Looking back to his activation day - not that long ago - he reported that he could hear sounds immediately, but they all sounded the same, and very mechanical. He compared it, roughly, to a sound he remembered from the movie The Hunt for Red October. Within just a couple of days, though, he was beginning to differentiate sounds. He could tell if he was hearing someone speaking, or something else, but couldn't tell what (with just the CI).
I asked him what I sounded like, when he listened with just the CI. He got a mischievous grin (and flashed that adorable dimple) and told me that I sounded like a drunk, sleepy, slurred mouse. As the days and weeks have gone by he's dropped some of the adjectives. I still sound mouse-like, but sober. In therapy yesterday, he told us that he can hear the voices and words, but it's still high-pitched and somewhat muffled. He can understand it, but he has to be attending to the conversation and not distracted. He's not yet picking up all the language flowing around him unless he's deliberate about it. But he gets it. And all that in twenty-three days. And it's only going to get better.
They test him, up at WWU, on all kinds of things. They'll cover the lower part of their face with an embroidery hoop and black cloth, to see what he's getting without any visual cues, (because he's a pretty slick lip/face reader). They run through vowel sounds - heed, had, hayed, hawed, hid, head, etc. Or consonant sounds - ama, ana, apa, aka, ata, aza, asa... Not even real words, and no context to help guess. And he gets nearly all of them. And the ones he misses are "smart mistakes" - sounds that are really quite close, like ama and ana.
Then they run through a list of sentences. Each sentence is fairly ordinary, with words he's familiar with, but the sentences are unrelated to each other and follow no pattern. Tate aces them, even repeating them with the same inflection the therapists use.
Finally, flipping to the back of their therapy manual, they read paragraphs to him that are a bit like newspaper articles, or encyclopedia entries. Australia. Charles Lindbergh. Garlic. They're written in normal adult vocabulary. No particularly difficult words, but lots of proper nouns, which are very difficult to predict. HoH (hard of hearing) people sometimes have smaller vocabularies and/or less knowledge about "random" things, because they miss out on a lot of incidental language - speech that's not directed at them, but which regular hearing people would overhear. Does that make sense? So these paragraphs are really challenging because you'll hear things you can't predict and you may not have a base of knowledge to tell you whether what you heard makes sense. For instance, the paragraph about Charles Lindbergh mentioned him winning the Orteig Award, which I'd never heard of. Tate stumbled on that, but when we asked him, "What did you hear?" he was very close. Another time, in the paragraph about Australia, they mentioned something about the "largest desert in the world, the Nullarbor Plain". He had no context for Nullarbor and remembered hearing "largest in the world" and guessed "Great Barrier Reef". He went with his knowledge base, rather than what it actually sounded like. But overall? He did AWESOME on these. He got everything, but a few less-predictable proper nouns.
And the whole thing about garlic was hilarious. Apparently the ancient Greeks believed that garlic would make a man strong. (Strong smelling is more like it!) So they had their soldiers eat a bulb of garlic every day. Tate was cracking up. Clearly he comprehended the information (and repeated it back verbatim) and was joking around about how those soldiers wouldn't need any other weapons - they could defeat their enemies with their breath and body odor!
Of course, they were filming the session to show to students, later. That ought to be a lively class!
We're absolutely astonished and thankful at how well he's doing. And, in true Tate-fashion, he's ready to push the limits. One of the therapists mentioned that somebody has invented a pair of gloves that will translate ASL into English. Tate got thinking about all the capabilities one could possibly program into the processor...
... what about having it translate other languages into English? What about programming it to detect high or low frequency sounds the human ear can't hear? You might be able to hear whales, bats, earthquakes, or the aurora borealis. What if it could turn your thoughts into sound?
I pointed out to him that the technology already exists to do many of those things, but to try to put that capability into the processor would increase the size substantially.
He came back with the reminder that technology seems to be always making things smaller - from computers the size of rooms to what we have now. He started to get really excited thinking of all the potential military applications...
True, Tate, but you'll also need more power to run all those functions, and the power cel is already pretty big.
He concluded - because he really wants the technology developed for the entire implant and processor to be under the skin - that we need to find a way to power the implant from our own body's energy. We've got plenty to spare (some of us more than others!).
I think he should be a scientist!
I also think he might just slow down a little bit and learn to manage the technology he's already received ;D He'll probably be trying out the Neptune at a pool in the next day or so, and I'm really hoping that he remembers all the proper procedure!
He's amazing. The technology is amazing. Hallelujah and thank the Lord we live in a time when these things are possible!