Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Photography Blog

I've started a second blog to deal with photography only. I will be uploading one image per day on this blog. I will still be uploading photos here - as I go on photo shoots, but the other will have no stories, just simply the photo, whether it's won anything, and the metadata (information on the actual photograph itself).

You can see it here... I've called it The Ambling Photographer! Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I've been on the end of discriminatory acts because of my deafness, ever since I was a kid. And whilst I don't come across it too often any more, it still does happen from time to time, and it always manage to shock me no matter how big or small it is.

My deafness wasn't picked up until I was at school as I learnt to lipread from a very early age. So for the first 5 years of my life, I don't remember any discrimination. But at my very first hearing test, when I was only 5 years old, I discovered I was different because of hearing loss, not from only the test, but from things that happened from then on.

I remember the first hearing test well. The audiologist was testing the whole class and we were all in the same room as she gave each child the test. When the child tested okay - she would be let go, to go back to the classroom. My surname was Carter - C, so I was one of the first to be tested. The audiologist keeps saying - are you sure? are you sure? I would nod. I was all set to go back to the classroom, but she said no - I was to 'sit over there' on a chair on the other side of the room. All the rest of the kids snickered. I felt singled out. One by one all the other kids went back to the classroom and I was left alone with the audiologist and retested.

From then on was an endless round of hearing tests, hospital visits, and ENT specialists My tonsils were removed. They grew back. They were removed again. This was meant to improve my hearing. It didn't. The ENT specialist I had was cruel and mean. When he looked in my ear, he would pull it. Hard. It hurt and I would cry. He would thrust the 'thingie' into my ear to look and hurt it again. I still don't trust anyone around my ears to this day, 40 years later, even when I know they're gentle.

When I was 7, even though the teacher knew I was deaf, she bullied me. I remember it clearly. She told everyone to be quiet, but I didn't hear that as we were in a hall while our classroom was being painted. The acoustics in the hall were awful so I was not abe to hea much at all. I carried on talking. I was dragged to the front of the room where she proceeded to hit me with a metal edged ruler, on both my legs. I ran home at lunchtime just a few minutes later, and by the time I got home my legs were black and blue. My mother took me to the headmaster to complain the next day, and I had to go back to class. The teacher was not done. She took me up to the front of the classroom and in front of everyone, told me that I had lied, that she had not hit me 6 times down each leg, but it was 6 times down one leg and 5 times down the other. I was mortified.

We moved to Auckland. I was 8. The bullying started. Just because I was different (deaf), the kids were mean. They stole my things, taunted me, wouldn't let me play with them, threw things at me, and one even slammed the chair onto my hands and made several fingernails black. When I was asked a question from a relief teacher, I answered something that had already been said. She sneered at me - 'are you deaf or something'. Well - yes I am.

I begged my mother every morning not to send me to school. I hated it.

Things did improve but not until the second year of intermediate and high school. By then my hearing had deteriorated so much I wasn't really hearing much anyway. I sometimes look back and wonder how I acheived anything at all.

High School ended. I still couldn't hear. The hearing aid that I got when I was 10 was in the wrong ear and wasn't doing anything much. In fact time and time again I would forget to put it on. I don't know why I bothered!

I decided I wanted to be teacher, and in particular a teacher of the deaf. I duly applied and turned up to the interview. I though the interview went well, but when I said I wanted to be a teacher of the deaf, they laughed and said, now that they have got rid of Rubella, there are no deaf chidren any more. Ha! What liars. I was turned down for teachers college on the basis of my deafness. Discriminated against once again.

I got a job in the bank. Simple mindless data entry. I wanted to go in to customer service. I was basically told to my face, that I was deaf, therefore I was disabled, and couldn't do anything BUT data entry. Discrimination again. I fought that one and won, but what a fight! Promotion in the bank was denied time and time again. I would train up people in my job, only to find that they would be promoted way over me in no time. Okay I was a woman still in a mans institution, but on top of that I was DEAF!! They didn't want me and made it clear.

I left. Got married, had a child, got a new ENT specialist and for a while things greatly improved. I joined a hearing impaired/deaf club. For the first time I was around people who had shared similar things and experiences. I could freely laugh and I felt like I fit in. This upset my family. They didn't want me to mix with people like 'that'. They couldn't see that I was like 'that' too. I came across comments that deaf people shouldn't have children as it wasn't fair on the child. I felt it was pointed at me. Once again I felt discriminated against. I felt the oppression of the deaf from the hearies, but what made it worse it came from family and family friends. I made sure I educated them, but at the same time it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I applied for job as a doctors receptionist. The Doctor made it extremely difficult for me in the interview, throwing problems where there weren't any. Each time I solved the problem, all to do with deafness, she'd throw another one. I actually got the job, but I turned it down. I didn't want to work with someone that I felt would discriminate against me.

I became a computer programer/analyst for a Market Research Company. I was happy and did my job well. Time for a change I applied for another position in another company in my search to a higher income. At the interview the manager spent an hour interviewing me. Five minutes on my qualifications for the job (I was over qualified), and 55 minutes on 'why should we employ you because you are deaf'. I stupidly accepted the position when it was offered to me. The high income won me over. That followed three years of unhappiness with me being bullied in the workplace because I was deaf. I was yelled at, shouted at (that's how they felt they had to communicate with me), and treated like a dog. Talks with my manager did nothing - he wouldn't help me to stop this from happening. In hindsight I should have got the human rights commission involved as it was very bad. But we can all be very wise in hindsight.

Around this time I got my first cochlear implant. I was still involved with the Deaf Community at the time, and although I got a few comments, they still accepted me for who I was. A few months later, my old market research company poached me back, and I went very quickly to get out of the discriminatory atmostphere of my present workplace.

The my life went ahead in leaps and bounds. My income over doubled. I finally got into management. No longer was I bullied or discriminated against.

But then life threw me another curve ball and I had to medically retire at the grand old age of 42. Gah! I have come up with only one major bit of discrimination since - with the power company. I sorted that out and the people involved got punished so I'm happy about that. But I'm not happy that Discrimination is alive an well in the 21st century.

I hate any sort of discrimination, whether it be for disabled, for blind, for deaf, for colour, for race, or religion. And I'm sad that the Deaf community is still divided and discriminatory over other deaf people simply because they don't sign, or sign well, or sign differently, or only lipread, or have a cochlear implant. Afterall, we share the same discriminatory experiences in life, often have the same humour, and come across the same problems. We can all help each other, rather than being divisive.

My story of discimination will be no different from others, in fact it's probably not as bad as some, but I wanted to tell it, to show that life growing up deaf (not Deaf), is still fraught with difficulties and similarities. In the end I chose a Cochlear Implant to make my life easier. I don't regret this at all. But I'm still deaf. That will never change.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bi-Lingual & Bi-Cultural Deaf School

I watched an interesting programme on TV this morning. Attitude. It deals with disabilities and the people that overcome them, from blind, deaf, or disabled. It's a great programme and one that has a very positive outlook and leaves you with a real 'feel good' feeling at the end.

You can check out the programme here... Attitude.

Anyway - this morning they had a very interesting segment on a bi-lingual and bi-cultural school in Brisbane, Australia. Each classroom has a teacher, and a teacher of the Deaf, and a member of the Deaf community in the classroom. Both hearing and Deaf children sign Auslan throughout the day. Occasionally, there will be a period for sign only, and the hearing children have to learn this way, and likewise, there will be a period for speaking only, and the Deaf children need to learn to lipread during these periods.

It looked very successful - with both hearing and deaf children integrating easily, and communicating with each other succesfully. All children were succeeding well with this program in place.

I've always been a strong advocator for sign language in children, after seeing my friend's child start communicating with his parents in sign at about 9 months old. Far earlier than any hearing babies. This made me see that sign language as a valuable tool in educating any child, whether they be hearing, deaf, Deaf or have a cochlear implant.

I think this school is spot on with their education program. I would love to see something like it in New Zealand. Am unsure if they have education programmes like this in the USA but I think it's wonderful.

I taught my daughter as a child to sign (she's now 22), to help me out when I couldn't hear. Even at 22, although she rarely signs now (she no longer lives at home), it is still remembered if needed. I doubt she'll ever forget.

I doubt any of these hearing children at this school will forget either. They might get a bit rusty, but they won't forget.

I just googled the school and found the webpage if anyone else wants to take a look at it.

Toowong State School Bi-lingual & Bi-Cultural

The other segment this morning was about a young Deaf man who raps in sign language. He was incredible, and makes very powerful and moving statements within his music, all in sign. There may be a video on the Attitude site up tomorrow if you want to watch it. I loved it, and I'm sure many of you will too.. Look out for any video that has Episode 9 as that is the episode that played this morning.

Now - if Deafside was up and running, those there wouldn't have seen this, as I have the big bad cochlear implant, and wouldn't be allowed to post there. This discrimination reminds me a lot of apartheid. It's like because I have a cochlear implant, I'm of a different colour to the rest of the Deaf community. Yet I'm still totally utterly deaf, and still get by on lipreading. I've just chosen to make life a little easier for myself. And for that, the online Deaf community have labelled me, as unclean, needing to be segregated.

Yet I share many of the same frustrations of not hearing. I share much of the same life experiences of being discriminated against, I share your humour, I find life difficult and hard at times.

So, no, I cannot understand why one would want to cut off other Deaf or deaf people from each other. We're all deaf, we just choose different modes of communication, and we can all learn things from each other.

Thats my take anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The White Kitten - One Month Later

Remember last month a white kitten turned up on my doorstep almost at death's door? You can read about it in my blog 'I have the word SUCKER tatooed on my butt!'

Well - due to popular demand (lots of emails asking me how she was), I'm giving you an update. Just to remind you - when we first saw her, she looked like this...

Very sad sorry state she was in. She was basically extremely dirty. My cats went ape, so she first went to a friends place for a few days while I found a home for her. She improved quite quickly, and my friend Linda decided to give her a home. This is what she looked like only 5 days later when Linda picked her up.

You can see here, that her eyes were much cleaner, even though they were a still a little swollen. There was still a small wound on her nose, and she was dirty, but otherwise she was coming back into good health.

Linda and family promptly took her to their vet on the Monday for another check-up. She was given some antibiotics this time as she seemed to have a chest infection, although they were told it was not deep in the chest. They also de-fleaed her once again - as she still had a number of fleas on her despite hte flea treatment the previous week.

A couple of Fridays ago - Linda took her into their gallery for me so I could take some photos of her, and to see her progress. She''s playful, busy, bright eyed, bushy tailed. Still loves her food. Is incredibly well behaved and toilet trained, and absolutely loves her cuddles with people.

She was fascinated in the mirror. I love it when kittens see themselves in a mirror and are really puzzled. Chai (her new name) was no different, checking out the back of it to try and find out where her twin playmate went!

Well - her twin definitely wasn't behind the mirror!

Here she is again wondering who it is in the mirror! Her look on her face is if to say 'I've just looked behind this and you weren't there - so where did you come from this time?'

As you can see the wound on her nose is much better, but she still has the odd bits of dirt that hasn't been able to be removed as yet. But her eyes are clear, not swollen anymore and greening up. She's still extremely little - hasn't really grown that much during the month, but it could be she's just going to be a small cat. There is still a little bit of ingrained dirt on her ears too.

When she first arrived on my doorstep - her ears were dry, scaly, scabby, bald and curled back. The result of sunburn, and severe dehydration. They are no longer curled back, and the scabs are gone - and slowly the hairs are growing back on them - but they still have a we way to go. However they're miles better in comparison of day one!

Like most females - she loves her bling!

But she does like her bling to be clean :)

But she likes nothing better than to cuddle in close on your shoulder.

I'm so glad she made it after such a rough start in life.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Implant at 1 Week Post Switch-On

I should give you an update on my new ears.

On the Thursday after my switch-on - I was finding I was getting headaches from all the sounds, so emailed for an appointment to get tweaked again. I was also having problems with volume, had to keep turning it up several notches, and was worried that with the weekend coming, I might end up with too little sound. So on Friday afternoon, I made my way back to the clinic for another tweak. Things were still sounding very high pitched and I hated it. After redoing the map, the high pitches changed only a little, however I did get that important volume boost. Everthing still sounded high pitched, so Ellen tilted the map several times, to widen the dynamic range in the low frequencies and lower it in the high frequencies. It was good - it didn't solve the high frequencies completely, but it was beginning to get onto the right track. Here's a photo of the finished map that was done on Friday.

In the weekend, a friend of mine and I went for a walk in Cornwall park. It's a gorgeous park - particularly in autumn with all the leaves changing colour and falling everywhere. I heard the dry leaves blowing down the road, lovely sound. I heard and recognised sheep calling. I heard a Tui sing in the tree - but I had to ask Bronni what it was as I didn't recognise it. Even when she did tell me - it still didn't sound like a Tui. I heard another sound, and bronni told me it was a cricket. I didn't recognise that either. It was a most enjoyable walk but it was only at the end of the walk that I realised that it would have been much easier to hear my friend had I been walking on the OTHER side of her. Once again I had forgotten I was wearing the processor/microphone on the other ear while the surgical scar and ear heals. Another blonde moment obviously! I have so many of them - there's absolutely no hope for me!

On Sunday, my cousin Clare and her family from Sydney came to visit. Interestingly Clare was the closest to normal sound that I had heard so far. However the kids still sounded like robots, or Dr Who's Daleks. Chris wasn't too bad - but still far too high pitched for a man.

So on Monday - I had my one week post switch-on mapping. Ellen took Fridays map, untilted it, remapped the high frequencies, and we found the range in the high frequencies were widening. I'm wary of high frequencies. I hate them really. But Ellen tells me that I MUST get used to them, and the only way to do that is to practise listening to them, so I guess I have to live with it.

Monday's Final Map.

After the mapping, I went back with Gayle to test me on what I can hear again. They repeated the test I did on the day of my switch-on - the one without lipreading, that I scored 42% (15/36) on. This time I tested at.....


100% - unbelievable. I didn't think I would get 100% with this implant ever. I thought because it was a replacement implant, that I would never get back to where I was once with my old one.

Over the next few days, I've started answering the phone when it rings. My heart just about stops everytime I hear the phone jangle though. Then I go to myself - should I answer this or not? So far I've managed to understand everything, which is pretty amazing considering everyone sounds like they are breathing helium. I've even phoned and made several appointments which is also good. Today I heard a Tui and recognised it so I'm rapt about that. I'm hearing when the washing cycle ends on my machine, which reminds me to put the washing out, so I'm finally getting my clothes dry on the same day! I heard the jug switch off and the food splattering in the pan while I was in the lounge. So I guess I haven't got anything to complain about. I just wish people would stop breathing Helium all the time!

I now don't go back until the 5th May, unless things change dramatically and I need another tweak. But so far, the map seems to be fairly stable. I'm also getting 5 days battery use which is longer than I had with my old implant.

So all in all - I'm happy, albeit a bit impatient for it to start sounding more normal. Patience has never been a virtue of mine!! But I am assured that people will stop breathing helium!

I HATE baking!!!

But I made a rash promise to my implant team on Friday, when I went for a tweak, that I would take morning tea in on Monday at my next mapping session. The muffins I made are nicest fresh and warm, which meant I had to get up at the crack of dawn on Monday to make them. I decided to keep my word, and decided on everyone's favourite recipe - the Lemon and Cream Cheese Muffins. I'm not an early morning person, so was tempted to just go up to the supermarket and get some packaged biscuits, but guilt won out and I set myself to the task in hand..

They didn't turn out too badly - ending up looking like this...

I'll share the recipe with you - as I'm not going to make them again for a long long time, as i really don't like baking - but when I visit anyone, you can make them for me instead. They taste really yummy!

Lemon & Cream Cheese Muffins...

4 eggs
1c lemon juice
1/2c melted butter (about 125g)
2T lemon rind

beat all that together then add:

2C flour
1c sugar
2 heaped tsp baking powder

Beat together quickly and lightly. Put a large spoonful of mixture into greased muffin tin, drop a large tsp of cream cheese onto mixture, then another large spoonful of mixture on top.
Bake at moderate temp for about 15mins

Once cooked you can put lemon juice on the muffin and sprinkle it with castor sugar for decoration! I did it but it turned out a bit messy. Oh well - sugar is sugar!!

In case you've forgotten what they look like - here's a nice close up of one...

Enjoy - and let me know when they're done so I can come round to help you eat them!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I've been Tagged!! Groan!

Tag, You're It!

This is a fun way to get to know other bloggers better. Kim, Living the Questions, tagged me and now it's my turn to tag others. So here are the RULES.

1) Each player must post the rules at the top.
2) Answer the questions in bold
3) Tag five people you would like to know better, go to their blogs, let them know they've been tagged and ask them to read your blog.

This just for fun, so don't feel like you MUST play. I won't be hurt if you're too busy. Here are my answers to the questions. . .

What I was doing ten years ago.
I was a Senior Data Analyst/Programmer, and Manager of my department for a busy Market Research company - ACNielsen. I specialied in Customised Research, and in particular social research.

Five Snacks I enjoy:
1) Chocolate biscuits
2) Hokey Pokey Ice-Cream with Milo sprinkled over
3) Roasted peanuts with lots ofsalt
4) Potato chips or crisps - with onion dip
5) Caramel Slice

Healthier Snacks:
1) Turkish Pide with Hummus
2) Frozen Yoghurt
3) Strawberries dipped in Dark Chocolate
4) Carrot slices with Hummus
5) Weight Watcher Tuna on Toast

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1) Donate money to the Cochlear Implant Program so more people could have them
2) Travel Extensively
3) Upgrade my camera equipment
4) Buy a new house
5) Upgrade my car

Jobs I have had:
1) Fruit Stacker in a fruit shop
2) Supermarket Checkout operator
3) Bank Officer
4) Data Entry Operator
4) Research Analyst/programmer

Three habits;
1) Internet/email
2) Bite my fingernails when stressed
3) Go to bed far too late

Five places I have lived:
1) Wellington - Lower Hutt
2) Wellington - Churton Park
3) Barbados
4) Auckland - Mt Roskill
5) Auckland - North Shore

Five people I would like to get to know better:
1) Bronspeak - Bronni
2) The Lifewreck Blog - Paul
3) A Radical Sabatical - Pearl
4) Rhyme & Reason - Lia
5) Get up and Play - Barb

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Butterfly House

The day before my operation, I went down with 5 other Photographic Society members to the Thames Butterfly House on the Coromandel Peninsula. It's a small affair - one small barn full of butterflies, situated within the local caravan park. However it's miles better than the one in Auckland for several reasons. Firstly, the Auckland one is big, so big that you just simply can't get close up to the butterflies to take good macro shots. Secondly - every photographers nightmare is at the Auckland one - wild kids that aren't checked by their parents, left to run in and out between the tripods. You always feel that the camera gear is going to go flying.

The Thames one, is not only smaller, there were very few kids, and there were literally hundreds more butterflies. Unfortunately he can't breed them there, as many of them need specific plants to eat. New Zealands border control will not allow plants to come in, no matter how carefully everything is controlled, so the owners have to import the butterflies in twice a week. They do a fabulous job though including a lovely morning tea with homemade muffins!

We headed down fairly early, leaving Auckland at 9, and arriving at Thames just after 10. We placed all our camera gear in the corner of the butterfly house to 'warm up' then went and had morning tea while we waiting for the cameras to stop condensating. It worked really well to do this - for once I wasn't waiting for up to an hour with misty lenses.

The results? I was actually really pleased with the results as the last few times I've been doing macro shops, not many have been turning out. But this time I got some great ones!

Here they are....

I have no idea what kind of butterfly this is or where it comes from, so if anybody out there does know, I would love it if you could let me know!

Thought the eyes looked great on this one!

Owl Butterfly. These ones are great models as they tend to be still for a bit longer than the others.

Owl Butterflies didn't seem to mind landing on hairy arms either!

I changed the background in this one as it made it look a bit more simple. I'm quite pleased with the result as it has brought out the butterfly a bit more. I'm wondering whether the background should be a darker green or not. What do you think?

Here's that Owl Butterfly on the arm again - hunkered down even closer to the hairy beasts. I really like it for some reason, which is why I've put two very similar images up. I can't decide which is best. What do you think?

It was a fun day and well worth going down. In all - we spent about 2 hours photographing in the tropical heat of the barn!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day Two of Switch-On/Activation

I've just poured myself a cold beer. Which is weird because I don't drink beer. Ever. But people keep leaving them in my fridge when they come visiting, and I don't like wasting things by throwing them away. It's still hot, I'm thirsty, and everybody sounds like a female. Beer is usually associated with males, so perhaps the reason I'm craving one is because I'm sick of hearing everything in female pitches.

The beer is going down quite quickly - hopefully it'll help me sleep as I haven't had too much of that lately either. I do get to sleep, but when I go to turn over, the wound hurts a bit and I wake up. So I never really get into a deep long sleep, and thats making me tired. I'm not grumpy though. In fact after tonight, I'm quite excited.

The reason? Well - I've just been on the phone to my Dad and his wife Delphine. I rang my brother's wife Beth and talked briefly with her. Then I rang my friend Nikki and had quite a long conversation with her. I went overboard then, and decided to ring everyone else, so rang my friend Bron (she really did sound like a chipmunk and I believe she's changed her MSN handle to 'Alvin the Chipmunk'), then I rang Elena and left a message on her cellphone, then Jeremy, my old audiologist who originally switched me on fifteen years ago. I wanted to hear if he still sounded like a woman. He didn't answer - but his message on his answerphone I heard very clearly. Unfortunatley he did still sound like a woman, so I left a message to say so, and I'll ring back tomorrow to see if he has macho'd up overnight!! Then I rang my friend Linda and had a short talk with her, organising to see her on Friday morning. Then I rang my friend Clare, up on the farm. She was by far the hardest to understand. Perhaps it was the line quality. It may be she just has been countrified, and has forgotten to speak like a city person!! I then rang Sally - and spoke with her. I would't say it was trouble free - but she was by far the easiest to understand. She sounded half human and half chipmunk. Perhaps I'm getting better with practise? Lastly I got onto Skype and rang my very good friend in South Africa. Tony actually sounded all MALE. Such a sexy deep voice. No chipmunk sounds either. It was bliss and I had no problem hearing him at all. I was rapt.

It's probably why I'm drinking a beer - celebrating with that as I have no champagne in the fridge.

Anyway - I went back to Audiology this morning for my second mapping.

As you can see from the above - there were some big changes. The threshold of just hearing didn't change much in the lower frequencies, but in the higher frequencies they did change quite a lot. The Comfort levels or the top band changed quite considerably, and I now have a large dyanamic range band in which I'm hearing. I've put yesterday's final map just below so you can compare easily without having to go to yesterdays blog. Aren't I nice to you all?

Yesterday, electrodes 7 to 22 were switched on. The software indicates that electrode 6 is in the cochlear and able to be used, as you can see from the photo below. The green lights are the electrodes that can be used.

However, when we tried to switch 6 on yesterday, I heard nothing from it. We wondered if in fact it was in the cochlear or not. We tried electrode 6 again today, and today I did hear something. But it took a some big jumps before the volume of that electrode increased for me, and when it finally got to something I could work with, I got a pain that travelled down my neck. We surmised it probably isn't in the cochlear properly, and it's stimulating some other nerve, so we switched that one off and we'll look at it again at a later date.

After I was mapped, I was given four programs. One a bit softer in case things became too loud. The second one the one I was currently wearing. Then one 3 stops louder. The last one 3 stops louder again. We broke at midday for lunch. I met up with Gayle at 1pm for some speech testing. However by 1pm Program 2 and 3 sounded the same, and program 4 was sounding a bit soft. So back into the mapping room where it was adjusted yet again. This time with three maps, one with my program 4, one 5 stops louder, and one 5 stops louder again. I'm already on the second program. So my brain is tolerating, getting used to, and wanting more sound very quickly.

I was given an aided threshold test after the mapping in the morning, and another one after the mapping 2 hours later to find out what I was hearing - and I have hearing right across all speech range - so that's very promising. It just has to stop sounding like chipmunks now. There were some changes albeit little ones between the two. Here's the first one..

And the 2nd one..

You can see the small changes (5db) in the middle - but the large change at the right hand side.

We then did some standard open set sentencing testing like yesterday. Yesterday I got 15/36 for those tests, however today everyone was blown away how I did. I got a cool 90% for open set sentences (94% in one, 86% in the other which gave an average of 90%). Wow - 2nd day and 90% - unheard of and very exciting. Gayle then decided to try in me in background noise as well, which was much harder but I still managed to clock in at 58%. Not too bad. Looking back at previous tests, they are similar to what I tested at in March 2005 with the old N22. (91%, 60%). Single word testing I did well today too. 29% on single words but 53% with words and phenomes combined. But the single word testing is really hard, and I've never liked that particular test.

So all up a very successful day today, and a rather exciting one. However, I just wish males sounded like males and the chipmunks would disappear. I just have to be patient. One thing I do notice is that when the map becomes quiet and I need more sound, the quieter the map becomes, the more chipmunky it sounds. The more volume I get, the closer to normal things start sounding.

The only downfall with the volume I'm needing for my maps, is that it's wanting quite a bit of power, which is compromising the battery life. So much so that it's not looking likely that I will be able to use a two battery controller, nor is it likely if I go much higher, that I'll even be able to use the BTE 3 battery controller processor - I may need to have the bodyworn processor for the amount of power I need. Disappointing as I was looking forward to the two battery controller so I could change colours on the processor with what I'm wearing. Something I really enjoyed doing with my old 3G for the N22.

Some people have asked me if because I'm an experienced cochlear implant user from the N22, is this making a difference to how I'm hearing with the new implant? I put the question to Ellen, my audiologist, but she is inclined to think that it's not making any difference as the two implants are totally different. The old N22 I had, had only one speech strategy, SPEAK. This ran at 250hz, and the only type of mapping that I could have was a bi-polar map, where each electrode was paired up with each other. Electrode 2 was with 4, 3 with 5, 4 with 6 etc.... My new implant is the Freedom. It has 24 electrodes (N24). Three speech strategies are available, SPEAK, ACE and CIS. SPEAK still at 250hz, ACE at 900hz and CIS at 2400hz. I've been programmed on ACE at 900hz as that's the one that has been clinically proven to be the best. The electrodes are monopolar too, not bi-polar, so each electrode works singularly in it's own right. Totally different to the way my first one worked. So basically - my experience this time is as a brand new user all over again. Fascinating stuff if you're into all that science!

Anyway - I'm definitely back in the world of sound!! Many thanks to Ellen and Gayle to getting me there!

Gayle on Left, Ellen on Right - Best team in the world!

PS - the beer is gone, straight to my head too!

Switch-on or Activation Day

Monday 7th April....

Firstly, I actually got used to hearing with absolutely no sound. I thought it would be extremely difficult - but found it much easier than I thought I would. I am obviously a better lipreader than I thought I was.

There were a few times I got lost - but not many. I didn't miss sound per se - but I hated the symphony orchestra that no sound gave me - those musical hallucinations. But, if anything, this 3 week period has made me much more comfortable with my degree of hearing loss and not so panicky, so if (heaven forbid), anything happened to this implant then I know I can cope whatever is thrown my way.

Anyway - I got switched on this morning and thought you might like to hear the results. Right now my two cats are having a lovely big catfight, and I actually heard it, although it was very 'quiet'. (They're fighting over a small patch of sun). Traffic sounds like running water. Voices sound like chipmunks. My keyboard typing sounds 'flat'. Driving home from Greenlane I could hear the click when I turned the indicator on in my car, but I couldn't hear the indicators. By the time I got home (25 mins), I was starting to hear the indicators as well, so sounds are starting to filter through. I can hear the traffic going past my house - at least that's what I think it is. Even with my old implant I never heard that, but whether that was because I was able to 'filter' it out I'm not sure.

Sound is not nearly loud enough now, but I knew that before I left Greenlane but was too tired to do anything about it. Will start afresh at tomorrow's appointment. (I'm still not 100% from my hospital visit - legs still feel like they're going to collapse under me and I feel nauseous pretty much all the time. But I am eating and drinking.)

I'm still getting a bit of pain from the wound site. It's looking good except for the bit down behind the ear - it's still quite swollen and that's where the pain is largely coming from. It was nearly gone - but it has come back today from wearing the processor. If it's still there tomorrow I will get it checked out. Ellen (Audiologist) has put the processor on my other ear with a long cord on the magnet going round the back of my head. This is more comfortable for now, but it did confuse me when I tried to hear on my cellphone and wondered why I couldn't hear ANYTHING at all. We (my daughter and I) had it up to the implanted ear, but not up to the implant on the other ear. I am BLONDE you know!!! Very tired too!

The first several electrodes don't make any sense like the others. Instead of going do-re me-fa like all the others - they are all over the show. They're the much important low tones so I suspect over time they'll improve (I hope so anyway) - but right now - all men do not sound like men. Some do, but most don't. Jeremy (audiologist) has been accused of sounding like a woman once before by me, so I guess he won't want to talk to me right now!

Within seconds of switch on I was able to hear an open set sentence without lipreading so that's extremely positive and encouraging. Gone are those horrible sensations I was getting from the old N22 as it 'failed' or 'stopped working' or 'whatever it did', so I'm pleased about that. Initial word testing that they do upon switch-on I got 100% on all of them. Open set sentences I 'failed' at 15/36. (I'm really hard on myself - anything less than 98% is a failure for me!!!) Gayle and Ellen (audiologists) assure me that 15/36 on the first day is good. I remain skeptical - it would be interesting to see how I faired on my first day 15 years ago, except I don't think any testing was done back then - it was switch-on, here's the box of goodies - goodbye - happy hearing!!! I didn't see anyone for a month after that!

I do remember that at my initial switch on 15 years ago I only heard one word without lipreading, and that was the word 'interesting' I forgot to ask Ellen and Gayle to test me on that word today.

So it's a positive start, and one that I hope improves by tomorrow, I mean - over time!!

Here's some photos of the event...

Ellen - my lovely audiologist.

Listening for just hearing threshold. It's really hard to do, as sometimes you're not sure if it's tinnitus you're hearing, or if you really are hearing those two beeps you are supposed to hear. I 'think' I can hear this!

This is my map at the start. The left bit which is higher is where I've heard the beeps at that level - the lower right hand side hasn't been done yet.

Dad & Delphine came to see what the process was all about.

After listening to all the just hearing thresholds, we are now setting the comfort levels - around the medium sound level. The area between the red and the green is the band that in which I have sounds, or the dynamic range.

Just before activation or Go Live. I think my nerves are shot!

Looking more relaxed now - I can hear, even though it does sound like The Chipmunks!

This is what my final map looked like on the first day.

My lovely daughter Anne. She was taking the photos on the day, but then decided she had to be included too, so took this one of herself. For her efforts, I'm including this one in the blog

That's it. Now I'm just off for my second mapping. I'm taking the camera again....

Oh - and I heard myself eating breakfast this morning - a new sound, and my keyboard is a little louder also. I'll update you on my 2nd mapping later :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Black Backed Gull

I was wrong I was wrong! Forgive me for not educating you properly, but I had the bird species wrong in my last blog about the Mollymawk - and titled 'The Thief'I feel mortified but I honestly thought it was a Mollymawk but it's not. It's a Black Backed Gull, or Karoro.

Robust, intelligent, opportunistic and aggressive, the black-backed gull is the only large gull in New Zealand. Although one of the most common and conspicuous birds of our coasts, according to Oliver, it does not appear to have been listed as a New Zealand bird until Gray, in Dieffenbach's Travels in New Zealand in 1843, included it. The Erebus and Terror expedition collected it in the Auckland Islands in 1840 and also recorded it from Mount Egmont.

As you can see from the above photo - it's quite a bit larger than the common red billed gull.

The black-backed gull is a circumpolar navigator, living in and around the coasts of South America, South Africa, south–east Australia and New Zealand. Being a scavenger by nature, it lives and breeds in a multitude of places, from rocky ledges to open areas of pasture. vetula breeds in South Africa and dominicanus breeds widely in the subantarctic and temperate southern hemisphere.

Unlike most of our native bird life, the black–backed gull has adapted well to European settlement, from taking advantage of an abundant supply of insects and small animals off pasturelands to scavenging off refuse tips in the urban environment and foraging along the coastal front.

Oliver records, that “the food of the black-backed gull consists of all kinds of animal matter. Every kind of animal matter cast up by the waves is greedily devoured, whether fresh or putrified, including the carcasses of whales and seals, dead fish and birds. It feeds largely on bivalve molluscs, breaking the shell by carrying it to some height and dropping it on hard sand or on rock. It also feeds on the eggs and young of birds, especially the terns near which it breeds; and on adult birds it is able to catch; and on grubs and worms which it finds on its inland excursions. Small fishes are caught, sometimes from the surface of the sea and sometimes from tidal pools.”

On farms they invariably turn up at lambing and at calving time to take advantage of dropped afterbirth and any weak or dead animals. Oliver also records the destruction of large numbers of tuatara on Stephen's Island; "a gull waits at a burrow for hours until a tuatara emerges, grabs it and then flies to sea and back to its nest, dropping the lizard every now and then to kill it."

We have been told, says Elsdon Best, that occasionally, the Karoro sea gull was tamed by Maori and employed as a pest–destroyer, released among the sweet potato crops that they might consume the the big caterpillars that infested the plants. One early collector of data tells us that such tame birds would accompany on the wing the people of the village when moving to other parts on a fishing, fowling, rat–catching or berry collecting expedition but another such collector has stated that such birds were deprived of their powers of flight by their captors.

The black–backed gull was once fully protected under the Wildlife act 1953. However this full protection was lifted in 1970.

Their size is that more dramatic when their wings are spread. This one has a funny look on it's face becuase it had just swallowed a Potato Fritter. Whole. It was so huge I don't think it was yet able to close it's beak!

The Juvenile Black Backed Gulls are quite a different colour, which also had me confused for a while. (Lots of things confuse me lately - I must be getting old!!)

I'm quite surprised at the diference in colour between the juvenile and adult stage. Take a comparison of the colour of the beak for instance - from Black to bright yellow. I think that was what confused me the most, thinking it was a completely different bird.

They look geat in flight too - especially at sunset...

Here's one a bit closer up..

And lastly - flying off into the sunset - which is just what I'm about to do now as I've suddenly realised the afternoon is almost over and I have a few things I have to do. Hope I've educated you properly now - and I'll try and get my birds correct from now on...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Perky Boobs

I’m intrigued.

Several times now I’ve seen advertisements for breast firming lotion. A lotion that you rub all over your breasts, which promises, after only 3 weeks, that your breasts will be nicely toned and firm. To add to this, the lotion shows pictures of firm looking perky breasts with models not wearing bras. Oh how I yearn for those days again!

So, I bought some to try, after all, I’m 46 now, and having breastfed my daughter, mine aren’t exactly perky or nubile looking anymore. When I take off my bra at night before bed, they point down to my knees. And worse still, when I lie on my back, I can’t see them at all – they disappear under my armpits somewhere!

So for three weeks I have religiously rubbed this lotion into my breasts.

And, miraculously, after three weeks, wouldn’t you know it, but absolutely nothing has changed!! I wonder if I should sue the manufacturer for false advertising? Lawsuits are popping up everywhere for the most mundane things – like suing McDonalds for making you obese, and smokers suing the tobacco companies for their addiction, why shouldn’t I sue the manufacturer for false promises of nice looking perky boobs?

Perhaps I’m not using enough! Perhaps the amount of lotion you need to use, has to increase with the number of years you are, multiplied by your Cup size. This means that I probably need to use 184 tubes of this stuff each night. Plastic surgery would probably be cheaper and less messy! It’s bad enough having to go to bed with cucumbers and teabags on our eyes to stop puffiness, cold cream on our face for smoothness, let alone all this lotion for perky boobs as well. Maybe the only way it works if you walk around on your hands?

Having just had my cochlear implant operation though, I’m in no mood for any type of surgery, so I’ll just have to keep my downward pointers forever!

Please note that there are no photographs of this trial. And there is unlikely to be any, ever, unless I can find a cream that works. So if you want to see photographs of perky boobs you will have to go elsewhere, or send me more lotion!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Well… It’s done.

I’m now reimplanted. I have a crazy new hairstyle, and a lovely big scar. Cochlear Implant operations done these days are very different to the ones they did 15 years ago when I first had mine done. The incisions are much much smaller – a quarter of the size. Unfortunately though, on me, they had to open the original incision and do the same scar otherwise it could have cut off the blood supply to the flap.

Hope this doesn't put you off your dinner!

I was nervous right up to the time they put me under . That took a while as my veins are difficult and as per usual they spent a bit of time looking for one. I vaguely remember just quietly going to sleep. I don’t remember anything else until l what seemed like late afternoon (by the light) when I have a vague recollection of someone telling me that everything went well. I woke up again when it was dark and thought perhaps I was hungry, then knew nothing until morning.

I woke up to pain and got a blue pill. I felt vaguely dizzy – not quite right. The nurse told me that I had to get up and have a wash . I don’t think she was nurse at all. I think she was Hitler dressed up as nurse. She told me I had to be gone by 10am as they needed the bed for the next patient. While I had a wash – she just pulled my hospital gown off. Grabbed my bra, swung it round me lasso style and did it up. Then she grabbed my tshirt and put it on me while I was heading back to bed.

My surgeon came round at 8.30am and told me the operation was successful with 17 electrodes in. Wow – that was way more than I was expecting and very good news. We discussed the possibility of me going to North Shore hospital rather than home, but decided on home.

After he had gone the nurse pulled down the blankets and put my skirt on me. I kid you not – she was determined for me to leave. My mother arrived. By this time I was crying with pain and really not feeling right. The surgeon sent me to Remuera to have an x-ray. I barely remember getting there but was really crying with pain now. Back to the surgeon who quickly looked at the x-ray and said go home and sleep, feet up, and take panadol. Yeah right – I knew panadol wasn’t going to help much.

Got home – panadol, feet up, outstretched on couch. I still hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since 6am the previous day , and didn’t want anything. Mum fed me regular panadol and antibiotics. By 4pm I was throwing up uncontrollably, couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t move so an ambulance was called and I was carted off to North Shore hospital. I ended up being there for two weeks, very dizzy, and very sick. The doctors think the operation or anaesthetic might have set off my ongoing vertigo problems, however thank goodness it has resolved for now and I’m back home.

Everything is healing nicely now, except my hair is growing back gray. I emailed my surgeon how I felt this was unfair, that he should have injected those blonde cells back into me. He called it divine retribution, because when he took over my case management he had no gray hairs!!!

Ever since the surgery I’ve been getting tinnitus in my ears, particularly the left one - the non implanted ear. It’s driving me nuts. Now usually tinnitus is a ‘ringing’ in one’s ear, but I have a full symphony orchestra in there. If I could request tunes, that would be good too, but no – I get lucy in the sky with diamonds for 2 hours, followed by bolero for two hours, followed by the nutcracker suite (no smart comments please) then it changes to the Tijuana brass brand, You are my Sunshine, Oom Pa pah. It’s like a CD I can’t switch off. It’s a little better today –more soloist instruments than full orchestra, but occasionally the full string section lets loose. Lucy in the Sky of Diamonds played for most of the day. It’s onto Bolero now though! Gah!

I believe this phenomena is called Musicophila and Oliver Sacks has written about it. I am going to try and get the book to read as it seems fascinating. Either that, or the surgeon misplaced his MP3 player during surgery!

Meantime – I’m totally deaf at the moment. Not one itsy bitsy little sound gets through. None. Nada. Zip. I thought it would be really hard to lipread without sound but I’ve found it much easier than I thought it would be. I rarely miss things, but I do have a Magna Doodle toy as a backup when things get tough. Strange though when I introduce it, very little communication ensues afterwards as the person talking to me becomes engrossed in drawing pictures on it!!

My ‘turn on’ or ‘switch on’ or ‘activation’ is this coming Monday so I don’t have long to wait. I wonder what I’ll hear.

Anything at all?
Squiggles of sound?
Orchestral music?
I guess I just have to wait and see….

Watch this space!