Catherine Cooper: Switch-on day zero

Posted on September 11, 2012

After a welcome and some introductions with the audiologist, I was handed my shiny new processor (the bit for the outside of my head) in Bordeaux Red and hooked up to her computer.  The switch on took about an hour, and unlike the name suggests, involved more than just a simple flick of a switch.

The implant cable which now sits inside my cochlea has 12 electrodes, which you can see if you look carefully at my x-ray image.  Each of these electrodes is responsible for a different set of sound frequencies, ranging from high to low tones.  The switch on process involves adjusting each electrode in turn, to produce a comfortable range of high and low volumes.
“Ouch!!!!” was my first reaction when I was connected to the computer.  I felt a loud, uncomfortable crash inside my head.  My instant reaction was to rip the processor off my head.  But I resisted, and the sound faded away.  The session continued like this for about 30 minutes, using the computer to throw different tones at different volumes at my implant – the quiet ones were fine, the louder ones brought tears to my eyes.

And then came the moment to listen to the real world… Click.  “Hello Catherine, can you hear me?  I’ve switched your implant on now.  Testing, testing, 123.” I lip read her perfectly.  But what I heard was different.  It wasn’t a voice at all.  It was just squawks and beeps and whistles.  It was same for every sound, voice or not.

Walking back to the car, I felt nothing but exhaustion. When we got home, there were so many sounds coming from everywhere and after an hour, I pulled the processor off, and wondered how it was going to work.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite like this.

While not pleasant and consistently uncomfortable, this reaction is typical, so I’m assured.  My brain will take time to adapt.  But at the moment, it feels like there’s an awful lot of adjustment to be made.

This article was first published on Catherine’s own blog, which you can find here:

Catherine lives in Norfolk and has a young family. Born profoundly deaf in 1978, she leads a busy life using a combination of hearing aids, lip reading and sign language. Following a deterioration in hearing in recent years, she is now in the early stages of getting a Cochlear Implant, and currently awaits feedback on her suitability. This is her story, told as it happens.

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