Square One

When you pull out “Trouble” or “Monopoly,” the game starts at square one. Life is a little like that sometimes. Let me explain.

I am a deaf, 24-year-old female, considering a cochlear implant. It wasn’t but a month ago that I thought it would never happen to me. This wasn’t ever going to be part of my life plan. Children, yes. A graduate degree, yes. But a cochlear implant was no where in that horizon. It may have been the very thought of that invasive surgery that I would have to go through. Or maybe it was the social stigma of having such an ugly thing attached to my head (and this is from someone who wears a hearing aid every day). Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t think it would work, or at least not be much of a benefit to me. Maybe too, that I picked up a little on the deaf community’s strong stance against them, which, by the way, seems to grow weaker by the day.

Sign language is my best friend. It is my communication tool. It is my foundation of confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, I don’t use it as much as I would like. Everyday I am continuously using spoken English. Very rarely do I get a chance to use my beloved language any more. I think it has to do with my move from Austin. I am living in a post-Katrina New Orleans. The deaf community has all but disbursed here. Before the hurricane, the deaf community thrived. Several deaf organizations were in place. A deaf club was still in business. A lot has changed.

But it is not only the current location that has me thinking. I will have hearing children. While I know I’ll be a good parent, I think they deserve me to try as hard as I can to provide for their all needs and that includes hearing them a little better. I’ve had countless nightmares of not being able to save someone such as my children from death or serious injury because of my hearing. Which I know is fruitless, because I may save someone from a certain death because I can’t hear. Life’s funny that way. But still I worry.

This is where the cochlear implant comes in. A good friend pointed out to my stubborn self that cochlear implant is just like sign language – it’s a communication tool. It’s communication that gives me that sense of confidence about myself, not specifically the language.

It also does not make me hearing. I will always be deaf, perhaps even deafer than I have ever been. I take off that cochlear implant, as when I do my hearing aid, I am deaf.

But now is not the time to make that decision. The only decision I’ve made so far is to get myself evaluated. That is after all square one. It involves no invasive surgery. It involves no life-changing decisions. It’s just going to see the good doctor who will hopefully tell me how much I will and won’t benefit from a cochlear implant.

So to do that, I first approached my health insurance company last week. I wasn’t sure what square one was, so I thought it was probably smart to find out if they would pay for it. Unfortunately, I spent my first half hour on the phone with someone who didn’t even know what a cochlear implant is before asking for a supervisor. I don’t know why I bothered with her, she only made me worry more and told me that a cochlear implant would not be covered with my plan. When I got the supervisor on the phone, I was informed that she would have to get back with me because she needed to find out the specifics of my plan. And that was that for about four days. My husband got the call for me that they did indeed cover it. Square one accomplished!

There was one catch, so I got to go back a half a square. I wasn’t sure what to do next. My husband took the call, so I really didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I spent the next couple of days trying to contact someone who does cochlear implant evaluations with no avail. before finally confessing to my husband what I was doing. He told me to go talk to the insurance company again.

They told me yesterday that I had to go through a “pre-determination” process. Basically I have to find a doctor who will vouch for me and tell the insurance company that I really do need this cochlear implant. So goody, I get to convince the doctors before they convince me. That shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve had several audiologists who have tried pushing the cochlear implant with me in the past, telling me what an ideal candidate I would be. *I’m rolling my eyes a bit here*. So I moved up and completed my square. Now onto square two – the pre-determination process.

The women I talked to at my insurance company told me that there was a committee that reviewed documents that the doctor submits (and when she said doctor, she meant ANY doctor/specialist) but she didn’t know what the qualifications were. So I have to pass some secret qualification test. I’m very curious as to what’s on this test. I also find it interesting that health insurance has so much control over whether or not I get covered. If they deny me, I hope it’s not over something stupid like I have a “pre-existing” condition. I would contest that. After all, the cochlear implant is so new that most people would have a “pre-existing” condition. I think that might reasonably change in the future, which makes me sad.

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