All Episodes Online! (sorry)

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!

Everything About the Inner Ear is Small; Except the Impact.

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.

Here’s more information to get you started…

I Hear Sleigh Bells

Everyone hears sleigh bells this time of year, mostly in malls, commercials, and radio. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of reasons to have actual sleigh bells in the city. Except at Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane is a street in Edmonton that goes crazy with Christmas decorating. The street is lit up with creative displays celebrating the season. And let’s face it, a little light in the long dark of our winters is welcome.

Andreas’ work Christmas party is a two-parter this year. Part two is lunch. Part one was a hay ride down candy cane lane. It was lovely.

The lights, the children, and the feeling of goodwill was prefect. Elegant. Seasonal. Charming. Perfect.

I sat at the front of the wagon. I wanted to be close to the sleighbells and the clip clop of two Belgian horses hauling us down Candy Cane Lane.

As we made our way down the street and back, everyone on the wagon marveled at the lights and took in the people watching. My eyes were closed half the time. I just listened. Bells are familiar, and I still remember the sound of sleigh bells. It was the combination of the sound of horses hooves and the smells that captivated me. Sure, Friend (one of the horses) ate some hay that was past its best before date and was having a little gastrointestinal conflict, but hooves, bells, and laughter.

It’s Christmas.