Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Illustration of a cochlear implant

The sound and the fury

Today’s article was going to be a pretty straightforward technological exposition. I was going to describe a procedure that can improve hearing in ways that conventional hearing aids cannot, mention some of the limitations and risks involved, and pretty much leave it at that. Then I got an email from a friend wondering if I was planning to cover the political issues cochlear implants raise for the Deaf community. Um…political issues? I hadn’t known there were any. But after a bit of research, I discovered that the controversy surrounding this procedure is at least as interesting as the procedure itself, which has been called everything from a miracle cure to genocide.

Can You Hear Me Now?

First, a bit of background. There are many different types and causes of deafness. Some kinds of hearing loss can be compensated for very adequately with just a bit of amplification—namely, a hearing aid. However, if there is a defect or damage in the inner ear, a hearing aid may do no good. Our perception of sound results from the vibrations of tiny hairs lining the cochlea, a spiral, fluid-filled organ in the inner ear. When the hairs move, the hair cells convert the movement into nerve impulses, which are then sent to the brain for decoding. If the vibrations never reach the cochlea, or if the hair cells themselves are damaged, no neural stimulation occurs and deafness results.

However, if most of the underlying nerve fibers themselves (and the neural pathways to the brain) are intact, they can be stimulated electrically, producing a sensation interpreted by the brain as sound. A cochlear implant places a series of electrodes inside the cochlea to do just that; a wire connects these electrodes to a small receiver with its antenna placed under the skin. Outside the skin, a device that looks somewhat like a hearing aid picks up sounds with a microphone, digitizes them in such a way that they produce meaningful signals for the electrodes, and transmits them via radio waves to the receiver. The net result is the perception of sounds picked up by the microphone, but because this apparatus completely bypasses the eardrum and middle ear, it’s really an artificial ear rather than a hearing aid. The technology was developed by Dr. Graeme Clark at the University of Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s; the first implant was performed in 1978.

Although any number of technological innovations have occurred in the decades since, cochlear implants are still by no means perfect. They vary greatly in their effectiveness, depending on a large number of variables. And the effect they produce, while auditory in nature, is not identical to what would be experienced with a fully functional ear. In addition, patients with cochlear implants require months or years of training to associate their new perceptions with sounds as they are usually known. In the most successful cases, implant recipients can eventually understand someone talking on the phone—but there is no guarantee of that level of hearing. Still, tens of thousands of people around the world have received the implants, and the procedure is rapidly gaining in popularity.

You Will All Be Assimilated

To a hearing person such as myself, all this sounds very rosy and optimistic. Of course, the surgery is rather delicate and carries with it the usual risks associated with putting holes in one’s head; plus, the cost of the procedure and rehabilitative therapy is quite high. But these are not the primary concerns of the Deaf community. Although the controversy has diminished greatly in recent years, cochlear implants—particularly for children—were strongly opposed by many deaf people for some time because of a fear that they would destroy the Deaf culture in general and the use of sign language in particular.

On the surface, this argument may seem sort of silly to hearing persons. But the Deaf community has a unique culture and language that they rightly consider quite valuable; the thought of losing such a culture to technology is understandably offensive. One of the key beliefs of the Deaf community is that deafness is simply another perfectly valid way of life, not a problem that needs to be fixed. So the intimation that deafness is a “disease” for which cochlear implants are a “cure” smacks of assimilationism: “You must all be like us.” (The 2000 documentary film Sound and Fury examines the controversy over cochlear implants in detail as it follows members of two families through their decisions about whether or not to undergo the procedure.)

Even detractors of cochlear implants allow that this must be an individual decision, and that implants may be a reasonable choice for people who have lost hearing later in life (and who therefore may not have integrated themselves into the Deaf community). But when it comes to implants for children, the story is different. If a deaf child does not receive an implant, he or she is likely to learn sign language easily and adopt the Deaf culture. With an implant, the child is more likely to be treated as a hearing child. However, the imperfect nature of “hearing” provided by the implants may make it difficult to learn spoken English; meanwhile, because the parents have little incentive to raise the child as a deaf person, the child may never learn sign language. The result is that the child has less ability to communicate than if the implant had not been performed. In addition, if the child has partial hearing, the implant may eliminate any possibility of later using a conventional hearing aid by impeding normal functioning of the cochlea.

On the whole, decades of experience with cochlear implants in thousands of children have not borne out these worries, so resistance to implants in children is decreasing somewhat. Conventional wisdom holds that someone with a cochlear implant is still deaf, and many people with implants—children and adults alike—continue to learn and use sign language, participating actively in the Deaf culture. If cochlear implants, in a roundabout way, can promote both bilingualism and biculturalism, that may be their most compelling advantage.

Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Interesting Thing of the Day on October 14, 2004.

Image credit: BruceBlaus [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Interesting Thing of the Day

Depression / PTSD whatever label you want to give it ……. Not everyone can pinpoint the 1st trigger that set them down this path, but I can vividly.

Christmas Day 2016, or rather very early hours of Boxing Day 2016, after watching my father in law die after myself, my mother in law and my own dad performed CPR on him, followed by holding the IV drip while 6 paramedics took in turns to keep working on him. I had to carry his body bag down the stairs as he was a large man and the 2 undertakers they sent weighed 2 stone wet & could barely move him.

While doing this the rest of the family and friends were deeply upset and as the “outsider” I had to be strong, be the rock for them and bury anything I felt at that moment I time, never really dealing with things, laughing it off when people asked if I was OK just saying I was concentrating on my wife & mother in law and I’ll deal with myself at a later date.

That later date never came, at that moment in time my wife was also 3 months pregnant and it was fraught pregnancy involving complications with one of the twins ending up in Manchester St Mary’s Neonatal Intensive Care while my wife had life threatening complications back in Lancaster from the birth.

Once again, I was in a high stress environment unable to do anything for either of them apart from watch in slow motion as the world span round me in black & white. People came down to see me in shifts for those 1st few days but you put a smile on your face and kick the autopilot on and they are none the wiser. He survived his life saving operation as did my wife, but he has been left registered disabled along with an ever-growing list of complications and is collecting new consultants faster than Pokémon!

Its these small stacks of things that keep building like balancing stones, you know you need to deal with it but are afraid to pull at the stones in case it all comes tumbling down around you.

Not many people realise how much hard work being everyone else’s support network is, always trying to support the fragile ones around you even though they haven’t asked, but always at the cost of your own sanity. Always with the fake smile occasionally slipping into a moody face … apparently, it’s been said on more than one occasion that I have resting bitch face, when really, it’s just my mask has slipped. It’s hard to be that rock / foundation if your own footings are now on shifting sands. As hard as it is its best just concentrate on yourself as your no use to anyone else if your broken.

The thing that made me finally talk to a couple of people about it was the suicide of Linkin Parks Chester Bennington for some reason that hit me out of nowhere a seemingly happy man on the outside with the world at his feet had felt compelled to exit. It rang a little too true as I had had a few dark moments when the stack was too high or too wobbly, where you get tunnel vision and it doesn’t matter that you have family & friends that love you and would help if you asked. You just get zoned in on the fact that if you weren’t here it would be easier. The problem with that is it only makes it easier for you, and your no longer around to see the lasting damage you have left behind you.

I’ve only very recently shared any of this with my wife and even now I still feel guilty for loading her with my burden when she has her own.

So the journey starts to find peace of mind / a happy place for me its Scuba diving, it really steadies everything and resets the mind, but with a busy job and family of 5 finding time isn’t easy, but I know it’s important to make this time for me.

1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

2. There are plenty of ways to enter a swimming pool. The stairs ain’t one.

3. The man at the BBQ is the closest thing we have to a king.

4. In a negotiation, never make the first offer.

5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.

6. Request the late check-out.

7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of fuel.

10. Don’t fill up on bread.

11. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.

12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.

13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

14. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket is for her.

15. You marry the girl, you marry her whole family.

16. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.

17. Experience the serenity of traveling alone.

18. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.

19. Never turn down a breath mint.

20. A sport coat is worth 1000 words.

21. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.

22. Thank a veteran. And then make it up to him.

23. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

24. Eat lunch with the new kid.

25. After writing an angry email, read it carefully. Then delete it.

26. Ask your mum to play. She won’t let you win.

27. See it on the big screen.

28. Give credit. Take the blame.

29. Write down your dreams.


Orignal Source – Aaron Conrad –

Part 4 The Pregnancy ….

This is a continuation from Part 1Part 2 & Part 3 of my journal / journey through the IVF process & the thoughts that go with it.


The Pregnancy thing

A normal pregnancy is difficult enough but with a twin one, everything gets twice as big twice as fast, and that’s not just the mum! 2 cots / 2 car seats / twice as many vests / nappies to buy in bulk to stock up. House extensions bedroom / nursery move round.

The IVF thing

Something they don’t tell you but I’ve now found is really common is the disconnect for the man in an IVF pregnancy.  I really struggled to come to terms with the fact I didn’t feel part of this at all, I was all over the 1st one, went to all the scans, had every scan picture blu-tacked to my PC screen at work, felt every kick.

With the IVF pregnancy, I didn’t feel the urge for any of that, was it just because it wasn’t the first-born? Is everyone like this on the second pregnancy or was something deeper happening? I struggled with this for several months. Combined with being in the middle of a massive project at work meant the first scan I attended was almost at the end of the 2nd trimester.

It was only after talking to a men’s IVF group I found it was almost “normal” some found that after the first scan they connected or for some it was even at the birth when it finally clicked into place.

It essentially comes down to the notion that you had nothing to do with the creation of this child / children, the mother still carries for 9 months as normal and has that symbiotic bonding time, where as a father, you almost had zero part to play in it all. The entire decision-making process taken away from you. You have done no more that sign a piece of paper and nip to the loo for a couple of minutes.

So here we go just days left and the world changes again!


(Father of 1 & Expectant Father of another 2 with very little hair / sanity left)

Part 3 A journeys end ….

This is a continuation from Part 1 & Part 2 of my journal / journey through the IVF process & the thoughts that go with it.

So, as we come to the end of the journey and the more astute of you will have noticed the title doesn’t say failed in it anymore! After 105 Injections (Another 198 to go still), 749 Tablets, 20+ Appointments, 10 Months & 3 rounds of IVF we did it!

It is very early days but the other half is carrying a couple (yes you read that right!) of new additions to the household.

As journeys go this has been an arduous one for us both, personally it has pushed me close to breaking point emotionally, mentally & financially and is something I hope none of my friends ever has to go through themselves. Without the support of 2 strong families around us I don’t know how we would have made it through these multiple rounds of IVF each one harder than the last.

I seriously don’t know how I would have coped with another failure, I had nothing left to give and was truly drained of all 3.

We did find solace & comfort in the online Facebook IVF groups, but even at times that was hard as more and more people posted their successes as we found only failure.

Even though we only started IVF earlier this year (approximately 10 months ago) it feels like years have passed, with our lives, careers, holidays all on hold. In fact we’ve been together 8 years this year and we’ve only ever been on 2 holidays and one of them was the year after we met & the other was the honeymoon 5 years ago.

Now our IVF journey ends and we begin a new one as a family of 5, now comes the search for bigger cars, house extensions, double buggies, twice as many nappies etc.

The other upside of twins will hopefully be less arguing when picking names & God parents as there is twice as many spaces to fill this time, although the name suggestions Mrs S keeps coming out with I’m sure she’s a closet hippy! She didn’t like the lets name one each suggestion though, mainly because she knows I would pick Thor Oakenshield or Loki Morningstar.

As these kids have already cost us the same as a mid-size family saloon I’m also very tempted to name one Ford & the other Mondeo, but I don’t think she’ll will let me do that either.

I’m very glad this journey has come to an end successfully and we can move on with the rest of our lives. If you have gone through this already I’m sure you can understand what we went through. If you are going through it, I feel for you and I’m here if you need to talk about it. If you’re not, thank whoever you believe in that you’re not.

If you’ve been with me all the way I hope you enjoyed reading the journey, it’s been a useful cathartic output for me and I enjoyed it even if you didn’t. 🙂

If this was your 1st one please go back and read the 1st 2 parts as well (Part 1 & Part 2) and I hope you find them enlightening and slightly humorous in parts.

Thanks to everyone who read / commented / supported us along the way, it’s surprising how much a how you doing text or thinking of you both message on Facebook goes.

Most people don’t know what to say and just avoid you altogether, but it’s the closest friends that know it’s just any distraction and the odd how you holding up mate that reminds you that there is people outside the IVF bubble you’re in and that they are concerned but sometimes just scared to ask in case its bad news. The recent scope advert for disability actually had some parallels. (Apart from the introduce yourself bit)

Hopefully other friends who’ve been getting a bit tetchy with me will now understand why I’ve be preoccupied / unavailable for lads nights out this past 12 months, at the end of the day getting Mrs S through this IVF have been priority 1 and any slight hiccup with it, it’s been my job to fix / smooth over / reassure that everything is going to be OK while under the surface panicking like hell myself & trying not to show it.

Right I’m off to stockpile on pallets of nappies & wipes and as I’ve twice as many to buy this time make sure you go out and buy a copy of my new book 50 Shades of Blonde! – 50 Shades of Blonde Book

As I said this is the end of our IVF journey but the beginning of a twin pregnancy, so I may well keep posting updates if anyone’s interested.


(Father of 1 & Expectant Father of another 2 with very little hair / sanity left)