I went to Nashville/Vanderbilt yesterday to have the new cochlear implant for my right ear activated (hooked up and turned on).
It’s been 3 years since I lost most of the hearing in my right ear. That isn’t an absolute indicator of what I would be able to hear at activated, but does play a role.
First step is to find the level of sound that is loud enough, but not uncomfortable. That level will gradually increase over time as my brain gets used to the sound transmission. After that, comes the moment of truth, so to speak. What can I hear at activation. I could immediately hear voices fairly clearly, which is absolutely fantastic! So many people I have met started out hearing beeps or noises that sound like static – you don’t see those videos posted online. Individuals who have that activation experience have a natural reaction of sadness. Fortunately, though, with time nearly all will be able to understand speech to some degree.
For the first week, I only have programming options to increase or decrease volume with the goal of being able to be comfortable with increases in volume. I will also be doing listening exercises to help me distinguish between words and consonant sounds. There are tons of words that sound very similar. Most of the exercises involve a voice saying a word and I have to pick that word out from a list of possible words. It’s boring, and tedious, but necessary. I’ll also be removing the left processor as much as possible to help the right ear progress faster.
We also checked my residual hearing and as of now there isn’t any. There is still fluid and swelling in my inner ear, so it is possible that there is some residual hearing. I do have some in my left ear. One of the research studies I’m in studies the way the electrode is inserted into the cochlea where hearing naturally occurs. It’s a double blind study, so the surgeon doesn’t know which way he will use until the time of surgery.
Hearing in “stereo”, even if it isn’t perfect yet, is wonderful.
I’m still having some balance issues, but it’s much better than a week ago. My mouth is extremely dry and part of my tongue is still numb. I’m told that it could take a month to a year for those things to go away. I’m rooting for something closer to that month mark!!
Next week I will have a one week after activation appointment with the audiologist and then we’ll move a little past just having volume programs. There are benefits to having bilateral cochlear implants from the technology standpoint. One benefit is a setting called DuoPhone. During phone calls, when I hold the phone to my ear the cochlear implant for that ear will actually send the sound to the other cochlear implant so I can hear the sound of the call in both ears at the same time. Isn’t that amazing?
More to come after next week’s appointment.