Tag Archives: ABI

Suffering an unsound situation

A little piece of electronics fell a distance that was just over five feet.  60 inches of travel, making contact with a wooden floor. It wasn’t a heard action. It wasn’t an outright noticed incident either. It had fallen from behind the ear of this author as he sat on the edge of his bed and made preparations for use of the device itself.

And the only action derived from noticing the fall and reclaiming the object has been silence.

I went stone deaf in 1997 after a necessary operation to reduce/remove an acoustic neuroma; an inter-cranial benign tumor from my head. That tumor had already played a part in me losing hearing in both my ears during the previous four years. The surgery, for the sake of having a life, had to happen though.  When the operation occurred in December ’97, I was also implanted with what is known as the Auditory Brainstem Implant, a variation of the Cochlear Implant – a device that brings the hearing world to those who are implanted with it and who use an external sound processor to enable it. For a deaf person to adopt this technology is a chore – to learn a new dimension of life. For a late-deaf adult? It’s a miraculous resumption of a realm of living.

I’m living in silence right now and I’m in hell.

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I never heard it but I knew the unknown

You ever come across something totally foreign to you and yet you distinguish it? You know of things even if you have never physically interacted with them? I’m not talking about watching commercials for amusement parks or other famous locales and then going to them.  I mean something more personal and yet something more physically removed than having seen or heard whispers about an item and then having it thrust on you by chance. Continue reading

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The end of the mystery earworm

A few days before Christmas 2015, my friend Liz contacted me through Twitter in an enthusiastic state and asked “is this The Song?” The ambiguity is an appropriate title of a mystery earworm that’s followed me around since childhood. A couple of notes to a song, a piano or synthesizer riff, that I had heard a few times while in the car with my family as we traveled late at night through Queens, New York.

do-do DA-do, da-da Dada…. 

We were always passing through Flushing Meadows, on our way home in Suffolk County, New York. It was late at night as-was and it was usually me and my father who were the ones still awake in the car. Dad had been working overnight for the United States Postal Service at their sorting facility at LaGuardia Airport at the time. Driving home late at night was no big thing for him. For the rest of the family – my mothers and my two brothers – it was time for sleep. The would be dozing as we were in the beginning stages of a trip to the Great South Bay area of Suffolk County, some 50 miles away

We visited Queens and specifically Jackson Heights on a regular basis; it’s where my parents were from and their parents were still there.  Well, at least their mothers and siblings. My mother’s mother was the usual destination of our trips into the city, though we regularly made brief stopovers to my dad’s mother’s place.

I don’t remember the exact streets that were taken to get to the Long Island Expressway and back home, but I do remember passing William A Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair site in flushing. I loved passing those location sites. And it was guaranteed my father would have the radio on and be listening to the music playing on one station or another while we headed east.

? da-da Dada, dad a DA-da…. ?

It happened more than once, I just don’t know how many times; it was too long ago to even try to guess. Driving through Flushing that song would be playing. Memories of the streetlamps from the highway and seeing Shea Stadium and the World’s Fair sites at night were sown with the song and the memory a guys voice tied to the song. I couldn’t recall a lyric; I could recall the piano riff though. Was it a keyboard or a piano? Memory wasn’t clear on that one either, but as time went by it came off more and more like a keyboard. Blame that on time and distance distorting a memory.

The last time I heard that song was by chance after I’d moved with my family from New York to Florida in 1989. It was about 5 years later and coincidentally / fittingly we were visiting the tri-state area because my aunt was to be married in October 1994. We all had flown from St. Pete/Clearwater airport to Newark on the long-since-defunct Southeast Airlines, and had to make the extra long trek from Newark to a location in Nassau County where our hotel was. While it was just mid-afternoon, it was only me and my father awake in the car at the time when that song came on air over the station my father was listening to.

“What is this?? What is this song, dad?  It’s been in my head for years, I’ve always wondered….”  He answered, but between the events of the wedding-weekend and life in general, what he said didn’t get retained in memory.

A lot of things have taken place in my life since that afternoon, including me becoming deaf and regaining my hearing with thanks to an Auditory Brainstem Implant (it’s a variation of the Cochlear Implant). One thing that didn’t change was memory of that song that riff. It haunted me. I started imitating it and running it by people in person around 2004, seeking out suggestions from those who grew up in the 1980s. Maybe they’d know? I ran it by family first before reaching out more broadly in recent years (by way of social media).

Early in 2015 I compiled a list of Billboard Hot 100 lists from the mid to late 1980s and started to check songs whose titles I didn’t recognize… Maybe that one is it?  Oh, by the way? I’m not even supposed to be able to enjoy music as much as I do. That’s supposed to be a shortcoming of having sound by way of the Cochlear implant – you can’t process music right, and can’t enjoy the songs for what they are.

Yeah, well, I’ve got 1250+ songs in my iTunes library, many of them songs I’ve only heard after going deaf, and they sound like they should depending on the era they were recorded in.

Back to the Billboard listings – I stuck it all in an Excel file, and while it reintroduced me to a lot of good music from 1987 through ’84 or ’83, I didn’t find what I was looking for.  I didn’t go through everything though – getting impatient and disappointed as well as having the rest of life happening. I still have the spreadsheet tucked away somewhere on the PC and want to go through it again to sample other songs from the list but, well, that’s not necessary any more in the case of THE song.

I forgot how Liz got caught up in this. We were talking through Twitter I guess and out of frustration or because musical chatter had come up – I brought up the song. A little while after our conversation in the summer, I sent an audio recording of me humming the song.  Like many had reacted to me over the years, Liz (who’s my age) recognized the riff but had no clue of the song – who it was, what the song title was.  She’s a 1980s music fan and has friends who are 80s music fans. The plan was to keep an ear open for it.

Oh, by the way? Soundhound sucks. I’ve used that app a few times on Android phones and at no point has song humming worked to identify a song, let alone this long-standing sought after item. While I see the application as absolutely loved by the masses, it’s just never lived up to its reputation or abilities unless I put a smartphone up to a speaker when a song plays that I need to identify.

At any rate, back to Liz: She was traveling with her husband and a friend through upstate New York less than two weeks ago. A SirusXM station that focused on stuff from the 1980s came on the air. A lot of songs have been suggested to me over the years ago The Song, but all of those suggestions aren’t even of the feeling of 80s pop hits that this thing sounded like. It’s no rocker, it’s no ballad. It was… it was … something… Probably a one-hit wonder too if I’ve never crossed it again. And you can guarantee a one-hit wonder song will make it back on-air through a station that covers a decade…


I click that link and the tempo alone matches the memory. Then the piano of Joe Jackson’s “Steppin Out” starts coming through strong….

That link Liz posted, that song and hearing it again and knowing who sang it… that was an early Christmas gift and turned out better than the majority of my tangible gifts received this year. To have such a long standing question answered. It brings a level of internal peace and allows a degree of comfort. Such a trivial and persistent question gets solved, and now the earworm can’t haunt me by way of ignorance of who and what.

 

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Filed under Music / Lyrics, The Life

That was then, this is Sound

A Spectra-22 speech processor is a bulky piece of hardware, that’s all I can describe it as after eight years of toting one around.

For those who are unaware (and the general web-cosmos out there), I’m deaf.  Stone deaf.  I lost my hearing by way of genetic disorder and lost my hearing at 18.  I was implanted with a version of Cochlear’s Nucleus-22 processor (known as the ABI) but didn’t go through with having it “turned on” (so to speak) until October of 2001.

…and if I knew how well I would hear with this implanted device, I would have gone through with it much sooner.  

The thing is, with the implanted device, you have had to wear body-worn equipment to make it work.  Stuff on your person.  And for eight years, I’ve been wearing what essentially is a obsolete piece of equipment.  The Spectra-22 was originally state -of-the-art in about 1989 – give or take a few years.  While the entire concept of a late-deaf person hearing again is fantastic, technology sometimes does limit as much as it enables.   Like in my case. Continue reading

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Jacked In

So I’ve had my artificial means of hearing hooked up and running for more than six years now… I don’t brag about it much or talk about it much because every time I get confident in something audio-wise, I then get into a social situation and end up getting sent back to feeling outside the hearing world again because I can’t understand the conversation.

Of course, I can revel in the fact that I can enjoy music again. I have been able to for some time as I think it’s been a tool for me to adapt back to the hearing world in one way or another. Sort of like a personal configuration utility for my brain — I remember how certain songs sound or certain tones I should be listening for — a cymbil crash perhaps, maybe the backign orchestra section jumping in during the refrain to “Hey Jude” — and press myself to hear these things. I use it as a gauge to see how well I am doing.

That took on a new dynamic last month as I had two cords, termed as Personal Audio Cables – sent to me by Cochlear Corp. These two wires — for personal media players or hi fi stereos/TV’s/computers — let me connect my body-worn speech processor directly to the aforementioned objects so I hear the tones or the music directly instead of trying to sort things out through a set of speakers.

But lets dispense with the technical crap. I got these things in January and I unpackaged one of the cables. I connected it to my PC speakers and then turned on iTunes… pulled up a song and started to play…

You seen the Matrix?

That scene where Neo gets combat training information uploaded to his head by Tank? It was kind of like that.

“Hey, I think Mikey likes it. Want some more?”
“Hell Yes!”

Now, nothing beats hearing and feeling music coming through the air and through the speakers. Nothing beats listening to smething in surround sound (for example) where you feel the sound waves and it adds to the effect of whatever you are listening to.

That aspect is lacking. But the aspect of having music beamed directly to my head? I’ll take it any day of the week. It’s been so awesome that I bought an iPod Nano and am experimenting with music I’ve never listened to before – which I wouldn’t try much when I was relying on the speakers alone.

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Smashed

One time of year I always love is when I have to depart from the sunny and just-too-damn-humid climate of Tampa Bay and wind my way to the original sprawl-town-USA locale of Los Angeles — which has actually started to go back to the concept of rail transportation and it makes getting around a snap compared to Cars-only-screw-pedestrians Tampa Bay. The trip takes place in the fall as part of my annual checkup and ABI tuning at the House Ear Institute near downtown LA.

I’ve stayed the last few years north of the Mid Wilshire center, not quite Hollywood, not Downtown, not Wilshire and not that great a hotel but it worked in it’s simplicity. This time around, I pampered myself and stayed downtown at the Westin Bonaventure. I haven’t stayed at a hotel that nice before and a three star rating from certain online travel companies seems cruel. At any rate, the location is extremely centralized — blocks away from subway access, shopping, Union Station (Flyaway is a blessed thing) and what not. It was a bargain compared to my normal hotel – so I paid a few extra bucks to stay there.

What I didn’t take into account was being out of shape in my post-op condition. I also didn’t take into account my unfamiliarity with the building would lead to blood, pain, and embarrassment.

2400 miles from home without anyone to hang out with – I go stumbling around the Galleria in the first few floors of the hotel and try to find a skybridge to other buildings and there shopping offerings.

Cuz what else are you going to do when you’re bored and have a little cash to spend besides shop?

So I find this exit to a skybridge — whoo hoo! — and start walking down a long corridor with skylights. I ignorantly think I am on the skybridge itself (the Bonaventure has several and ALL are uncovered) when in fact I am walking beneath the pool deck/patio of the building.

So I come to the end of that hall and find a pair of double doors saying thank-you, leaving-the-hotel, blah-blah-blah…. I can see a flight of stairs down and a flight of stairs up a short distance in front of me. I swing those doors open and walk a few steps — never observing the two steps down immediately in front of me.

Anarchy ensues.

I tumble and smash my face into a concrete-ornamental-edging at the side of the wall. I wither and moan in pain. I’m shaking, I’m bleeding, I think I’ve broken my nose.

2400 miles from home, no family in the greater Los Angeles area… The gimp-with-a-limp has worked himself ineptly into a fine mess.

I try my best to collect myself. Standing up — no, more like staggering to my feet. I get my bearing and see those stairs I missed, I also see the blood all over my hands and mutter a whiny “Oh shit” in response to this. I stagger up those steps back to those doors I mentioned… I find them locked from the outside. Imagine that.

Looking back, it feels like an eternity trying to decide what to do — go upstairs to who-knows-where or down to street level? I chose the former as to the latter and I find the pool deck of the hotel. I’m too shook up to really know if anyone who I passed spoke to me or even acknowledged me as I walked back to the hotel with blood flowing from my nose.

The fallout of all this is me walking bloodily to the lobby and asking for help, and the hotel springing to action to take car eof one of their customers. I appreciate the hell out of that but I’m stille mbarassed by being there while a convention was gathering and people checking in and out and what not. Of course, hotel security took care of that by getting me behind closed doors and takign care of me…

Probably the most anecdotal happening in LA in my time visiting the City of Angels on my lonesome. This would only have been better with company

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do not hate, ren-o-vate!

The only thing that blows harder than being stuck in one location while recovering from a major operation is being stuck in one location while recovering from a major operation AND that location being under renovation.

I mean, I’ve been home about 3 weeks so I really shouldn’t be bitching but having my bathroom totally demolished (tub removed, tile removed, vanity removed, mirror and medicine cabinet removed, etc, etc) makes things just a LITTLE hectic. I also feel bad for my younger brother who is doing all the work — kicking ass and taking names of course, but it’s a lot of work.

The new tub is in place now, that’s nice. When I can actually bathe again and use the facilities in peace will be even better. Maybe by the end of the month? **Shrug**

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Scared to life

I haven’t written much about my health the last few years on der Stonegauge… Mostly because Stonegauge is syndicated on the ever-so-excellent Tampa Blab where some of my blog colleagues (who know me better from my endeavor at Boltsmag or my participation at Sticks of Fire) can get wind of this stuff and start fussing and worrying about me. So can my critics as well with anything personal I write about on here. I’ve had private stuff published on this domain before and had it come back to hurt me. But that’s what happens when you blog, ain’t it?

I’m getting away from the fact that I said I haven’t talked about my health much at all on here lately. For the uninitiated, I suffer from a rare genetic disease commonly referred to as NF2. It’s a nasty little gem of a disease that doesn’t get much attention (besides an odd mention on House M.D. every-so-often). It causes benign tumors to grow mostly on nerves in the body. One of said tumors were the reason I began to lose my hearing as a teen and was rendered deaf 10 years ago last December.

It also gives me the supernatural abilities like super-intelligence, telekenisis and empathy along with…

Wait a minute, that was a John Travolta movie. Never mind.

Seriously… The last time I really brought up (bitched, moaned, vented, etc) my health was the summer and fall of 2003 when I hit a couple of hard patches and was frustrated, scared and just flat out torn up (to put it lightly). Blogging things publicly helped me get my frustrations and worries out in the open… or at least out of my head for the moment until the next panic hit.

It’s 4 years later and I’ve got problems again. Problems in my head this time that get the doctors attention. Now, from the smart-ass perspective, you’d quickly quip “Yeah, anyone who (inserts a thought, political idea, interest, etc) would be classified as having problems in the head!” but it’s a little more serious than that. About 5 centimeters worth of serious. Between-my-ears, behind-my-eyes serious.

I’ve been operated on twice up there before. Both times I had the operations in question out west with one of the top doctors in the world. This time around, I’m sticking in Tampa Bay and trusting a doctor who’s been heralded to me as one of the best in the world. He’s got books and awards and all that jazz. He’ll have some of my old friends along with him to make sure my ABI doesn’t get fudged up and what not.

Still, there are risks and even if they aren’t substantial — what they are is a worst case scenarios. So I worry about that, even though it’s almost like thinking about worst-case stuff when you go out and do day to day things.
“The worst case scenario while driving to the Supermarket to pick up milk is that an out of control mack truck with a drunk at the wheel, plows into my car and explodes…. Oh, and I don’t die instantly on impact!”

Rosy, cheery stuff like that.

So part of my mind (ha — the cause of all my problems) keeps wanting me to be responsible and at least report this upcoming operation, make arrangements for the “just in case”, “worst case scenario” type things. Every other part of me wants the status quo to remain — though that status quo is a deteriorating personal conditions where the changes in my health are more or less subtle until I get to a tipping point and things really get messed up and my life hangs in the balance.

Rosy, cheery stuff like that.

I don’t want to face the idea of things — out of my control — go bad and yet with responsibilities to friends and loved ones, how can I not?

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Where the money is coming from

While it isn’t an FEC filing, it is rather telling to see how certain Democratic presidential candidates are doing with online fundraising through ActBlue. Actblue, for the uninitiated, is a Democratic clearinghouse that takes donations for all National Democratic candidates (and some state ones as well). While it isn’t anything more than another fundraising source, it also represents the people and the Netroots.

John Edwards leads the charge, having been in campaign mode since the end of the John Kerry campaign… He’s earned over a million dollars through the Act Blue service. Bill Richardson – also a long time suspected candidate — is next on the list with 288 thousand dollars to his name.

Wes Clark, Howard Dean, Al Gore — all undeclared or just flat out not running — have a few thousand to their name… And while Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd are the ones who are oh-fer ActBlue, it’s Hillary Clinton’s numbers that should send a message to people…

Hillary, who keeps getting named the front runner because of her recognizability (or her last name) has earned $81. Eighty One dollars.

There are pundits on the right who think Democrats are clamoring for HRC to be the nominee, and there are media pundits who think Hillary is a shoe in… Yet if the Internet community — the activists who are vocal online — aren’t showing their support financially for Hillary, then why are they going to show their support with their votes for her next year during the primaries?

Just saying. It’s known Hillary is not big with the online community, but she still is the big name in the field unless Al Gore were to enter the fray (which I don’t think will happen, sadly).

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Assets, liabilities and idiocy

Just why does the St. Petersburg Times persist with ranking candidates assets and liabilities as financial clout or debts? A political candidate’s financial porfolio should play absolutely no part in how a voter decides his or her vote.

True assets and liabilities are determined to voters by candidates philosophies, their standces on issues and their endorsements and the identity of campaign contributors. The fact a candidate has 2 mortgage’s on his/her house isn’t going to effect their votes unless they are shady individuals to begin with.

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Wire(d)less

My annual forray to the West Coast is approaching fast. Yep, it’s been a year since I went to Los Angeles last and I’ll be heading back to the City of Night in early October. While the schedule is nothing I haven’t done before (Tampa to Dallas to LA and back again in 4 days, same hotel that I’ve stayed in the last 2 years) there is a bothersome logistics problem I need to solve between now and my departure date.

Basically it’s some form of communications between LA and home.

For the first time since 2001, I need to stay connected with things back home. Certain groups and parties are counting on the ability to get-in-touch with me so I can do some work while away from the Bay area. That’s good, that’s fine. This isn’t a vacation after all. Also I need to stay in touch with family so I don’t show up on a milk carton if no one hears from me in 12 hours or more (yeah, the fam gets frantic if I don’t stay in touch).

So what are my choices?

I’ve looked at older laptop computers being resold on Ebay and by Dell itself as a possible solution — though my hotel doesn’t offer Wireless access, nor are their dataport connections free. I’ve been casually looking at the Danger Sidekick 2 – which would give me both IM and Internet access while on the go — but I’m not so keen on the huge purchase costs as well as a nice large monthly fee to keep the thing usable.

My Ogo is a joke — barely holds a charge, and I canceled the account anyway. Most other IM devices are extra costly…

I’m in a land of wonderment, without much cash to throw around and solve my dilemna.

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Fontana MD

So I’m sitting down, watching the opening minutes of House last night on FOX and end up going hysterical over the fact that House drugged his former lovers husband and called the paramedics before he even arrived… It just seemed so funny and prick-ish and just perfect for Greg House (Hugh Laurie, who hath erased the mockery of his abilities that was his role in the Stuart Little movies were).

My older brother walks in on me to see why I am laughing so hard, and once i explained to him his face lit up a bit and he started relating to me how he loves the show… and so do his friends who call him House when they see him….

Mike’s always been weird in one way or another and I started thinking about the comparison between him and Greg House. House is distant, he’s bitingly sarcastic, shrewd, genius, cold… Mike is… Well, Mike is all of those things, except he’ll smile more often than House, he’ll joke more often than House (for the good of humor, not out of sarcastic desire).

Mike IS Greg House.

I’ve known women who’ve wanted to grab the mystery for themselves with Mike. You can’t quite imagine women wanting House but the mystery about him is there…. Helping to drive Dr. Cameron unsuccessfully towards him.

It’s odd, first my brother happens to look like David Duchovney… Now he happens to be like Greg House. What’s next? He starts making as much money as (insert movie star here)?

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Still no work

Got another polite rejection in the mail today. Of coruse I don’t know if I would have really wanted to work for these guys. I had what it takes for the position they were looking for, just not the recent references.

Oh, yeah, that and phone ability.

I did a bit of chatting yesterday about being discouraged and got told some stuff about the resume game. Gave me a bit more hope and gave me a bit more feeling that I should be aggressive with the job applicaiton process… Not so limp.

We’ll see if there is another opportunity soon.

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Filed under The Life

God Bless You

Despite the fact they are factually wrong with why we mutter blessings to people who sneeze (it was a habit started during the great plagues in Europe), Penny Arcade happens to get me in stiches once again (boy, you can see that in text, can’t you?) with one of their recent comics.

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Looky what we got here…

Well, dag-nabit, looks like we’ze got ourselves a little planned protest on our hands.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeehaw!

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