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(The date I gave this entry is my 50th birthday... that ought to be far enough in the future I think!!)

TED Talk on Cochlear Implants and Music

I have a lot of work to do this time of year, but wanted to post my first thoughts on this TED video.

First – no captions yet! gah! I can understand the main speaker, but the video clips aren’t clear enough to hear.

Second – I’m entirely happy with my two CIs. It’s been almost 2 years since the second one was activated and this is definitely my new normal and I wouldn’t go back to hearing aids if given a chance.

Third – I’m still playing saxophone in the sax sextet and in the band. We often play music in the house from Pandora, usually classical or jazz. Music I know well sounds the same as I remember it (because I’m remembering it), music that’s new to me starts out a bit muddled but becomes clearer with repeat listening (kind of like band, but there I’d expect it’s people learning their parts instead). I hear different things than I did with just hearing aids. I hear less of myself, and a little less of the people on either side of me. More of the trumpets, much more of the percussion, and Piccolos! There are definitely moments of beauty and emotion.

That said, you’ll see in this TED Talk video that cochlear implants are designed for speech and don’t do a very good job with music.

Embed code not working, so here’s a link to the video:

As happy as I am with my CIs, I really do agree with this video.

If you watched the video you’re probably wondering what I thought of the sound clips.

There are some sound clips in the video that portray music which sounds badly if you have normal hearing… I can’t really tell it sounds bad, in fact, the first clip of the MIDI file with pitches moved a semi-tone – sounds the same to me as the original. The trumpet clip vs violin – very similar, the violin had more vibrato, both sound a bit synthetic to me still – like the trumpet sound on electronic keyboards from the early 1990s. The clips of the Usher song, well, I can tell the difference between those… not sure either one sounds great, the second lacked percussion which seems more like a hearing aid issue than a CI issue.

I’m curious to hear what others think and encourage those with CIs to watch the video and then share here or in the comments on the TED page.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

A week ago a potential iPad Engraving customer of mine expressed concern at sending me his expensive electronics. He wanted to know if I had a way to reassure him that everything about my company is legit. I was just a tiny bit annoyed, but this has happen before, so I knew what to send him. Even though my business website is professional looking and full of photos and testimonials, some people are still suspicious… and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing, as you’ll see.

After this happen I decided to make a media page for the website – one place to highlight all the articles about the company. So I set off googling my company to see what I could find. I have a google alert set up so most of it was not new to me. Then I decided to google iPad Engraving and see how the competition is doing. Nothing really new and exciting there. Down about eight pages in the search results I found a link to a site that focuses on engraving electronics for individuals. I clicked through and noticed they were using a web-to-print service I hadn’t seen before so I poked around some more. Somewhere on their site I found a link to their ‘corporate orders’ site. I clicked that. Imagine my surprise when I discover that this site is full of photos that I took myself.

Yes, that’s right. A business in the exact same industry as mine was using photos I had taken of my engraving work to promote their business. Not a “splog” site that just ripped my content, but a supposedly legitimate business. And not just one photo – but dozens. After a closer look I recognized work in other photos that was done by various engravers I know of.

If you share photos on the web, this has probably happen to you at some point in time. I even had a young deaf girl steal photos of me to put on her Facebook page once. This is why most photographers watermark their images with their name and copyright notice.

So this past week was a learning experience for me. Here’s a summary:

    • A lot of people are ignorant of even the most basic concept of copyright laws and how they work. Some are ignorant to the point of declaring that as long as you give credit it’s okay to use a photo you find online. One guy actually said that that’s “what books and magazines do”. Really? No! That’s not what they do. They license (receive permission to use) every photo they use either directly or through a license agency. Every Photo. There is a special case here, if you see a photo on the web that says it is released under a Creative Commons license that may mean that you may be able to use it and only have to give permission. There are different levels of Creative Commons licenses, so be sure to check that your use is included. My photos were licensed this way, but they were tagged Non-Commercial. If a blog had used them and given me credit I’d be perfectly happy. But since another business (commercial!) used them and didn’t even give credit… I was really not happy.

  • Sending a DMCA takedown notice usually works. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act means that the internet really is not the Wild, Wild West that some people claim it is. There are procedures to follow to sent a notice to the host of the site that took your content that you want it removed. The host then starts by warning their customer and if that doesn’t work then they go in and remove the files themselves.
  • It’s very easy to register your work with the US Copyright office. You don’t have to register your photos/work with the copyright office, but if you do it makes your case much easier to defend. Some photographers say that pursuing settlements for copyright infringements is a second income stream for them.
  • Watermarks don’t have to be huge. Watermarking images is a way to tell people that they are yours. The objection has been that a small mark in the corner is easy to just crop away and a big watermark across the center really distracts or takes away from the experience of viewing the image. It turns out that the small one will protect you greatly because there are laws in place to say that removing the watermark is illegal too.
  • Taking it further would require a lawyer. So far I haven’t found a copyright lawyer to work with, and since the photos have been removed from the site (though are stitll saved in the host directories) I probably won’t be filing any lawsuits this time. I’m just this much more ready in case it happens again.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


A year with bilateral cochlear implants

So now it’s 2011. I received my first CI in April 2009 and the second in late December 09 – so I’m officially over a year being bilateral. It’s been great. Life is good and pretty much what I’d call normal. I can hear a lot better in many situations. I find myself having one-on-one conversations in very noisy places (a Wine Guild holiday party with about 80 people in a small space – Don had a headache when we left from the noise!). I still participate a lot more if someone’s talking to ME specifically. One-on-one conversation guarantees this, but I’m finding that it happens more often now as a side conversation than it used to. For example, at lunch with a group of five people, I can switch between the main conversation and talking to someone next to me and usually not be too lost when I go back to the group. I catch enough so that I can be filled in with a quick ‘what was that?’ or ‘who were you talking about?’ It used to be a lot harder to catch up to a conversation like that.

I’ve discovered a lot of new things in some of the songs I’ve listened to for years. Usually it’s a high-frequency solo filling in what used to seem to me to be just a boring spot. A harmonica in Billy Joel’s Piano Man… Some kind of flute or pipe in Moxy Fruvous’s Johnny Saucep’n… Hey I bet I can hear those tinkling things at the end of Dreamed A Dream… haven’t given that a good listen yet, but they were one of the things I remember feeling the loss of when I first lost my hearing in 1993. (Time for new music?)

I’m still playing in the 90-piece concert band and the 6-member saxophone ensemble. It took a few CI mappings before the trumpets playing too loud stopped making my face twitch from the first CI. Speaking of mappings, I haven’t been to UNC for an appointment since last year, I think mid or late March. I could probably use one, but don’t have anything specific that needs tweaking.

Another thing that’s amazingly easier than it used to be: having a conversation in the car in the dark. At least with Don, I don’t get many opportunities to test this with other people.

So all is going really well, and there’s generally not a lot that seems exciting enough to bother blogging about. That’s a pretty good testimonial!

HLAA Convention 2011I just saw that the HLAA convention is in Washington, DC this year. I’ve never been but it always seemed interesting, so I’m going to plan to attend since I’m only 2 hours away. (I used to work in Crystal City and we always walked for coffee at the Starbucks in the Hyatt that’s hosting the conference.) I know it’s way out in June, but let me know if you’re going.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


More about work and motivation

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on

I love the talks at  Not only do they have subtitles in multiple languages on I think ALL videos, they are recorded in such a perfectly clear and high quality way that I can understand them without the subtitles.  Even on my tiny laptop speakers I understood a large part of this talk just now.

I wish I had watched this when I first found the link to it a few weeks ago, but I’m glad I watched it now. The part that starts around 15 minutes talks about ROWE – a results only work environment.  It’s a very quick summary but very effective in the example he calls out.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

Four months, research, music

Let’s see how I do with my last post’s list.  I’m going to take CI/hearing topics today.

1. 4 months with CI

That’s right.  I was activated way back on May 4th.  I’ve been in for just 3 mappings since then at 2 weeks, 1 month and 3 months (though all were a bit late).

My audiogram has remained hovering around 25-35 all the way across.  I think it is low because my maps are still getting a bit louder each time and they do the test Before I get a new map.

I still prefer the Med-El FSP (Fine Structure Processing) versus the HD-CIS program.  My audiologists still insist that I keep trying both.  So one of my program slots is still HD.  They both sound good to me, so it’s just a matter of what I am used to.  Music sounds more musical in FSP.  FSP may also work better with background noise.

On being bimodal (that’s CI + hearing aid), at my 1 month map my audiologist said I could start wearing my hearing aid again whenever I wanted to, but suggested I decide one way or the other and stick with it.  So I have been wearing both all of the time. Thankfully my CI and HA are working together now.  Originally the CI was canceling the HA out and I couldn’t hear anything at all through it.  It was strange and scary that even with the CI turned off my HA didn’t sound “right” after the implant.

One thing this has really reinforced for me is that Ear Molds Suck!  My unimplanted ear with the hearing aid is always going through a cycle of scabby, sore, gooey, sore, dried out, scabby, etc.  I think this is worse because I have been swimming at the gym once a week.  My implanted ear is perfectly normal. No ear mold is a nice thing.

At my 3 month mapping I was tested wearing both the HA and the CI in noise.  I scored in the 90s.  With just the CI I scored in the 70s.  So it’s helping in noise, or maybe the second set of sentences was easier.  It seemed a lot easier.

When making my next mapping appointment (6 months, in November) they suggested I see my ENT just in case I want to talk about implanting my other ear.  I agreed to this because there are monetary insurance related reasons for doing it in 2009.  I’m trying not to let that influence my decision too much.

2. CI #2?  2 CIs versus 1 CI and 1 HA versus bilateral EAS

I’ve seen a lot of articles claiming that a CI + a hearing aid gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to sound, especially music.  I’ll agree that this has been my experience.

We went out dancing at a club in Washington, DC last weekend.  Instead of the normal bass that sounds the same with or without my hearing aids, the CI was adding the rhythm section to it.  It was a nice effect and helped me appreciate the faster beat that’s on top of that boom boom boom of the bass.

I asked my audi about CI+HA versus 2 CIs and she suggested I contact a researcher.  Small world, he was someone I had emailed with last spring.  I owed him an updated.

His answer was that you can’t make any kind of decision without knowing exactly how well you’re doing right now.  Just CI, CI + HA, HA in implanted ear + CI + HA.  But his gut feeling was that Two CIs are great for localizing sounds, but One CI and One HA are better for lower tone quality and hearing in noise.  He also said that they have been very impressed with  CI + bilateral hearing aids.  But that 25% of people who preserve residual hearing after implantation are still losing it later on.

In the end he asked if I’d be itnerested in visiting the Mayo clinic for some research at some point, so I’m waiting to see if that gets set up.

My own feelings, the CI provides SO MUCH sound, and it does not sound bad at all.  It sounds very normal apart from the timbre of music sounding different than before.  If I can get use from a hearing aid in the implanted ears that would be the best of both worlds… but we will see.  Technology is always changing too.

3. Music lately

With bimodal hearing music sounds better than ever.  My hearing aid ear picks up the sounds I’m used to hearing and the CI adds the higher sounds I’ve not heard in years.

Some singing voices still have a bit of a chipmunk-like tinge to them – not in pitch, just in quality.

The sound “Oooooooo” never sounds right.

Some instruments have a harmonica-like tinge, or a squeaky violin timbre.

Sometimes listening to a single instrument, or playing my saxophone alone, I will hear double.  The HA and the CI have different qualities and in some frequencies my brain doesn’t automatically blend them into the same single sound.

For a while I couldn’t hear the difference between two notes that were a half-step apart when I was playing.  This resulted in many jabs from the people sitting next to me.  I seem to have gotten over that now.  I need to do a listening test to see how my pitch recognition has improved.

I also bought a pair of t-coil headphones of the type that stick behind your ears.  I think the quality of the sound on these is better than the sound that comes through my Med-El direct input cable. Not sure.  Maybe a richer sound.

10. Using the phone, for work, for home, CapTel

I’ve never been a fan of the phone.  At some point I will probably decide that it makes my life at work easier to use it… but the way things are now, my boss loves to make phone calls and so he does that all day while I type reports on the computer (something he “can’t” do, he writes things by hand and the secretary types them (even though she isn’t really a secretary)).

I still call the Cochlear listening line to see how things are sounding.  This week one of the lists was impossible.  Ought, It, Ash, Own… yikes.

At work I have an old school CapTel phone set up with 2 lines, but the ringer is turned off and I don’t take incoming calls.  If someone leaves a voice mail I will call in to see what it is.  If I could get the new CapTel that works with our digital phone lines and the internet I might be able to see caller ID and that would be excellent.  I hate not knowing who is calling – it makes it impossible to predict the conversation.

On another note, I love my Google Voice line.  The transcription doesn’t work perfectly, but it highlights the text as it plays the recording so you can try to follow along.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


Summer’s moving right along

Where does the time go?

From the Monticello Naturalization Ceremony on July 4, 2008

July 4th weekend my parents stopped to visit us here in Charlottesville.  I had a band concert that Thursday night and another on the morning of the Fourth of July at Monticello.  It’s always moving to see the naturalization ceremony conducted.  Last year the guest speaker was the president (which one? not important. ;) ) and security was tight. The helicopters flew right over our house to land at Monticello and the band had to be there hours and hours early.  This year was much more calm.  My parents and I actually drove ourselves and parked at the visitor center.

By the end of that concert a lot of us were quite burned out on marches. Especially Sousa!  But the audiences were very appreciative.

IMG_1611.JPGIt wasn’t very hot here that weekend, but we decided to spend and afternoon hiking around Sugar Hollow reservoir which features several good swimming holes.  I ended up not swimming.  The water was cold!  But the hike was lovely and the crowd of people swinging on the rope into the water was entertaining

More music happen that Monday! CASE played a gig at a local assisted living center.

After my parents left I only had 3 days of work before my “long weekend” trip to Maine with Don to visit his family.

His family lives in the area known as Down East Maine.  We had an easy and short flight from Charlottesville (CHO) through Philadelphia to Bangor.  All together it was only 3.5 hours from take off to getting the rental car.  Amazing.  I’m used to trips taking at least 6 hours and usually more.  Once we arrived in Bangor we still had 2 hours of driving to get to where Don’s family lives, but that is a fun part of the trip.

It was about lunch time so we stopped for… lobster rolls!  Of course!  There’s a road side ice cream stand snack shop that looks just like the ones you’d find anywhere else, except they have the Maine specialty.  So good.

We also stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on wine.

Don’s family own a camp on a small lake that is about half an hour from their house.  The camp is fully equipped, just isn’t insulated enough to be used except when it’s warm outside. I love coming up here because it is just so beautiful and peaceful. The sun rises at 5:00 am and the camp has a clear view straight North which means this time of year you get sunlight most of the day. Early to bed and early to rise is the motto when we’re there and sleeping in means staying in bed past 7!  I was also asleep by 10 every night.

We visited the beach, watched lots of sunsets, swatted mosquitoes, and of course, ate more lobster.

IMG_1747 IMG_1751 More Maine Lobsters

On a hearing related note, everyone up there seemed to be talking very loud all of the time.  If I wasn’t 2 months post activation with my cochlear implant I don’t think I would have been able to cope.  As it was, taking off my CI and hearing aid to go swimming did not bother me At All.

IMG_1681 IMG_1682

Nieces and Nephew – Aren’t they cute? :)

Don’s dad is planning on getting hearing aids soon. Apparently he has been turning the TV up louder and louder and was told he should have his hearing checked. I’m curious to see how he does with them. I won’t be surprised if he enjoys slipping back into silence quite often.

So we swam in the lake every day in Maine. I took my shorty wetsuit and the kids picked on me about looking like I was going diving.  But hey, I stayed much warmer than in previous years.  When it’s barely 70 degrees out and the water is about that temperature it’s nice to have some extra warmth.


Now we are back home and I have just three weeks until my next fun adventure. In the mean time I’m waiting to see how many trips I can be sent on for work in that time. One, Two, or hopefully None.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.

The band I play in

I play saxophone in the Charlottesville Municipal Band, specifically tenor saxophone.  I found the band after moving to Charlottesville in 2006.  I waited until January of 2007 to join though as I didn’t get settled in at my job until late October and it’s always easier to join a group right after a concert.  So we attended the 2006 Holiday Concert and in 2007 I became a member.

There are almost 90 people in the band but overall I find the instrumentation quite well balanced.  We have a decent rhythm section, and I believe as many as 5 tuba/euphonium players.  The sax section seems to hover around the size it should be. If we are short saxes then there’s a clarinetist or two who can help us out, and if we have too many, we can send them back to the clarinets. ;)

We play around 10 concerts a year with 7 in the months of June, July and August. This weekend, being July 4th, the band is playing a lot of Partriotic music.  We have a concert tomorrow evening starting at 7:30 in the Pavilion downtown.  If anyone is going, let me know, there is free parking available at the Lexis Nexus just off of Market St:

We also play music before the annual Naturalization (citizenship) ceremony held every year on July 4th at Jefferson’s Monticello.  Last year the (then) president of the US was the guest speaker.  The band had to be on the bus to the site at 6am, had to pass through the metal detectors and was surrounded by secret service the whole time.  This year the guest speaker is Virginia Congressman, Tom Periello, and the band’s bus doesn’t leave until 8:30 am.

The next two concerts should provide All the patriotic music anyone could ever want…  (and then some?)

Days of Glory
Irving Berlin’s songs for America
El Capitan
King Cotton
American Anthem – Tuesday Folder
Fairest of the Fair – Jim Simmons conducting
Semper Fidelis
Armed Forces Salute – Tuesday Folder
Washington Post – Tuesday Folder
Albemarle Overture – Tuesday Folder
March Independentia
Americana Two Step
Men Of Ohio
America the Beautiful
Stars and Stripes

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


Music lately

I can’t get myself to start typing this because I’m listening to music on my iPhone (built in iPod) and I’ve managed to load lyrics to almost all of my 1500 some songs.  If I type then I can’t read along and the lyrics get lost.

Music is sounding pretty good, even with just my CI.  The bass is a bit tinny… the vocals quite squawky, chipmunky but not high pitched. I can recognize Frank Sinatra as Frank Sinatra (very low voice).

Songs that I know really well sound the best. For the curious this includes all the songs from RENT, a few Moxy Fruvous CDs and a couple of Phish songs… But not the Damien Rice album I bought right before my surgery… and not any of the albums that came from Don’s CDs.

I’ve noticed in band as well as in recorded music that sustained notes will have a very accurate pitch, but short notes sound monotone.  If I know the song I don’t notice this too much though.  When the band plays a scale it sounds very monotone because the tones are far from pure with 90 of us playing at one time.  This takes me back to 5th grade band though and the first time we ever heard a band from sitting within the band… it was a new experience.

The Sound and Way Beyond aural rehabilitation DVD has a lot of music practice exercises.  I can’t hear the difference between notes closer than 2 semi-tones.  This means that when I’m playing in the wrong key I don’t notice at the first wrong note. But I use a million visual cues in band. I watch the fingers of the people next to me, I watch their toes, I watch the director, all while reading the music.  No wonder I miss the key change!  I’ve made a point to pay closer attention to them after missing every single one at one rehearsal.

Also on the Sound and Way Beyond DVD is a listening exercise that would be tricky with perfect hearing – it plays 2, 3, 4 notes and you have to choose what they are on the staff based on the starting note.  It would be better if you could experiment until you found the right interval by ear rather than getting just one guess and a right or wrong score.

Another music exercise involves identifying different musical instruments, but you’re supposed to be able to tell from one note if it’s a trumpet, piano, violin, etc.  I don’t know how good their recordings are.  I can hear the difference between them all, but I can’t easily pick out which one it is with just one note to hear, except maybe the piano.

I listen to music every day on my way to and from work in my car but of course that has a ton of background noise too from being on the road.

Bass is still a bit thin and rumbley rather than musical. I’m working on setting up a bilateral / bimodal headset. I ended up with 2 med-el direct input cables on accident somehow so instead of buying a bilateral one I’ll probably buy a $2 dual connector/splitter from radio shack and plug both into that. For some reason my FM system won’t consistently switch to direct input anymore, but I might be able to use it via bluetooth for my iphone now.

ETA: Ironically, one of the worst sounds for me right after activation was saxophones…  I have a ton of saxophone ensemble recordings that I know very well.  I’m happy to say that they are sounding Great now.  I’m currently listening to Beppo’s To Ballard by The Tiptons ( and it sounds almost as good as I remember.  Not a long memory as this was my newest CD…

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


The Med-El Opus2

I finally got around to taking some photos of my cochlear implant and accessories.  It came with a lovely briefcase in the color I had chosen (reddish).  The Opus2 consists of, from top to bottom, the ear hook, the processor which attaches to the wire going to the magnet coil head piece, and to the power pack.  The power packs hold the batteries and can be exchanged to hold either rechargeable or disposable batteries.  Then there is the cover that slips over the power pack and batteries.  This cover can be just plastic, or can contain a 3-prong direct connect plug at the bottom.

Here’s a link to the photo album if you can’t see the slideshow: Med-El Duet2 on Flickr

I love that I don’t have to be stuck with one type of battery or another. The rechargeables are great but only last about 10 hours.  If I ever get out camping or sailing or somewhere away from a normal outlet then I’ll be happy to be able to use disposable batteries during that time.  I’m told that 3 disposable batteries last about 3 days.

I also use the direct connect cable a LOT.  I’ve just finished reading and listening to The Count of Monte Cristo and highly recommend the original version even though it’s really long.  Leaving the cover with the direct connect plug on it makes the processor longer and heavier behind my hear, but I don’t notice it much and it’s nice to be able to plug in to my iPhone whenever I want to without switching the parts.

Lastly, I think it’s funny that they made such a big deal out of choosing the color I wanted and then gave me all six colors as covers.  You can see that one I’m wearing has a bit of black in the middle of it.  This is the rechargeable power pack being black and the processor and cover being red.  I think it’s cool.

Originally published at Sarasera. You can comment here or there.


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