One week from tonight, I’ll be sitting in a hotel room in Nashville going over my notes and my list of questions for my audiology evaluation and meeting with the cochlear implant surgeon. What once seemed so far away is right around the corner!
The audiological evaluation will be extensive. It will evaluate the hearing in both ears, including the pure tone audiogram and speech recognition testing.
One of the main factors in determining cochlear implant candidacy is comparing what the expected benefit from a cochlear implant would provide over the benefit you receive from hearing aids. My hearing aids were purchased in 2013, so they are not old by any standard. I have them cleaned and tested regularly, which is something that I will be asked about. In my case, my hearing tests show that my hearing continues to decline, so the progressive nature of my hearing loss will be a key factor in the decision making process for candidacy.
I’ll also meet with the surgeon for a medical evaluation.
For both of these appointments, I have my own set of questions. I’ll be interested in knowing their experience with each of the 3 cochlear implant devices available in the marketplace today. How many implants they have done, both per year and in total, with each of the available products. I’ve read about the use of a hearing preservation technique when inserting the electrode and will ask if that technique will be used. To clarify, even if there is no residual hearing preserved, the technique has been shown to help minimize tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
One other question, that I’d never known to ask if it weren’t for my friends on a hearing loss and cochlear implant discussion board, is how the implant itself it placed. Everything I read about said that the surgeon makes a well in the skull for the implant to be inserted and attached in. I’ve since learned that some surgeons merely place the implant under the skin in the same general area. The people I’ve read about who have had this approach have all complained about having much more pain and sensitivity around the implant, mostly because it is protruding from the skull and not protected by the skull where the skin and muscle cover it.
The last appointments of my day are for a MRI and CT scan. I was surprised to learn that I’d need both, however, I’ve learned that each has a place in the evaluation of the inner ear structure, nerve structure, and the skull area.
One of the biggest questions I have, and am looking forward to asking, is which ear the surgery will be performed on, OR if it would be possible to do both at the same time. I do believe that the hearing and speech perception in each ear is poor enough to qualify, I just don’t know how priority is determined and when someone is a candidate for simultaneous bilateral surgery. I have not been able to find much written about how such determinations are made in adults (there is a lot written on this topic for children). I’ll be sure to share what I learn!