Rush to Get Bionic Tune Up

Let me give you a programming note. I'm not going to be here tomorrow, folks. I gotta go back out to the ear doctor out there on the left coast. Something strange has begun to happen, just a minor technical thing, but I have to go to the doctor's office to get it fixed.

I've never spent a whole lot of time getting into the details of how it is I hear now since I'm deaf, other than to say I have a cochlear implant. When I have attempted to explain it to people, they lose it. They're unable to keep up with it because I probably am not that good at explaining it. It's essentially bionics. In my left ear, implanted inside my head, is a series of electrodes, and these electrodes replace the inner ear which has to come out in the surgery. There are 16 of these electrodes. Let me tell you what happened to me. Each human ear has 40,000 hair cells, and it is those hair cells that are various lengths, thickness. When they sense any frequency they stand up, they vibrate, and they start the whole process of hearing, going to the audio nerve and then to the brain. Well, I had an autoimmune attack. My immune system thought that my ears were a disease and attacked them. So that's why all the drugs were thrown at them, Prednisone, two chemotherapy drugs to try to ward off just a massive flood of white blood cells and it destroyed the hair cells. The cure for what I have interesting, enough is baldness.

If they ever cure baldness then I might be able to hear again someday out of my right ear. Mr. Snerdley is also hoping for the same cure but for different reasons. Now, in place of these 40,000 hair cells in my left ear, I have 16 electrodes. So my frequency sensation, or my sensitivity to frequency response, is nil compared to a person with normal hearing. Sixteen electrodes do not anywhere come near compensating for the spectrum range that 40,000 hair cells can detect. So, for example, in the case of music, all music that I have not heard before sounds the same note. If I haven't heard the music before I can't listen to it because it all sounds the name note. The sound track to a movie sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, and every sound track sounds identical if it involves strings. I can hear percussion, the bass lines, drums, that sort of thing, but the higher frequencies are what escape me, which is also where you'll find female voices. It's not all bad. (Laughing.) I'm just kidding.

I can listen to music that I know because my memory supplies the melody. It would be difficult to describe the tonal quality of this. Think something a little bit less than AM radio is what it sounds like, but it's miraculous because I'm able to hear speech, sense is normal, one on one conversation with people is easy and normal as it used to be. It's when there are a lot of people in the room that it becomes tough. But nevertheless what's happened here is one of these electrodes -- and I only use eight of the 16 electrodes, the 16 are for something called a high res strategy and it doesn't work for me. They don't know why it works for others and not for me. My hearing with the old software is better than most people that hear with high res. So I hear better with eight electrodes than people who have one of these things that use all 16. But one of these electrodes which senses a certain frequency, if I turn the volume of this thing up too loud it causes a facial twitch in my left eye and it's been going on for two or three months. I thought, well, just getting older, you know, what have you, nerve twitch or whatever. And it was last week when I was out there for just the standard tune-up going through the process, at one point while working with a certain frequency, bam, as each tone pulsated, that eye twitch was synchronous with it. It happened at the same time and the louder the tone got the more pronounced the twitch. So what we did was disable that electrode and assigned that frequency to a different electrode and they thought we'd fixed the problem, but it hasn't. So I gotta go back out there and do a bunch of troubleshooting. It's just a minor thing and if I keep the volume low enough the twitch doesn't occur. The twitch doesn't occur at all frequencies, but regardless it does happen and of course you need a lot of volume in crowded situations, which makes it difficult.

So that's what I'm going to be doing tomorrow. Tom Sullivan will be here sitting in for tomorrow, and I'll get back here and be back on Friday. We'll do Open Line Friday as regularly scheduled, because this whole process or procedure tomorrow shouldn't take more than four hours. It's very precise the way this stuff works and the way they tune it and optimize it, because it's different from individual to individual. I find it amazing, if I may just make one brief aside, all the audiologists, I go to the House Clinic, they're just the best people in the world at this, and the people that you're working with have no idea what this sounds like themselves. Nobody's been able to make a tape so if I wanted to share with you how things sound to me, I couldn't. There's no way. I'm the only one that hears it. There's no recording chip in my skull I can take out of there, put in a machine and play it. So all these audiologists, they have no clue what I'm hearing yet they're able to optimize it. It's just amazing to me. Now, if they are able to hear it and they haven't told me then they're fooling me. They're not able to hear it, but I'm sure they have a pretty good idea based on their expertise in the field. So I just wanted to share this with you because whenever I'm gone in the middle of the week a number of people panic out there, "What's wrong? Why didn't you tell us where you're going?" We have a familial relationship on this program, and I also get grief if I'm going out to play golf in the middle of the week for a charity event, I get grief for that. So I just wanted you people to know I'm going to be in a doctor's office, and I'm going to be sweating and slaving away and I'm going to be involved in testing, and I gotta get an x-ray and I gotta get diagnostics and all this. I would much rather be here tomorrow than where I'm going to be. This is not bad, but I mean if I had a choice, I would be here. So anyway, that's that.

Transcript from The Rush Limbaugh Show

 

 

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