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Hearing Devices

Cochlear Implant Patient Testimonial


Doctor D. Bradley Welling installed my cochlear implant in April of 2010, at the OSU Eye and Ear Clinic.  From the moment the CI was “turned on” I was pleasantly surprised.  Speech understanding was immediate, and far more intelligible and clear than I had ever hoped.

 

I did all of the homework. I worked with the Sound and Way Beyond auditory programs that came in the “briefcase” supplied with the cochlear implant. It was fun to see the computer generated scoring continue to show progress.

 

Later that year, it came time for making the usual letters to Santa. I asked my wife, Pam, for a couple of violin lessons.  That was, I thought, a bit of a reach. Cochlear implants are not really programmed for music. Speech is their thing. But, you never know. I wanted to try.

 

Pam called Alexandra Vargo, ( Xan) a violin teacher recommended by a member of the Columbus Symphony.  Pam minced no words. “He is of Social Security age. He has never had musical training. And, oh yeah, he is technically deaf.”

 

Xan replied, “Cool!”

 

And so began my trip to Carnegie Hall.  Maybe not Carnegie Hall. Not just yet.  But I do like to brag that I bring a tear to Xan’s eyes when I play. I truly do not know where she gets the patience. I do not know how she can bear to hear some of the sounds that I make.

 

Xan has a teaching mode uniquely her own. It includes history, theory and a sprinkling of “strange but true” stories. Her instructional techniques draw from the Suzuki and Kodaly, as well as other methodologies. They place a heavy emphasis on ear training.  We use the mechanical aids, such as tuners and metrenomes to visually reinforce what my ears are trying to decipher on their own. There is a lot of scale work. A lot of scale work. Let me repeat, scales and scales and scales!! Fish would die to have so many scales!

 

The Sound and Beyond computer programs show an increasing ability to understand music. The tone recognition and melodic contour training has been very valuable, and it is rewarding to see those objective results change for the better.

 

Carnegie Hall, to be truthful, is a ways off. My ear does not begin to approach “perfect pitch.” Still, the daily work with scales and finger placement exercises are making things closer day by day. As they say, I have lightning fingers on the violin. (They never strike the same place twice.) Xan’s teaching techniques are making the sounds so much better.  I had nice colored tapes showing finger positions, but in one of her sadistic streaks, she removed the tapes, and I now have to play the violin like the big kids.

 

I asked Brenda Hall, Au.D. ( Brenda) if a cochlear implant could be tuned more specifically to an instrument. A CI has a general Music Program.  Brenda was open to experiment. We devised a new “violin” program that basically truncates what the CI hears to the frequencies played by a violin. Now, the technology shows 22 electrodes being triggered at various frequencies, and there is little chance that any of that would appear on perfect pitch. Still, it works pretty well. My own, very unscientific opinion, is that this old brain of mine has now remapped itself to automatically interpret the various frequencies in this new program and assigns the proper “note” to each sound occurrence. It sounds like music!

 

I don’t care how it happens. It works. As a normal human being, I like music. It is such a natural part of “being.”  To be able to make music?  That is a gift. It is wonderful.

 

Brenda altered the “violin” program to include some more speech sounds.  Speech is there when the range of frequencies is reduced to only violin frequencies, but it is of the “Donald Duck variety.  There may be further “tweaking” but it works well enough now that I don’t want to disturb the other “mapping” – the one in my brain.

 

Are there frustrations? Yes. The most difficult thing for me to do is to learn new and unfamiliar music, and to memorize it. 50 years ago, like most people, I could hear a tune once or twice and effortlessly have it memorized.  That part of my mind has atrophied, or perhaps has been re assigned. Learning new music is incredibly difficult.

 

I whine and cry and tell Xan that all of the time, but she will not accept that. She makes me learn music just like one of her six year old students. Seniority apparently does not count with her. She does allow me some considerations. I play the three “Bs” Beethoven, Bach and the Beatles, and am currently learning a rousing rendition of Can-Can.

 

My recital is coming up. I will be the one wearing a cochlear implant.     By Pat Vincent