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RUSH: I got an e-mail. I actually got a couple e-mails. (interruption) What’s that, Brian? Oh, printer cartridges? Oh. Nothing I care about. Okay. I just get excited when I see boxes brought in, packages, presents.

Now, I mentioned the other day that I had to go get a test ’cause I’m thinking of getting a cochlear implant in my right ear. So people asked me, “Did you pass the test?” I did. You know, it’s a balance test. It’s the most fascinating story. I called my local doctor that serves as the family — I don’t really have one, but whenever I have anything or Kathryn, this is the guy we call. And I called him, “Could you put me in touch with somebody that can do this test?” So he put me in touch with an ear, nose, and throat specialist and surgeon by the name of John Li.

So I went to Dr. Li’s office, and Dr. Li is one of the surgeons who does the Envoy Esteem! Remember, they are sponsors of this program, the revolutionary surgery, that, you have to have some residual hearing. I don’t qualify ’cause I’m totally deaf, but if you’ve got some residual hearing this procedure is able to use your natural equipment, your ear, to revive your hearing. And, in all of the time we were doing the Envoy Esteem, I never knew there was a local guy that did it. I knew there were 10 or 12 surgeons around the country who had qualified to do the surgery.

So I’m up there, and I’m getting — by the way, I just want everybody to know, I am in perfect balance every which way you can measure it. I didn’t lean right, I didn’t lean left, perfect balance. Actually, what it is, since I have had my inner ear — it’s not technically removed. But your sense of balance is in your ears, and the eyes are the route to the ear. This test required me to wear goggles that were totally blacked out. I had to keep my eyes wide open. They only measured my right eye. You had to stay and try to focus on nothingness and not blink for 30 seconds at a time for two or three minutes and do that for a half hour. And what they try to determine is if, in the previous surgery, one of the ingredients in the cochlear had been damaged. If that had been the case and I only had one ear providing balance, then I would not have qualified for the surgery.

But I’m cool, I’m in perfect balance, no problem. He told me that, if a person loses this thing, I forget the medical term for it that’s in your ear, if you lose it in both ears, it’s impossible for you to stand up. You are dizzy constantly, impossible to stand up. So the purpose of the test was to find out if I had one or two, if the previous cochlear implant surgery had damaged or removed in my left ear. Turns out I’m cool, I can have it. Dr. Li, his whole office up there was great. “Oh, yeah, I’m so happy to meet you, Envoy Esteem.” I said, “Wow, I never knew there was a guy locally that did it.” (interruption) What’s the stupid question? What is it? (interruption) Hm-hm. (interruption) Snerdley’s asking if I will hear in stereo if I get an implant in my right ear. That’s not the way we who get implanted discuss it. We discuss it in terms of spatial perception.

Right now, with one implant, I cannot tell you where any sound comes from. I literally cannot. If, for example, I was in here and I heard a foreign sound, I would have to have you come in here and tell me where it was and what it was, ’cause I cannot. And, as such, in public, I can’t hear anybody — (interruption) Yeah, I couldn’t find the cat. The cat’s meowing like crazy, I couldn’t find the cat. It was up on top of the bed. I couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from. So anybody on my left I can hear, but somebody on my right I can’t. So, if I get the other implant, I’ll be aware of sounds totally around me and on my right side.

Now, the way I hear things is not good enough quality to be able to hear stereo. I hear in mono now, and it’s probably gonna continue to be mono because man-made bionic electrodes cannot replace the intricacy of 35,000 hair cells in each ear. You know, I have 12 electrodes versus 35,000, the ability to translate sound and have it — not even comparable. I will hear both channels but whether I can hear well enough — and I can only hear music, listen to music that I knew before I lost my hearing ’cause I can’t detect a melody even with a second ear.

The second ear, getting it done is not gonna improve speech comprehension drastically. It will a little. It’s just gonna change the spatial nature of things and make the ability to be in public a little easier. ‘Cause right now I can only hear in a crowd one person, and that’s whoever’s closest to me on the left, and then they have to yell at me, like in a restaurant or something. But this gets really tricky, because what happens if — and this is possible — what happens if I don’t hear nearly as well on the right side as I do on the left, in terms of speech comprehension. Which one’s gonna be dominant?

Will I end up not wearing the right one? What if it’s better? What if I hear speech better on the right side than the left? My brain’s not gonna combine ’em into one super — they’ll both exist as they are and they’ll be competing against each other. So, if one’s remarkably better than the other, it’s gonna be confusing and you will have to turn one off. It’s unknown. You do not know how you’re gonna do until a month after the surgery when you turn it all on and do the map. But everybody that’s done it bilaterally in both ears, everybody says the improvement is dramatic and go for it. So that’s why I started looking into it.

I’ll have two packs. I’ll have two things in my ear and I’ll just use one for the radio show. Brian wants to know, “Do I have to hook you up twice?” No. Just once. (interruption) Hm-hm. Hmm? (interruption) Snerdley: “Can they make a mix of the two feeds?” Each implant has a map. The way it works is — and it takes four hours when you first do it. You sit down and they just have a machine — it’s a computer — that sends tones at every conceivable frequency. And you can’t hear them. When you first hear ’em is when you send ’em a visual signal, point at ’em, “I’ve heard it.” Okay, that gets mapped. That’s at whatever volume level they sent it that I hear the tone.

They do this for every tone, and then, after that’s done, they create a map that maximizes those particular frequencies. And, if they’re different, and they will be from ear to ear, you can’t combine ’em because my implant on the left is not gonna be the same as the one on the right. I’ve had to turn some electrodes off on the left side because of facial tics. I’m actually down to six, and my speech comprehension has suffered from it.

I started out with 12 electrodes active, and I’ve had to turn half of ’em off, because at volume, my face starts twitching. Can’t have that. The right side could be dramatically better, but it’s not gonna make the left side better; it’s gonna make the left side in conflict with the right side. But they can’t… I don’t think they can do a single map that combines. I haven’t asked ’em that because, my assumption is, based on what I know, that the right side’s not gonna test like the left side does.

A, my brain on the right side hasn’t been using its ability to hear. Just to show you one other thing about this: They don’t know why some people do well with cochlear implants and some don’t. They’ve tried to come up with test cases of data to try to predict it. And by “doing well” they define it as speech comprehension. Now, I was in the eighties when I first tested — 80, 82 — but the minute you add other room noise, it goes down to 40.

And then the louder that room noise, the speech comprehension eventually goes to zero. But it was better than it was ’cause I was able to use all of these electrodes. What’s always fascinated me is the people doing this have no idea what it sounds like. You stop and think of this. The people that have invented the cochlear implant and the audiologists that map it and get it ready have no idea what it sounds like.

They can’t! There’s nobody that can even officially dupe it. They’ve tried it, and they think they’ve gotten close, but nobody knows because I can’t hear what they’ve produced that’s supposed to sound like what people hear with a cochlear implant. I can’t hear it well enough to know if it’s accurate, and I don’t hear the way anybody else does. So they don’t really know. Yet they do it all so well. It’s fascinating to me.

So you throw all that in the mix, and here’s what I was told. There was a guy my age when I lost my hearing, who had pretty much the same IQ profile as I did, which they say is a factor. He was able to hear naturally pretty much as long as I was. In fact, in predicting how you’re gonna do — how long you’ve been able to hear and what’s your IQ — it’s all brain related.

But this guy waited a year longer than I did to have his implant surgically input and then turned on. His speech comprehension never got over 50% because the brain atrophied. It just adapted to communicating a different way since he couldn’t hear. There was no data on the auditory nerve. So they always say if you’re gonna do this, do this as quickly as you can. Well, the right side has atrophied for eight years here.

So I have no idea how it’s gonna do, and there’s no way to predict it. All you’ve got is other people who’ve done it and their testimonials. The point is, I had some nice e-mails from people who wanted to know if I passed the hearing test. Yes. And just to tell you, I am in perfect balance (chuckles) and I met this local ENT surgeon, John Li, who does the Envoy Esteem. So was it was cool. Everything’s fine.

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