Sex and Single Implant

Parents, siblings, aunts, and anyone else who does not want the mental images that are about to happen, you may wish to tune out at this time.

You still with us?

Alright, lets go.

For a blog called Sexy Cyborg Husbandry, I’ve put this off an awfully long time. But it’s time.

There’s a lot of assumptions about sex that I have as a normal hearing person. Things that you never really stop to think “Man, this is not going to work with someone who can barely hear you.” But they are. Consider the following:

  1. Mood Music: Do you like to play some Barry White to get your lady in the mood? Or perhaps something with a nice, thumping beat to set the rhythm for you? Well, forget it. Music hasn’t been a big part of my wife’s life for a long time. The only thing that has sounded good is some dudes with acoustic guitars. Those only sound good when she’s paying attention. And if Jack Johnson is your idea of sexy time music, get off of my blog.
  2. Talking Dirty: Good luck. “You’re gonna do what? No, stop a second, what did you say? No, still didn’t catch that. Say it again. Oh. Huh. That’s what I thought you said. I thought I must have been hearing something wrong…”
  3. Feedback, requests for feedback, etc: Again, good luck. Nothing says lovin’ like having to stop the thing that you’re doing to loudly find out if you should keep doing the thing that you’re doing.
  4. Roleplay: Oh, lord. I’ve tried playing (non-sexual) D&D with my wife. Just sitting around a table, trying to explain what we’re doing. But suddenly everyone isn’t using the same speech patterns she’s used to, all the vocabulary is different, and she can’t follow any of it. And that’s sitting still, concentrating really hard on what’s going on. Otherwise, good luck.

Now, none of these things are deal breakers for me. Just different.

So now my wife’s a cyborg. So how have those changed?

Well, my wife now has a t-mike stuck on her ear and a magnet on her head. The processor goes behind her ear, which is great for standing up. The magnet isn’t super strong (a bonus for not rubbing through her skin and creating a massive, open wound), but it’s plenty to hold the bit that it has to, provided that it also doesn’t have to support the processor.

But when you’re not standing up, the processor can slide off the ear pretty easily. Especially if, say, certain forces are causing that ear to move back and forth. And when the processor comes off, the magnet comes off with it. And since the surgery does kill what’s left of your natural hearing, suddenly my wife is very, very deaf.

Which leaves her with two choices. Pause for a moment to re-attach her hearing, or ignore it and go about her business.

Which option wins depends on where in the process we are. The farther along things have gone, the less likely she is to care. Which means getting the joy of honest-to-god deaf girl orgasms.

Girls with Slingshots got this one right.

Luckily, our bedroom borders our elderly neighbor whose hearing is terrible. Also the wall on that side has no windows. *phew*

But afterwards, my wife has the option of putting her implant back on. And you know what’s neat? With the implant in, we can have a quiet conversation. Like, honest-to-god pillow talk. Without using our outside voice. Just quietly lay in bed talking about absolutely nothing, like any other normal couple.

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Normal Stuff

My wife and I have been married, at this point, for almost six years. I’ve known her for about thirteen.

Thirteen years ago, the first time I ever met her, we went to a movie. It was a sneak peak of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, that randomly had The Others in front of it. I had known her online before that, and wanted to meet her in person. I may have told her something like “No one I asked wants to go.” Which was true. I just hadn’t asked anyone.

The second time I saw her, I had a spare ticket to a concert. That I bought after I asked her if she wanted an extra ticket if I were to have one.

I was not a suave teenager.

Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately), my wife has a worse sense of subtlety than I do and didn’t notice that anything strange was going on at all.

Flash forward past a great deal of shenanigans, and we’ve been married for a nearly six years, now.

In the last six years, concerts have stopped, because they’re always too loud and too quiet and the band plays their songs just enough faster or slower to be unrecognizable. Movies have started again recently, because caption glasses are catching on, but we still have to be careful of what theater we go to, and it’s a hassle.

And new things… we don’t do new things much. Especially not if someone’s going to talk. It doesn’t matter how quiet the room is, it doesn’t matter how perfect the situation is for hearing, it doesn’t matter. It will end up with me frustrated, my wife upset, and general unhappiness all around.

So when my wife decided to go see Mary Roach do an author’s talk a couple Wednesdays ago, it was a hell of a vote of confidence in her cybernetic enhancements. (Don’t know who Mary Roach is? Go fix that. I can equally recommend Stiff, Bonk, and Gulp. Go now. I’ll still be here.) I was otherwise occupied, so she went by herself.

Now in all fairness, this was an author’s talk. A small room. Quiet. My wife sat in the second row, and by all accounts Mary Roach is a great public speaker. But even so, I was braced for a 50/50 chance that she would come home in tears.

Success measured in non-events. My wife went. She listened. She laughed. She came home full of random facts with a signed book.

Last weekend, we went to see Iron Man 3. She still got her caption glasses. Even with those, she frequently misses the quick one liners. They flash by too fast, and she misses them.

Only, she didn’t miss them. She heard them. With her ears.

She described it as the best she’s done at a movie in 15 years. Since back before I knew her.

So that’s what this is going to be like, then. This is success. It’s not big, it’s not dramatic. It’s just doing stuff like we used to be able to do, and having it not being horribly upsetting.

It’s pretty alright. I think I’ll take it.

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On Being a Bad Blog Updater, And Other Adventures in Cybernetics

So my goal, at one point, was to update this once a week. This has not worked as well as I had hoped.

Partly this is due to what was mentioned in the last blog: progress is horribly slow, so there’s not much to report.

My wife can hear birds now. We were leaving REI and she was like “What’s the chirping sound?” It was birds. Chirping. So that was neat. But otherwise progress is slow. But it is progress, so I can’t complain.

This has not been helped by every other stressful thing that could happen in my life being like “Fresh cyborg? Man, that will make stuff extra stressful!” and then all happening at once. Because it turns out, trying to learn how to hear is kind of stressful, and part of the joy of marriage is sharing stress.

So, pending a future post about maintaining your mental stability with a cyborg spouse (and helping your cyborg spouse maintain her mental stability), I give you a few short bits about the cyborg experience.


My wife currently only has a Neptune processor. This only uses 1 AA battery. It came with rechargable, and with a charger. The problem is that the charger only works with 2 batteries, and she doesn’t run out of even numbers in a day. She uses something like 2 1/2-3, which makes keeping even numbers of batteries charged kind of problematic. It has also led to her running out of batteries at extremely awkward times and having to switch.

Usually she installs new batteries right about the time I close a car door, or hit the garage door opener. Just in time for a nice, loud, obnoxious noise that apparently is not pleasant to the recently deaf.

Whether this will be better or not when she gets her new processor, I don’t know. We’ll find out.


The biggest problem with my wife’s cyborgness is that CI is somewhat tricky to deal with in bed. Most people get in bed, remove their implant, and go to sleep.

Sounds reasonable. Except that my wife and I have a long, long history of getting in bed and then ending up talking about ALL THE THINGS! To the point that at some point I took to rolling over after an hour or two so that we could actually get some sleep.

That kind of spontaneity vanishes when she has to unplug her ears. Of course, it’s been going away for a long time as her hearing slowly declined, and more and more conversations become “We should have this conversation when I can see you talk.” But it’s one more reminder of the artificiality of her hearing.

That’s what I have for now. If you have questions, comments, or things you would be interested to know, you should totally comment and let me know. I will probably right about it.

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There are three major manufacturers of cochlear implants in the world. As I’ve said before, I personally believe that Advanced Bionics has the most awesome name for an evil cyborg manufacturing company. My wife likes them for two reasons. 1) they have a waterproof processor and 2) Their surprisingly awesome forum.

The forum is part of a marketing strategy, and it’s hard for me not to have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s been really helpful for my wife to read about other people’s experiences, to be able to ask questions, to find out which of her concerns were justified and which were total bullshit created by reading a Weekly Reader in the 80s.

On the other hand, it’s a company having its users sell their products for them. That works, of course, because they’re selling what would have been literally a miracle not that long ago. When you’re selling a miracle, all you need for marketing is people who have already done it.

Which is the purpose of the group that we went to on Saturday. Advanced Bionics has decided that their legions of cyborgs would be more effective if they could identify each other in groups, so they run user groups. It’s kind of a social thing: meet fellow cyborgs, let people who are thinking about getting assimilated come ask questions, and advertise coming products.

The fellow cyborgs, it turns out, are primarily old men. We were the youngest non-company employee by a good 20 years, if not 30. At least until the teenage girl showed up, obviously forced by her mother. There was one other woman who is going to be assimilated in a couple weeks (who apparently reads this blog sometimes. Hi!), and otherwise a large group of current or prospective cyborgs who were entirely men.

They all had that thing that old men have when they’ve mastered a new technology. They wanted to tell everyone in the room about how amazing it was, about all it’s awesome features. One guy had brought his entire kit of gear that went with his implant, and was showing off all his cables and processors and everything else. It was a level of enthusiasm that was like “Okay, buddy. We’ve already bought one, and you’re not collecting commission. It’s okay.”

He had the same level of enthusiasm about his iPhone. It was, also, thie best thing in the world.

The more I sat there, the more I began to wonder if his level of enthusiasm was, in fact, correct. I mean, it was a bit goofy, sure. But he was talking about a device that had given him the ability to hear. And another one that let him access the entire wealth of human information at the touch of a screen. And the one could be plugged into the other.

This may be the closest to jacking in that any of us will achieve in the foreseeable future. This man can beam sounds from the internet straight into his brain. And here I’m sitting thinking “Calm down there, buddy. It’s just the kind of technology you couldn’t have dreamed up when you were watching Flash Gordon as a kid.” And of course “You know you’re marketing their stuff for this company for free, right?”

I mean, it’s not like it’s helped my wife. It’s not like she spun around when a small child screamed at that dog-whistle pitch that she’s never noticed. It’s not like she heard the sound of my spoon hitting a glass as I stirred by tea a week ago. It’s not like she’s been rocking out to the sound of the turn signal blinking, or been surprised that the car beeps if her seat belt isn’t buckled.

Oh, except all of those things have happened in the last two weeks.

So that’s neat.

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The Long Doldrums

So it’s been two weeks.

So far… well, my wife is still deaf. Still more deaf than she started out. Only now she finds that everyone is talking way too loud while she can’t hear them.

An of course, having a new cyborg implant means that everyone wants to know how it’s going. Everyone. It’s the 300 pound gorilla of every conversation. I mean, how do you not ask “how’s the being a cyborg coming?” But the development is so slow that you might as well be asking “So, how much closer are we to the heat death of the universe?”

Everyone asking doesn’t make it less stressful that progress is so slow. She’s doing her rehab, about as much as she can stand. But this is something that will only get so much better so much faster. Worrying about it just generates more stress.

To make matters worse, the implant messed up my wife’s balance. More than she thought. So the first time she tried to go for a walk, she sprained her ankle. Which makes it hard to get exercise, which is a really handy thing for stress relief. Like relieving the stress of having people ask you every day if you’re any nearer the heat death of the universe.

For my part, I’ve spent a whole lot of time keeping all the normal life things going while she’s been recovering. Which had the effect of messing up all my stress-relief for quite some time. But on the plus side, I at least had useful things I could do.

Now there’s not a damn thing. Nothing to do but to sit by and watch my wife try and learn to hear again.

This bit. I don’t like this bit.

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Activation Day: The Biggest Non-Event of the Year

CI activation is one of those things where doctors tell you to try and keep your expectations as low as possible. Things will be awesome eventually, they’ll tell you, but don’t expect too much up front.

So off we went this morning, trying to be as non-excited as possible for an event that I have described to co-workers as turning on my wife’s hearing for the first time since she was six.

We got my wife’s CI done through Denver Ear Associates. They have an excellent reputation, and deal with all kinds of people with all kinds of hearing problems. Which makes it singularly fascinating that their waiting room still runs on the “We’re going to call your name until you come up” theory. This works better than you might expect in a room full of people who need hearing aids and CI, but it seems like maybe they should get those waiting buzzers for restaurants that blink and vibrate.

My wife has often been annoyed that her hearing aids automatically get her target marketed as being 70. It doesn’t help that she loves scooters. The two wheeled riding kind, not the old lady in the grocery store kind, but the internet assumes that if you have hearing aids and own a scooter, you’re old.

The waiting room backed that up. Our presence there dropped the average age by a good 15 years. That includes the college-age girl there to translate for her Russian mother, a fact which I later realized was totally missed by my wife, who has been known to ask “Does that guy have an accent?” during a movie when a character is speaking French.

Then we did some paper work. All the things get registered with the Advanced Bionics. So if Erin is ever found murdered in Washington, DC with no identification and has her body shipped to the Jeffersonian to solve the case, they can totally look her up by serial number.

The actual activation started with deciding how hard the processor should stick to the side of my wife’s head. It’s a delicate balance. You don’t want it to fall off if you nod. But on the other hand, you don’t want it to rub straight through your skin to the magnet on the other side. Which evidently does happen, although not very often.

Then the processor was plugged into the computer and the audiologist started playing beeps. They make the beeps louder or quieter until you rate them as a 6 on their little laminated scale. If you’re a little kid, you get a way more awesome scale featuring monkeys, but apparently we’re too old for that. Some of those beeps were higher pitched than my wife has heard in 25 years. So that’s super-awesome.

Actual speech, though? Not so much. She can hear kind of an extended pitch change, sort of the “doo doo doo doo doo” from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Certain noises generate a distinct beep, like me burping. But mostly, she says things sound like she’s in an old school Nintendo game.

Which naturally prompted me to break out in the Mario Brothers theme song. Which, with the added electronicness from the implant, apparently sounds perfect.

Small victories. But, hey. They’ll get better.

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7 Days of Living with a Couch Cyborg – 7 Days to Activation


The surgery went as well as could be. Routine. We like routine with medical stuff. It means nothing went wrong.

She woke up and was feeling okay, but dizzy. A lot less bad than after her sinus surgery. Maybe because they started out the process with pumping her full of anti-nausea meds.

She did have some serious dizziness issues. The nurse was like “Well, we gave you percocet, and that can do it. We gave you these anti-nausea meds, and that can do it. You’re coming out of general anesthesia, and that can do it. And you had a cochlear implant. So… yeah. Unless you’re so dizzy you can’t hold food down for 24 hours, we don’t care.”

They let her stay there until she got over some of the dizziness. They don’t let anyone leave until they can eat some food, drink some water, and make it across the floor to pee. Erin made it there, eventually, and we headed home.

Pro tip: that wire that was just implanted in your cyborg’s head? It hurts. And it will hurt more every time you hit a bump. So find the smoothest road home! You’ll need it.

We got home and she passed out on the couch. When she woke up, she was feeling pretty good. Ate some pudding. Went back to sleep.


Wednesday was a good day. My wife was still a bit loopy from the drugs, still kind of shaky. But her jaw didn’t have excruciating pain, she didn’t have horrible vertigo, food tasted like food (well, as much as it ever has with no sense of smell). It looked like we had missed all the bad stuff.

What she did have was no hearing in her right ear at all. We weren’t sure on Tuesday. She had a giant pressure bandage over her ear. It came off on Tuesday, and her hearing was gone. It’s bad enough now that I have to turn on a light and stand in front of her to tell her anything, even as simple as “would you like some food?” That will be better once the implant works. But for now she’s the deafest she’s ever been.

Pro Tip: With some creative marker work, you can turn your cyborg’s pressure bandage into half of Princess Leia’s hairdo.


Have you ever woken up at 4 in the morning to the sound of your spouse sobbing in agony?

I don’t recommend it. It’s a punch of adrenaline to the face, triggering a fight or flight that isn’t useful. You want to do something, but there’s not a lot. Just find your wife. Ask her what’s wrong. Find a light switch. Get her to stop heaving into the sink and look at you long enough to ask her: what’s wrong? how bad is it?

She points to a half-eaten banana. She woke up and hurt, so she decided to take a percocet. You’re supposed to take it with food. She made it halfway through that banana before the dizziness overwhelmed her and she made a run for the sink.

Eventually she decided she wasn’t going to die. I stayed up with her for a bit, but the adrenaline was wearing off and it was 4 in the morning.

This is when we learned that the third day is the worst for dizziness. We hadn’t avoided it at all. The third day is when your inner ear has started working out that something is horribly wrong and starts to knock you on your ass in protest.

My wife ate three crackers that day. She didn’t keep them down. This from a woman that, before Thursday, had thrown up twice in her life.

That was a bad day. But I was at least glad for the warning about holding down food for 24 hours. By the end of the day, she had at least eaten a little bit of apple sauce, drank a little bit of water.

It wasn’t much, but at least she wasn’t going to die.

Pro Tip: There is nothing you can do to make the horrible dizziness better. Don’t even hug too hard. You will knock your cyborg over.


Friday wasn’t much better. The pain was going down, anyway. My wife discovered that she could live with less and less percocet. Which was good, because the percocet set off her dizziness something fierce. So she’d live without it for a bit, the dizziness getting less and less bad, until the pain got bad enough to take a percocet. And then she’d be dizzy again.

Except in the mornings. In the mornings, she has to take her antibiotics. Those make her dizzy, too. And upset her stomach so she can’t eat.

Pro Tip: Make sure your cyborg takes their antibiotics. The last thing you want is a septic head wound.


Things started to get a little better. A little. My wife mostly lay on the couch. She felt well enough to take a shower, but was dizzy enough that she wanted me in the bathroom in case she fell. She didn’t, but it she lay back down on the couch for two hours afterwards.

Pro Tip: Star Trek may have given you unreasonable expectations of an assimilated human. Allow some time for them to lie on the couch before you expect them to assimilate others.


Sunday, my wife left the house.

It wasn’t much. We drove to the grocery store (she stayed in the car), went to get keys from her parents (she went inside for a few minutes), and stopped by her store so she could do payroll (which she did sitting down). It was an hour and a half total, and enough to wipe her out for the day.

It was also a day when the internet showed how awesome it can be. My wife is part of a Vespa forum. They were doing a chocolate exchange for February. She had mentioned that she would like to participate, but couldn’t because she would be post-surgery and wouldn’t make it to a post office.

We’ve gotten twenty boxes of chocolate from people all over the world. People she’s never met. People she’s talked to some online and people she never has, from home made cookies to ultra-gourmet chocolates to those Dove valentine heart things.

I don’t know if it was that or just general recovery, but Erin ate real food for dinner. It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t a huge amount, but it was real food that didn’t make her stomach hurt and that she didn’t throw up later. Progress.

She felt well enough that she decided to sleep in the bed. She had been sleeping on the couch, super elevated with a neck pillow, but was tired of it. But lying all the way down made her balance weird. Every time I twitched it made her dizzy, and I’m a twitchy guy. By the morning, she was back on the couch.

Pro Tip: Buy your cyborg a neck pillow. Apparently it’s the best thing EVER for post surgery comfort.


My wife went into work for an hour on Monday. She got more chocolate. Still not up to speed, but doing a lot better.

And still really, really deaf.

Pro Tip: Although it’s really tempting, ask permission before poking around for a sub-dermal magnet.


Today, my wife describes herself as feeling good enough to be annoyed about a lot of things, but not well enough to do anything about it. Well enough to eat dinner, but still being too messed up  from the antibiotics to eat breakfast.

The good news is that, at this point, every day is definitely better. We’ll be up to worled domination in no time.

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In the Waiting Room: 0 Minutes to Assimilation

My wife is in an operating room right now. Probably in the final stages of the procedure. Any moment now, a doctor will come to talk to me about how things went. Hopefully this will be extremely boring. Hospital excitement gets you sent to the ICU. We don’t want that.

We’re in a thoroughly modern hospital that has thoroughly embraced the cell phone. There is a phone in the surgery waiting room, in case you don’t have one. There’s maybe one person who doesn’t.

I’ve already gotten one call from a nurse. They call you once the procedure is underway, to let you know that everything is going okay. It’s nice, though at the same time I couldn’t help but think “Why are you talking to me? Get back to work!” I suppose it helps people worry less.

This is one place where I don’t mind that everyone is on their laptops or on their phones. They’re doing what I’m doing, keeping everybody updated. I remember how this worked when I was younger and my sister was in the hospital a lot. Waiting for my mother to call, because we didn’t have any way to call her. Theoretically, you could call the hospital and maybe someone could find her, but that was for emergencies. She’d have to leave my sick sister’s hospital room, go find a phone and call my dad. He’d call everyone who needed updates.

Now I’ve got my cell phone ready to go with a “surgery updates” list. I can text blast the whole family, for all that there’s not much news. On top of that, there’s a wifi network and I can update this.

This is definitely a hospital used to doing CI. They offered a sign interpreter, asked if they needed to write notes. Every single person has asked if she’s reading their lips, and are they enunciating okay, and is there a particular person among them who enunciates better and should tell her things. The head nurse promised to take off her surgery mask when she needed to tell my wife things, which is about the most useful thing for lip reading ever.

The only exception has been the lady at check-in, who was trying to be nice and quiet and private, even while she was reading the file that said we were here for C.I. Here’s a clue: if someone is getting a cochlear implant, THEY CAN’T HERE YOU. Talking quietly is polite, but not useful. Plus, that was the first time someone asked the same bunch of questions. It got easier by the fifth time. My wife knew all the answers.

You can spot the people going into surgery. They’re all wearing pajama pants. We followed a guy with hearing aid up the elevator, and wondered if he was here for CI, too.

This hospital has my favorite modern hospital innovation: the colorful linoleum lines. Follow the purple line and you’ll get to the surgery waiting room! Beats trying to follow the labyrinth of arrows.

Unlike the last surgery, I remembered my hospital 101 training and brought breakfast with me. The amount of glares my cold pizza received makes me think that not everyone has remembered. People are getting muffins from somewhere, so there’s food some place.

Now there’s nothing to do but wait for someone to come in and tell me they’re done. And then to wait until someone says she’s come out of it. And then to wait until the anesthesia has worn off enough that they’ll let us leave.

Here’s hoping to an uneventful day.

Update: Electrode all the way in and tests as fully functional. Now to wait an hour or so for my wife to become sort of conscious. Also: Woo!

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Messages from the Future: 2 Days to Assimilation

There’s a box from The Future sitting in our dining room.

On it are the words “Advanced Bionics”. The kind of company name you would expect to see in a William Gibson novel. Bland, kind of innocuous, obviously going to be responsible for turning you into a badass cyborg.

We picked it up from the doctor’s office on Monday, during the pre-cybernetic implantation appointment. There, they told us about possible side effects of the procedure. What kind of headaches were normal. What kind meant you should call the doctor now. What kind meant the implant had malfunctions and signalled your brain to kill all the meat humans.

Not so much the last one. At least not that they’ll admit. And even if my wife did become homicidal, they’re not giving her super-strength, or super-speed, or chain-guns in her arms. She’s not even supposed to lift the cat for a month after implantation.

What my wife is getting: a cybernetic implant to give her enhanced hearing (by her standards) with a range of situational modular add-ons.

The case of add-ons is so large that she’s not supposed to lift it for as long as she can’t lift the cat. It contains only the water-proof processor (or, as Deux Ex would say: the Neptune Device) and its accessories. The behind-the-ear processor (Stealth Mode) will come later, because Advanced Bionics is coming out with a smaller, sleeker, version soon. Not nanite based yet. Maybe the next version.

The suitcase of add-ons is for the Neptune Device alone. Sadly, there’s no long-distance hearing, or recording devices. But if this were an RPG, I would brag about character model options, about how many hundreds of color schemes and outfits you could unlock for your cyborg. You would pay extra for special color schemes beyond the base five. In fact, this is the case.

Once you select the correct module for the situation (Is this a water level? What dress sphere are you using?) the external processer transmits data directly to your brain via magnet. I can’t decide if this would get you rejected by jugallos or make you their god.

If you’d rather, you can synch the processor to bluetooth. Put another way: you can set up your phone to wirelessly beam sound to a magnet that will transmit it electronically DIRECTLY INTO YOUR BRAIN.

Or at least that’s how it will work when we’re done.

For now, the box sits in our dining room, full of electronics we’re not allowed to open. Because Advanced Bionics, as the evil mega-corp they obviously are, won’t take it back if you open it at home. It has to be opened by certified specialists, who surely aren’t planning on getting you hooked on “hearing”, to control your processor so only they can give you your “hearing” fix, making you a slave to Advanced Bionics. Just like that light on the processor, the one that indicates “power”, surely won’t switch from green to red when they activate the over-ride and send my cyborg wife on the aforementioned spree to kill all meat humans.

That probably won’t happen. So I’m just going to say it one more time: modular cybernetic enhancements.

The future called. It says I told you so.

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Preperation Time: 16 Days to Assimilation

Part of the fun of CI is not having the slightest idea how recovery is going to go.

There’s the “Will my wife be stuck no the couch with crushing dizziness for a a month?” question, of course. But even once we make it past the initial effect of the surgery, there’s the question of how long it will take before the world stops sounding like R2D2, Mickey Mouse, or Darth Vader.

See, once the implant is in and activated, my wife will need to train her brain to make sound out of electrical signals coming from a microphone stuck to her head. (Fun Fact: You can seriously retrain your brain to make sound of electrical signals coming from a microphone stuck to your head. Which is pretty freaking awesome.) How long it will take to make that adaptation is an open question, but we have a couple of guidelines, based on conversations my wife has had with various people who have had this done.

  1. Younger is better: young brains are more adaptable. We’re not dealing with age-related hearing loss here, so that’s a good sign.
  2. Sudden hearing loss is better: If you’ve lost your hearing all at once, your brain still knows how to hear sound, and just has to learn to hear sounds from a different input. My wife has been losing her hearing since she was five. Less good there.
  3. The better you can read lips, the worse it will be: Your brain uses lots of oxygen and energy. If a part isn’t getting used (by way of, say, not getting any useful input from the ears), your brain will convert it into something useful (like, say, lip-reading). The more complete this process is, the longer it will take to reverse. My wife reads lips like a ninja. So… crap.

All in all, we’re probably not looking for an instant recovery sort of thing. Hopefully, we’re not looking at the far end of the spectrum, either, which is where it takes two years not to sound like “beep beep boop.”

To help in the process, we’ve begun the process of assembling recovery aids, ranging from the standard to the “stuff we’ve thought up and we’ll see if it works.” Things we’re trying include

  1. iPhone apps: Apparently the best stuff is being produced for apple products that we don’t own. Luckily, my brother has an old iPhone that he’s upgraded out of, and it runs them fine. These have neat exercises like “listen to this sentence,” followed by “listen to this sentence with crowd noise.”
  2. Linguistic Research Conversations: I have a friend with a masters in linguistics. One of the things that he came out of school with is a large pile of anonymous phone conversations with transcripts. The theory is that these are more normal conversations: people interrupting each other, talking over each other, all the things that actual people do in real life. So we’ll see if that helps.
  3. Audiobooks: This is the biggest, most standard recovery tool: Listen to an audiobook while you read along. We’re doing that, plus something a little different. My wife was talking to someone online who said that sound came together when she started hanging out with someone who sounded like one of the audiobook readers. So I figured why not skip the middle man? Which is why we’re currently working on recording as many audiobooks as we can, read by a whole bunch of people that we know. In the hopes that things will go easier if she’s re-learning to hear by listening to people she’ll hear anyway.

Of course, the question here is: will any of this help? We don’t really know, but it gives me something to do other than sit around and wait for the surgery to happen. And that’s nice.

Either way, I’ll report back on what works or doesn’t once we know.

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