Tag Archives: Cochlear Implant

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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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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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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The Pros and Cons of Rush Limbaugh

I need to sound off here a week after some stuff came up in the national media regarding fellow Cochlear Implant user Rush Limbaugh and his big, fat, mouth…

You see, Rush did something that was stupid – really stupid. If he had watched what he said and had found another way around the issue, he could have gotten away with it and gotten props from many around the country. Instead? He played the race card and he can now eat shit and die for all the country cares – because he committed the crime of trying to suggest a great quarterback was over-rated because the media wanted to paint a black QB as great.

Two sides to it this:
In defense of Rush — Donovan McNabb being over-rated is something that me and my friends have mused about over the years. He’s also a killer QB when he is on and I have nothing but respect for him. We talk about how the media kisses up to certain quarterbacks — Michael Vick is the current wonder boy, Chad Pennington also last year — and that Donovan has gotten put on a pedestal – which imay or may not be above his abilities. Would I willingly trade Brad Johnson for Donovan McNabb? I’d be at war with myself trying to make that decision but McNabb end’s up winning that battle… Yet I still believe the guy gets over-rated at times. If Rush Limbaugh had focused on the idea that certain quarterbacks get propped up and named names – he could have avoided everything.

In revile of Rush — What the fuck were you thinking bringing in the race card?! Don’t spew your “liberal media” bullshit, because that ain’t it. That’s the remarks of a racist — not of a commentator which you tried to be with ESPN. Listen, you have an interesting mind but you have a shitty way of drawing conclusions and therefore you got just what you deserved — getting chased out of this job because you can’t keep your political leanings and staunchly, overly in fact, conservative views from upsetting the viewing public.

In closing: Keep the race card out of the NFL and pro sports in general. If a guy can play – let him do it. If a guy has no talent, keep the bum off the field… and if Rush Limbaugh applies for a job with you — only hire him if it’s a non speaking role.

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