Speech/aural-rehab today continued our initial adventures in auditory discrimination. With my new hearing aids on, what sounds can I differentiate? I have a high-frequency hearing loss, so after a few initial checks to make sure I could perceive syllables, etc. we started to focus on fricatives, plosives, voiceless sounds, and high-frequency stuff in general.

Here's what I learned today.

It can take 4-6 months for brain plasticity to adjust to having hearing aids. That's good to know. I have a finish line in sight; I know it's psychological, but having that end target does help me tolerate cognitive pain. I remarked wryly today that if it was like this with hearing aids alone, I was in no hurry to get cochlear implants (I'm a good candidate, though, so... I may yet someday walk through that door).

The "ch" sound is actually the "t" sound placed at the beginning of the "sh" sound. Try it - say an extended "ch," then say an extended "sh." The only difference is the attack at the beginning.

I can now hear the "sh" sound (it was inaudible before) and it is clear, unique, and distinct. In other words, where there was previously silence, there is a new sound that means "sh" and only "sh." Awesome. It's like having x-ray glasses. Gaining a superpower. Percieving what just wasn't there before.

I can sometimes faintly hear the "t", "th," "p", "f", and "s" sounds, but they all sound identical. This only happens under excellent listening conditions; when I know I'm listening for them, when the room is quiet, etc... they show up, faintly, barely perceptibly. That's better than nothing; they were completely invisible in all conditions before! So I now have a new Mel-perceived sound, but it can mean one of three actual-sounds. This means I can't auditorily differentiate between "tin," "thin,"  "pin," "fin", and "sin" (but "shin" and "chin" are distinct from those five, though not from each other - see next item).

I cannot distinguish between the "ch" and the "sh" sounds. If you combine the last 3 items, you'll see how this might logically follow.

It's a fun thing to debug. The item under test is basically my ear-brain system, which makes it both fascinating and frustrating -- fascinating because what we figure out affects so much of my life, frustrating because... it affects so much of my life.

I'm trying to push myself to keep my hearing aids on as much as possible for as long as possible -- how long can I keep them in my ears now? Okay, can I beat my previous record? Go, go, go! But it is energy-sapping. I'm grateful that I'm doing my interviews for qualitative research methods online, in text, where I can swim in a medium I'm fluent in, comfortable in, know people in... that's untouched and unscathed by my auditory hacking.

I guess we all need some solid ground to stand on, something that stays constant, a safe spot. Well, text is mine. Come to think of it, I've read more books in the 5 days since getting my hearing aids than for the... maybe 3 months prior. I wonder if I was looking for that place of familiarity and rest.

Tomorrow: writing, homework, reading, class, dancing, more speech, and time with friends, making sure I have buffer in the evening to fall over and breathe and rest in.