At a certain stage in your hearing journey, you might reach a time when hearing aids no longer do the job you need. Hearing aids only boost what’s left of your hearing; they can’t boost anything if there is nothing left. That’s when cochlear implants come into play. I’ve been hard of hearing since birth, but I didn’t even realize it until I was in college. I took a hearing test as a routine part of a speech class, and whoa! My hearing was abysmal in the normal speaking range. Effective hearing aids at that time were not really an option, and even by the 80’s and early 90’s, they were of marginal help. I’ve had a series of hearing aids since then, but by 2014, it was clear the aids were not enough.
My hearing was on a steady decline. It was scary to contemplate surgery, but I was at the point where I had to weigh the pros and cons. Was it worth my undergoing surgery and receiving a permanent implant? These are real concerns for people. In my case, I was missing so much that choosing the procedure was a “no brainer.” Also, now the professionals have had plenty of experience and cochlear implant surgery is routine. People wonder about the cosmetic issue of wearing the magnet on their head. I have experienced absolutely no ridicule or curiosity about this, as it is becoming quite common to see cochlear devices on people’s heads.
Three companies make cochlear implants, and you will want to do your homework if you are contemplating going that route. The Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA), which before COVID-19 restrictions held gatherings monthly, was an invaluable resource for me. Desert Cochlear Connections also offers resource material and monthly (now Zoom) meetings. I recommend you contact these organizations at alohaaz.org to begin your search, as well as the Discussion Group for Better Hearing right here in SaddleBrooke (see below), for support and information via their Zoom sessions.
Once you choose surgery and have been implanted, your audiologist will program you to fit your particular hearing needs. This is called “mapping” and sometimes takes multiple visits. Likewise, there is a period of time you need to “train your brain” to understand what you’re hearing. It took me four months of listening to books on tape while I followed along with the written words before I felt like I was understanding most conversations. Some people don’t need so much time. But even right from the start, I heard sounds like birds chirping that I’d missed before. It’s really fantastic!
The one downside I’ve experienced is that the quality of music is not as full and rich as it is naturally. This is slowly improving as my brain “learns” to fill in sounds. For me, “going cochlear” was life changing. Before my procedure I had gradually become less comfortable in groups where I simply could not follow the conversations. And to catch a punch line was impossible. So, if you find yourself in that position, when even wearing hearing aids, I encourage you to investigate whether cochlear implants are right for you.
Consider attending the next monthly Zoom meeting of the Discussion Group for Better Hearing so you can get important knowledge right up front, save money and avoid early mistakes.
Please contact Maria to join upcoming Zoom meetings:
- Thursday, February 11 at 10 a.m.
- Thursday, March 11 at 10 a.m.