Category Archives: Advance Bionics

The Wait

I hope this wait is a lot shorter than the previous one – as in something’s getting done rather than my case sitting around waiting for me to start annoying people. I think it will be. I’ve gotten a CT scan, CI eval and medical eval, the only thing left is for my old audiology office to send them my medical history and the office will “apply” to my insurance. So far everything looks fine and it sounds like I’m getting a recommendation by my surgeon. Big surprise!

I learned some new things my second time around. The biggest thing being that you can’t use regular hearing aid batteries for Cochlear (i.e. go to the grocery store when they die to pick up some new batteries). You have to order them over the Internet. The second one being the financial upkeep on the implant itself. The external warranty expires after three years (at least with the plan that my audiology place is asking for) and after that I have to pay warranty of about $700 a year per external piece. WOWee. But then again this is for me, not everyone else. I also get two external pieces so maybe I can ask for two different colors! Yay! I also understood more about programs. Each implant has a certain number of programs you can go through. I think AB has three and Cochlear has four. So that when you’re going through your mapping process and you don’t like one program or your brain has “learned” that program, you can move onto the next one. Another difference between AB and Cochlear is that Cochlear has a separate setting for T-coil (T-coil is my FRIEND) where as for AB T-coil would have to take up one of the three programs. I think AB has better (?) microphones, sort of? I didn’t really understand it other than you would have to constantly change the ear hook to get the microphone you want. Cochlear might not have as many options, but all the settings are on the external piece and you don’t really have to change out the ear hook.

My next step is balance testing which I get done on the 21st. I asked why I needed to get that done and why it wasn’t needed to request the insurance company to cover the implant, they said that they use this test as a baseline before going into surgery. Makes sense. I hope that I’m doing better than the baseline though, not below it! That would be annoying.

Other than that, not much going on. Just waiting to see when the surgery would be. They told me as early as Feb. But because my medical office is taking a long time to get them the records, I don’t think that’s going to happen.  So maybe March or April.

I also don’t get to get turned on the next day. That’s OK with me. They’re going to wait about two weeks. And then after that I’ll be going in every 2 – 3 weeks.

Color Me Playful

I am faced with a mini dilemma. I have always had what are called “Power Aids”. Throughout my lifetime I have noticed companies adding neat things to their “not-so-powerful” hearing aids like color and the ability to tell the audiologists how many hours you are wearing your hearing aids per day. I never had these little fun items attached to my hearing aids. Whenever a new more powerful aid was placed on the market, I got it. Of course, companies use the entire hearing aid for one purpose, hearing louder and better, no fancy stuff, no neat little gadgets. Blast the marketing techniques! I’ve always had the dreaded beige. I have looked longingly at other people’s hearing aids most of my life with some jealousy. It’s like everyone getting a Ferrari Spider while I get a Ford Taurus. It’s not fair! I tell ye! It’s not fair!

So now I actually have the opportunity to make somewhat of a decision on what I want the outer component of the cochlear implant to look like. If I go with a Cochlear CI, I have a choice of six colors:

Beige, Silver, Black, Brown, Pink and Blue

These are what the batteries look like, but it is my understanding that the whole thing will look like that color, magnet and all. Or I can get:

A mini BTE

The mini! It’ll be like having a Mini Cooper! MINI COOP! MINI COOP! Unfortunately the battery doesn’t last as long (80% of what the regular processor will last). However, I have learned that you can change the color (I think the blue part) any day you want.

Something else to keep in mind. I wear a hearing aid in my left ear which I will keep. The earmold at present is blue (it was my “something blue” for my wedding). That I can change, I’m probably due for a new one anyways – but please don’t make me change the color, I adore my blue earmold. My hearing aid, however, is beige (but of course!) and my hair is light brown. Another thing to think about is that I am working and out of college, so professionalism is always a good thing when networking. (I would be very curious to know how people see these colorful hearing aids/CIs in the workforce)

So it’s poll time!!! Which should I get?

On a side note, Advance Bionics makes them with a lot more colors and designs (which is neat to me!) and if I change my brand preference, I will post them up here.

Cochlear Implant Surgery Risk

So today I looked on the FDA’s Web site on cochlear implants. I was particularly interested in finding out what all the risks are and if anyone has died from the surgery or the cochlear implant itself.

The risks the FDA lists are:

  • Injury to the facial nerve. I knew about this one. My audiologists told me that they take a CAT Scan for this purpose. They want to know if you have any abnormal facial nerves and they want to know where they are. This way, you know your own unique personal risks before you go into surgery as the doctors will sit down and discuss them with you. So they already know where the nerves are. Not only that but they will monitor them during surgery. I think because of this, there is probably less and less of a risk of this actually happening, particularly if you have a good doctor and good genes.
  • Meningitis. I don’t think I’m at risk for this. It sounds like it’s mostly in children up to five years of age. I couldn’t find the exact years, just studies done on that age group. So I don’t know if anyone older has gotten meningitis as a result. But basically if you give the kid a vaccine before surgery, and monitor for the symptoms of meningitis then it should be fine. But then again, parents should be doing these things for their children anyways (hearing or deaf!). I found a study done in the United States on the risk factors. (see below). The number of cases in Clarion users (and two deaths) in this case (of 18,000 surgeries of 60,000 total out there) was a concern among professionals. It was found that the higher risk was because of the “positioner” part of the implant – a positioner is meant to keep the electrodes in place and position them during surgery. The Clairon with the positioner has since been voluntarily recalled and is no longer made. The FDA did not recommend re-implanting children who already had these implants. Remember that the below numbers are from 2002 and are a bit old. There has been another study done in 2004 using the same people from a 2002 study – I’m not sure if the 2002 study involved in this study is the same one that I’ve been talking about. They found that the individuals who had the positioners even two years after the study were at a greater risk of Meningitis than the rest of the population. Remember that the numbers below are from the 2002 study in the first link I posted. Mel-El doesn’t have a risk in the United States, because not many doctors will recommend it (this is my theory).
    • Advanced Bionics ‘Clarion’-8 cases of 7,271 implant
    • Cochlear Corporation ‘Nucleus’-14 cases of 16,617 implants
    • MedEl Corporation ‘Combi 40+’-0 cases
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leakage. The FDA Web site said this was the result of a hole in the inner ear or another hole in the covering of the brain as a result of the surgical procedure. Get a good doctor. I doubt this would happen.
  • Perilymph Fluid Leak. The perilymph is the fluid in the inner ear. I believe it is partly responsible for balance. The FDA said it may leak as a result of the hole they have to make to insert the electrodes. From what it sounded like, my audiologist said that the surgeon will fill this hole with muscle tissue and then your body will heal itself back up. So again, get a good surgeon.
  • Infection of the Skin Wound. Keep it clean, follow the doc’s orders and this shouldn’t happen. If it does you’ll go back to the doc and he/she will probably fix it.
  • Blood or Fluid Collection. Again this is probably something that the doc can fix.
  • Attacks of Dizziness or Vertigo. From what I’ve seen, this will go away as you heal. You just might have to take some pain killers or something. Again, talk to the doc.
  • Tinnitus. This is the one I’m worried about. Some people report more tinnitus. I don’t think there’s a way to fix it, unless you take some medicine. But it’s something that may be a part of your life from then on.
  • Taste Disturbances. Usually these are temporary (that’s what my audiologist made it sound like). I’ve seen articles about how sometimes you can lose taste in half of the taste buds in your tongue. Talk to the doc if you experience this, of course.
  • Numbness. Just like with any cut, scrap, surgery, etc. etc. It’ll be swollen. Ask your doctor when the numbness should go away.
  • Reparative Granuloma. This is inflammation that happens if the body rejects the implant. I’ve heard of docs taking implants out as a result of a malfunction, so I imagine they can take it out if your body rejects it. I have yet to hear about this occurring to anyone. Titanium is well suited for biological things, and your body is not likely to reject it.

So my conclusion so far is that no one has died from the surgery. The only thing a person may die of is Meningitis. I’ll let you know if that is not the case. Also, the surgery is pretty low risk. For the most part, complications can be corrected.

**Again, I am not a medical person. This is why in most every risk I list here, I recommend that you talk to your doctor. So even if I say it may be temporary, I don’t want you waiting for it to go away. Listen to your doctor and talk to your doctor about both the risks before surgery and if you’re experiencing them after surgery. I have found that it’s good to have an idea of what the risks are so you can have more questions ready for your doctor. That is my purpose of posting this list in my blog.

More Thoughts on the Audiology Appointment

The one thing that the audiologist said that kind of spooked me was that I may hear better than my husband. I’ve watch my husband interact in verbal conversations and he does so well, tens of times better than me. He makes relationships and keeps them – not superficial ones, but real ones. Superficial ones would be the type that I have – where I get by with a “hello, how are you” and then look the other way, because God forbid they launch onto a conversation and I get lost in the fray. And now she’s tell me that I could, possibly hear better than him? Now that it’s been a couple of days, I’m kind of excited about that idea. But that’s such a weird concept. Me, Lisa, deaf for 22 years and now I can actually carry on a decent conversation without trying to control my environment? Who does that make me? My happiness has been based on being happy with who I am and I have spent so long trying to do just that. And now I feel almost like I have to adjust to a different sense of self and be OK with that. I. King Jordan said “Deaf people can do anything, except hear.” So now it’s kind of starting to turn into “Deaf people can do anything, and hear.” It’s like the hearing aspect is just a separate part of me in that sentence, but yet it’s not – “deaf people”. I could go with the people first language and that would be just a part of me that’s not really “attached”. I don’t know if any of what I just said made sense.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t over analyze things. I read other blogs, and it’s very easy, it’s very fun. I hope it’s actually that way for me when all is said and done. Like I hope people call me or sit next to me because they want to get to know me, and not try to disapperate every time I’m near or hurry me off the phone. I’m tired of that. It makes me feel isolated and I’m sure that others don’t think it’s fun trying to communicate with me either.

But at the same time, I do like being deaf. It makes me different, it makes me unique, it has turned me into a better person – in my opinion. But perhaps being deaf has taught me all that I need to know for my life and now it’s time to try something different.

I was watching a movie that Advanced Bionics gave to me. It was about a little girl who was given a good language foundation before being implanted at 3 1/2 years old. They did everything: FM systems, hearing aids, sign language. That little girl made a lot of the similar strides that I did when I was growing up. I did it with my hearing aid. I was out of speech therapy at 3rd grade. I was down to one hour of deaf education every two weeks at that time too. I did well in school and finished with good marks, and I made friends with people who may not have been popular but who liked me. I just feel like, jeez if I can do a lot of the things that people with implants can do, why am I getting one? I guess I hope to hear more than I do. Just a bit might help me face challenges in everyday life.

I’m getting excited about it too. I almost wish I was going into the hospital next week. All this talk about it makes me curious. What would that sound like? Would my hearing be as good as my audiologist said?

A Visit with an Audiologist – The Pre-Determination Process

My husband and I went in for our audiologist appointment on Friday – nothing says romance when you get your assistive listening devices check out together! I waited patiently while he went first. He just got two new behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids for his moderate hearing loss and needed to get them adjusted. We left for lunch and came back later to talk with a different audiologist who specializes in cochlear implants.

So we came back from lunch to meet with the audiologist. There were a lot of things I learned that I didn’t know before and some things I learned about even though I heard about them (she just made them make more sense). I expected to walk in there to be whisked away for the hearing test and THEN ask the questions. But she sat us down and just talked first. My husband and I just racked our brains of all the questions we could think of and asked her. We must have been there for two hours. Time wasn’t important, understanding was. First off, she really put us at ease, well me anyways at least. I think the fact that she could answer our questions with more information than what we had, was wonderful. She understood our concerns with the surgery and the outcomes of getting a cochlear implant. She understood the propaganda that was going on out there with both people in general and the cochlear implant companies. Not only that but she has told us not to worry about work, scheduling the surgeon, insurance, etc., etc. she would take care of all that stuff. It was up to us to make that decision: that is the only stress we have at the moment, which is such a relief (I have a huge dislike for dealing with insurance people – I’ve done that in the past, and I don’t look forward to doing it again) .

One of our questions was: How fast would this all take? The reason why was my job contract ends at the end of December. It may be renewed again, but it may not and if it doesn’t, I would lose the insurance I have and have to start all over. The answer she gave came as almost a shock to us. One of my other concerns was that I didn’t want to miss that much work.

She told us that we could get the CAT scan, blood work, other testing, surgery, mapping and (I think) a secondary mapping all in a week and a half. The incision that the surgeon would make would be so small that the swelling wouldn’t be that bad and thus the magnets could attach the very next day (the one that’s under my skin and the one that would go on the outside would be able to attach together). There isn’t anything postponing the activation date except the swelling of the skin. The incision that would be made would only be about two inches and would go behind my ear.

Our next question was: which implant? There are three major cochlear implant companies: Cochlear, Advance Bionics and Med – El. She told us that Med-El was really behind in CI technology (and they look ugly – my audie said they look like a gun), so that was off our list right away. Advance Bionics has had three recalls total. They provide a range of colors for the external piece and rechargeable batteries. Cochlear hasn’t had any recalls and they have a disposable battery as well as (I think) rechargeable ones. The quality of sound is pretty much the same for either AB or Cochlear.

The next was: am I a qualified candidate? We told her I had meningitis when I was two. That worried her a little because if you get meningitis then bone may fill up the cochlea and thus I can’t get one. That’s when I went to get my hearing test done. If I respond at all to the hearing test in my right ear (that’s the one I would get implanted), then I shouldn’t have that problem. I did respond and the audiologist declared me a candidate.

Next steps: My audiologist is calling my insurance company for approval, she is also talking to the surgeon about my case and says she will get back with me. In the mean time I can e-mail her as many questions as I want (which I fully intend to do!). I will let you know what happens.