Saturday, March 3, 2012

Back to the Ears

Sorry about not blogging but many other things have been happening in life that have kept me away from the keyboard.  Please bear with me.

Sometimes I feel like I am bopping around from body part to body part.  When I spend a lot of time on the eyes like I have been doing lately, I wonder a bit about the rest of me.

chart image
Image via Wikipedia
My hearing isn't where it should be.  I noticed that I still don't catch consonants the way I would like despite the therapies that I have done with it.   I also have problems remembering verbal instructions with 5 or more steps.
Living without hearing aids vs living with
Living without hearing aids vs living with (Photo credit: danieljohnsonjr)

So my audiologist gave me a low powered hearing aid for just my left ear.  It's a low powered device with just enough amplification to help me hear consonants.  I haven't noticed a huge jump in my hearing but have noticed a number of subtle effects.   I hear the lyrics in music even better.  The words just seem better enunciated.  I am hearing more instrumentation in music.

With the hearing aid, I am focusing more on people's eyes than on their mouths.  
For a while, I was wondering if I had the autistic "Theory of the Mind" problem where you don't focus on people's eyes.  But now, I think the problem was not having a wide enough field of view coupled with auditory processing issues.  I am a lot more aware of what's happening with other people and much more relaxed.  My husband tells me that my eyes are not darting about as much.  I think I was watching the mouth as I was lipreading and scanning the eyes and body for clues.  

Also,  I am speaking in a more normal tone of voice.  I hadn't realized it but I had a loud voice.  My husband said sometimes when I was on the phone and laughing that he had to hold the phone away from his ear.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like when I was on a tirade and shouting at him!


From ILS Website
Along with getting a hearing aid, I have been doing some auditory therapy, "Integrated Learning Systems" (ILS) on a trial basis.  My former PT/OT wants to do some free trials with it before they decide to offer it to clients so I volunteered to help them out.   ILS is a new treatment so there aren't many large scale clinical trials for it so it has been a bit controversial on the web.   Here's a blog with a mother writing about her son's experience with it.  And, here's a forum with some not very friendly discussion about it over at Totally ADD.  Most of the criticism seems to center around the fact that it has not been studied and proven in a formal setting.   ILS is, however, endorsed by Edward Hallowell, one of the experts on ADD and a friend of the site Totally ADD.

At any rate, I got a free crack at it, so why not?   I did just the auditory portion of it.  It was, mercifully, much easier on me than other therapies I had done in the past.  I didn't get gozonga knocked out and exhausted from it.  Just a bit tired from a long commute to and from the therapist.

Also, I was working with my long time therapist,  Anne.  I am starting to think of her as a partner in crime!  We have a lot of fun together.

So what have we been doing with ILS?  We have been humming and toning our vowels.  Frankly, it sounds like a cross between wailing, sighing and shamanistic chanting:  aaaa-eee-iiii--ooo-uuuu.   Some of it is quite mournful as we go up and down.  However, ILS claims that if you just chant eeeee you will feel more energized--I have been joking with Anne about that one.

English: Lady Gaga performing Born This Way at...
Unfortunately for Anne, I am not always on key.  I have goofed up the rise and fall of tones as well.  I am about 50% right.   ILS also has you sing along to the song of your choice.

I chose "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga.  It was a lot more difficult than what I had expected.  We both didn't think it would be so fast but it was.  Anne was a good sport and we both b
opped along to the music.  However, I did not sing it so well.  Next time we will try a slower song.   Poor Anne.

 I have asked my audiologist, Maxine, about how to sing on key.  Before she became an audiologist, she was a professional singer and pianist.   Maxine said the key to singing on key is breathing.  If you run out of breath,  you go flat.  I do run out of breath in my chanting.  Generally, I have to take a breath before uuu.  So, I focused on taking a really BIG breath before I started and that seemed to help a bit.

I also sang in thirds.  That went a bit better.

We  did dichotic words, filtered words and consonants.  Dichotic words exercise works on left and right word perception and processing.  Filtered words exercise  has specially modified words that have filtered out the lower frequencies.  I worked on j and ch, d/t, and m/n.  Also, auditory figure ground exercises that tested the ability to hear in noise.

We  did tongue twisters which were quite funny.

Also, I read to Anne.  I picked a funny short story by Mark Twain, "The Invalid's Story",  where Limburger cheese was set atop a pine box and ends up being mistaken for a rotting body inside a coffin.  Both of us started laughing hysterically as the narrator and the conductor try to cope with the horrific odor.  Other than laughing my head off, I had no problems reading.

 I did well on these exercises.   So, some of the good news is that my auditory processing problems have gotten remediated by therapy.

However, not all.  Auditory memory is still an issue.  I can't always repeat four words correctly.  At the beginning I missed a few words and confused the order of a few more.  So far, if I concentrate, I can do well on them.  But, the point is that it takes work and focus.  It is not automatic.   So back to the old dilemma of whether I should do Cogmed.  Are my auditory memory issues, auditory issues or are they memory issues?  Is memory the real problem?  Or is it sequencing of sounds in my brain?

So, what's the upshot.  I am almost through ILS and have noticed some subtle differences.... Not really big improvement but some improvement.  I will wait a month and then see what happens.  It seems like my brain needs a month to bake sometimes before things really kick in.

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