We needed a new blog post, and something better looking than the last apology post. You see, we’re going to Nashville to take part in Cochlear Celebration in February.
So, this is kind of meta, but here we are: a post that’s a post, and also window dressing for a screen capture for the presentation in Nashville. Here…look! There’s even an event graphic!
That’s the one.
We’re taking in part in two large group presentations. The first is called “When Hearing Loss Hits Home.” Our presentation is a lot about how we talked, and still talk, about hearing loss. We talk about it so much we created a podcast to let others hear what they weren’t hearing from anyone else. The second group session we’re part of is about “Making a Difference;” how being visible has made a difference for other people living with hearing loss. We have a habit of doing things differently, so expect surprises. (ooh can you handle the mystery?)
Finally. After weeks of wondering where the first seven episode of “My Beautiful Cyborg” went, we have an answer: we produced more podcasts than the default settings of the plugin that send the audio to podcast listeners.
In short: someone assumes we won’t produce more than 10 podcasts. And if we do, we have to take action. There’s probably a good reason for that. Thousands of new podcasts start up every month, and every month almost exactly the same number shut down. So, it makes sense in that light. In the light of a determined deaf woman who won’t tolerate silence, not so much.
The worst part is that the episodes went missing just when public attention and media were looking in our direction. Oopsie. Sorry about that.
Anyway, all is well and you can listen to all the episodes of My Beautiful Cyborg again.
Two episodes that are especially worth listening to are episodes 5 and 7.
Number five is a conversation I had with Melanie, the audiologist and now good friend who referred me for a Cochlear Implant. She was the second youngest Albertan to receive a CI in the early 90s. The technology was only two years older than she was (she was 2).
Number seven is surgery day. It’s mostly just the audio of us talking in the car on the way to the hospital for surgery. It’s the last recording of me as fully human. The episode ends with Dr. Richard Lieu, my surgeon, describing the surgery. I heard Dr. Liu’s voice for the first time when I listened to his episode. It kinda puts everything in sharp perspective.
The entire My Beautiful Cyborg canon is online and ready for your ears!
As much as we might whine and complain that “people don’t think about their hearing,” it’s common for people to know the mechanics of hearing, which usually goes like this: Sound, eardrum, bones, cochlea…hearing. It’s a sketch, but it’s a reasonable sketch.
The inner ear is tiny. The cochlea is a 30mm long tube, that is about 25 cells wide (yes, cells) which contains the Organ of Corti: the hearing organ. The vestibule is the other end of the cochlea. The vestibule connects the cochlea and the semi-circular canals for balance. Those semi-circular canals are three hoops which contain cells that sense the motion of fluid in hose hoops. And those hoops cover the X, Y, and Z axes for your balance.
Hearing is fluid vibrating across hair cells that trigger sound. Balance is fluid moving past hair cells that sense the motion. In both cases, the inner ear contains the mechanism, the brain is the processor.
What happens when the mechanism is broken. In my case, the Organ of Corti simply never functioned perfectly, and got worse over time until I was deaf.
Here’s the point: as much as we whine about ignorance or lack of interest in hearing, imagine having BPPV. Am I right?! Wait. You don’t know what BPPV is? Full disclosure: I had no idea.
Here’s a mouthful: BBPV is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. Uh huh.
Long story short, there’s a malfunction in your balance organ(s)…there are some free-floating crystals that form. They’re not supposed to. The seim-circular canals should be teensy smooth tubes. Crystals are not part of the design. The crystals strike the hairs that sense the motion of the fluid which is balance information, which can cause short and intense bursts of vertigo. Roll over in bed, and the world rolls with you in the opposite direction. Sit up…waaaaay up, but feel like you’re laying down, and up and down and up and then after a minute or two you’ve staved off the urge to barf and the world stops moving.
I’ll say it again, everything about the inner ear and hearing is small except the impact. And this is the impact:
Nat Lauzon regularly faces unpleasant, unexpected moments. When asked what’s it like dealing with vestibular (balance) malfunctions Nat says she thought she was having a stroke. So, it’s safe to say it’s intense, extreme, and unpleasant.
And like everything inner ear, there aren’t a lot of solutions. Medications can help, but mostly you change your life. You work to find a new normal.
When people with inner ear dysfunction have problems, the first thing they do is go the family doctor. Family doctors don’t get that much training on vestibular and inner ear function. In fact, most medical schools spend a few hours teaching about the inner ear, and that’s it. Other “major” organs (by size) get more attention.
This is your takeaway for today: When you stand up, sit down, turn your head, or sit still: your inner ear is hard at work helping keeping you in position. And we all take it for granted, but once in a while, let’s not.