Monday, October 18, 2010

Starting over

When I set up this blog, I decided that I would only write about my cochlear implant operation and that I wouldn't diverge into other areas such as politics, religion and hair styling tips.

However, it's been a while since I've really had any thing to say about the operation. I'm happy to say that nothing much has changed lately. So I've decided to re-purpose this blog for the cochlear implant and hard-of-hearing audience. I've found other people's blogs to be very useful and I hope this will in turn be useful to someone else. But I'll stick mostly to technology and similar topics of interest.

So today's topic is ClearVoice which is a program for the Advanced Bionics cochlear implant. Nothing you can touch or feel – just some software that’s downloaded to the CI.

It’s relatively new and is not yet available everywhere. I understand it has not yet been approved by the FDA in the US. However it's available here in Canada and was installed as the default program in my implants last summer. The idea behind this is to dynamically suppress background noise so that speech and other transient sounds will be accentuated. Quite how it does this, I’m not too certain but it certainly does it very well.

It's different from the noise suppression programs I've had in hearing aids. It seems to be much smarter about what represents a noise. For example, I'm sitting in the kitchen: the radio is tuned to a talk show, there's a hum from the refrigerator and an electric kettle that’s starting to boil. When I turn the CI on, I hear the hum from the fridge. But after a couple of seconds, it seems to recognize that this is background noise and shuts it right down so that mostly all I hear is the voice on the radio. As the kettle starts to boil, it makes quite a bit of noise. Again, ClearVoice seems to recognize that this is unwanted noise and squeezes it out. I can still hear the radio although admittedly not quite as well as before. It’s a little more muffled and a little less crisp. Then the kettle shuts off (ping!) and ClearVoice seems to detect this and the begun the radio goes back to normal.

Similarly, walking along the street with traffic noise, it will cut out much of this noise. I can still hear individual costs but will not hear the general hum and buzz of the traffic noise. Good when driving, too. I can understand the radio over the road noise!

It's quite impressive. It means that I'm exposed to less noise overall during the day than if I was not using ClearVoice. So, for instance, sitting at my desk there’s a hum from the air-conditioning and computer fan and perhaps a clattering from the photocopier. All these backgrounds are significantly reduced but I can still hear conversations or hear the phone ring. So by the end of the day my ears and nerves are much less jangled.

That said, the regular programming (without ClearVoice) is still somewhat better for listening to conversations or for television in a quiet room. It’s just a little crisper in the audibility is better. So it's nice to have a choice of the two.