the pulse width so that the (excuse me if this exclamation isn't perfectly accurate, this is all from memory) electrode rang just slightly longer, making me perceive the sound as louder. This causes a huge drain in battery life. Since I'm now bilateral, I've been slowly turning down the right ear, so my audiologist thought it would be safe to move the pulse width back to the norm. A higher processing rate also causes a decline in battery life, so my audiologist thought it was necessary since we were trying out a rate of 1200.
Okay,okay, enough with the technical stuff! Before turning it on, she warned me it would sound weird. It did. She turned it on, and all I heard was a buzzing. Like, if you accidentally had your processor on T-coil. I turned off my left ear and just listened- I could hear voices, but they sounded like they were coming down a long tunnel. My audiologist worked her magic, making the appropriate adjustments. I had no clue if I would like it once I got out into the "real world", but figured I had nothing to lose. Next, we opened a new map with my left ear, changing the processing speed to 1200. We had never adjusted the pulse width on that side, so we left it alone. When it came time to listen to the tones, I remarked at how different they sounded. It was the same pitches as if it had been played while it was at 900, but the sound was completely different. Imagine always hearing the note A played on the violin, and then suddenly, one day, it produced the note A, except it was the sound of a trumpet. Wouldn't you be baffled?
My audiologist attributed this to the changing of the processing rate to 1200. I asked her why it only happened on my left ear, and she shrugged. I knew very well that no two ears are alike, so I didn't think much of it. We made pretty much the same adjustments on that side, but this time I just wasn't so sure on this side, but wanted to try it out and see. Right after my audiologist saved the maps, I was getting ready to put my processors back on, grab my stuff and go on my merry way, when my audiologist got my attention said "Stop!" I looked at her. She told me to hook up my left ear again. I looked at the computer, and noticed the map for my left ear on the screen. I soon realized what the problem was, why the new processing rate wasn't producing the same result in my left ear. The column that lists the processing speed said 500. It was accidentally changed to 500 instead of 1200-yeah, I bet that could make a difference! She remapped me at 1200, and all was right with the world!
Interestingly enough, this new mapping caused my battery lives on both ear to do a little flip-flop. My right ear, which always required a ton of power and had a battery of life of 12-16 hours with disposables. With the new map, it is supposed to give me 36 hours! That's a huge difference! On the left ear, I had only been using the FM on that side since it required less power. The battery life, formerly around 25 hours, is now only 16 hours. The FM still works with it, but I am guessing I could probably usually it on both ears now- I will have to look into that eventually.
And my actual hearing....what did the map do? Instead of rambling on for another 8 paragraphs :P, I'm just going to copy a facebook message I sent to my audiologist a few days ago after she inquired about how I was doing.
I think it's better! Everything sounds "right"...I can understand people and music sounds good again! About time ;) I was starting to forget why I listened to music in the first place. The left side sounds a little softer/far away, but I don't notice it with the FM on. I am happy and do not want to change a thing! (for now..)
Maybe it is one magical change after all?
And there you have it. Sorry, I have a lot more to write about (hence the news, news, and more news,) but this post is already way too long, don't ya think?!