Category Archives: hearing aids

Why I Like Options

Options, to me, open doors. My father used this analogy once: the more options you have, the more doors available (i.e. opportunities) but you kind of have to make sure you have access options through preparation. Well he didn’t say that exactly, but that’s what I took from it.

The Inauguration was like that for me in a couple of ways. We were planning to watch it at work and I spent a couple of days trying to find it captioned. The tricky part was to find it live streamed since we don’t have TV. I was really happy that I was able to find this opportunity. I e-mailed the link to my IT guy and we were ready to go. Then the night before I noted another link that was being passed around for the Inauguration in ASL. I already had a plan so I didn’t think much of it. Come Inauguration morning, I noticed that we were having issues with the Internet. We couldn’t get on the Web site that had the captions due to the enormous amount of traffic! We tried and tried, but without success. So I told my IT guy to find it live streamed on another Web site and I would try the link with ASL. Success! I was able to watch Obama’s speech live in ASL. I was so thankful that I knew ASL, or this opportunity would not have been available to me and I would have missed it.

After the speech, I went back to my office. I had a lot to work on! I took off my hearing aid but left my Cochlear Implant on. I do this sometimes to give my ears some rest. It’s hard work trying to hear all of the time! After awhile, I realized I was hearing, with just my cochlear implant, the end of the National Anthem from three office doors down the hallway! That is amazing, I don’t think I could recognize that with my hearing aid.

I think it’s amazing what you can do with a little awareness, a skill or a tool. Something to think about and expand on.

The Difference Between Test Scores and Life

I have been waiting for my audiologist to scan and e-mail me my scores. But, atlas, she has probably been busy. So I am going to give you approximates.

I went into see my audiologist a week and a day ago. We did our usual adjustments followed by questions and answers before I made my way to the sound booth. I had been nervous about this test all week. It really felt like a test I was going to fail, miserably. Let me explain; I have been at odds mentally for awhile now. Now that the CI has started to sound better, I have noticed that the more I wear it, the worse my hearing aid sounds. A lot of people say this is a good thing; I am hearing things I’ve never heard before with my hearing aid and I’m hearing it at a louder level. It just still doesn’t sound quite right and honestly sounds frustrating. My audiologist sat down with me before the test and explained to me that I need to start accepting that my cochlear implant is the “normal” one, not my hearing aid. She said that many people are trying to “make” their CIs sound like their hearing aids and that is simply not going to be the case: the CI can turn the volume up louder than a hearing aid can and a CI can “hear” more frequencies. I think that has been my frustration which has led to me to putting my CI aside, once again, in favor of my hearing aid.

The other thing that was interesting was that when I walked into the audiologist office, my CI was on “directional microphone” and at a sensitivity level of 4. This meant that I was hearing what was in front of me and not very far away from me either. I couldn’t hear things behind me or further than like a foot in front of me. It just goes to show my lack of tolerance for loud noises!!!!

I’m afraid of letting go of what I’ve known for the last 23 years. I purposely got my right side implanted to avoid this, and what do you know, I have to do it anyways. I think everyone is scared of change, and that’s what makes a cochlear implant so controversial.

So back to the sound booth. She did a normal hearing test with only the cochlear implant on and two sentence-recognition tests: one in quiet and one in noise. I could not lip read.

My hearing in my right ear pre-surgery was at about 110 dBs. When she got done with the hearing test, it was at 20 dBs; which puts me up there at “normal” hearing. All I can say is “Holy smokes”.

The sentence recognition tests were amazing too. I got 82 percent of the sentence-recognition test in quiet correct and 51 percent in noise correct. This is up from I believe 13 percent and 0 percent respectively.

In my right ear (with my hearing aid), I only got 38 percent in quiet! It is such a huge difference.

I was sent home with homework:

  • Increase the sensitivity setting on my CI.
  • Listen with just my CI for an hour or more each day.
  • Work on listening skills with a book from Advanced Bionics.

I go back Thanksgiving.

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.

Myths About Cochlear Implants

I thought I would make a list of things I once thought, but turned out not to be true about cochlear implants. A couple of them are also what I’ve observed from other people’s perceptions.

1. The string of electrodes destroys the remainder of the hairs(cilia) in the cochlea. FALSE! Technology has evolved (starting a good while ago) to where the electrodes are flexible and can “hug” the cochlea. Before it was “stiffer” and when the surgeon inserted it, it would hit against the sides of the cochlea and thus destroying the hairs.

2. The internal piece erodes later in life. FALSE! The internal component is made with titanium, which does not corrode.

3. You can’t get an MRI with the implant without taking the internal piece out. FALSE and TRUE. I’m not sure what all of the companies do, but I know for a Cochlear CI, the magnet aspect is easy to remove and can be separated from the rest of the internal implant. So if you needed a MRI, they would just simply make a slit in your skin and pull out the magnet (this is how I understood it). There are also other types of machines available that does not do the same thing as a MRI, but can find out the same types of information. For example, a CAT scan involves taking a jug of iodine or another contrast material (which is pretty gross by the way!) and a machine takes “sliced” x-rays of your body.

4. You can’t go scuba diving. FALSE and TRUE. I have been told that you can engage in “recreational” scuba diving – at least with Cochlear (it’s best to talk to your audi for the specifics – they can tell you the maximum distance you can go underwater), but if you’re one of those people who goes looking for ship wrecks, then this might not be for you.

5. You can hear perfectly from the moment you’re activated. FALSE. For the most part, people report hearing “bells” or “Mickey Mouse” (if they’re lucky). It may take a month or two or three to start really understanding speech. People often have to engage in therapy such as listening to audio books and following along in the book itself. The audi will usually send “homework” home with the recently-activated implantee. Remember, you haven’t used that part of the brain in years, if at all, it takes awhile for it to adapt. The human brain is a wonderful thing in that it can adapt to things so well, no matter what age. Now age is a factor, when you’re a child, you’re neurons are constantly changing to fit your needs. But later in life, it may take longer for them to “learn” something. That’s why it’s good to practice. This can be applied with hearing aids and ASL too.

6. Cochlear Implants cure deafness. FALSE. It’s a COMMUNICATION TOOL, just like hearing aids, just like ASL. I don’t even think that a person who has one can have perfect hearing (although I could be wrong). I was told that I may hear at the 30 to 40 db range if I get one. A 20 db to 0 db is a normal range. At the end of the day, when someone takes it off to go to sleep at night, they are deaf.

I think this rumor is probably one of the most damaging rumors out there. What if you’re in an emergency and you’ve lost your cochlear implant? How will you communicate with people? How will you hear the fire alarm at night? How will your child (with a cochlear implant) get out of the house in time? Those are some things that people with cochlear implants need to ask themselves. It’s not something to be taken for granted. I’m in New Orleans and a lot of people talk about those folks that didn’t have hearing aid batteries or cochlear implant batteries as a result of the hurricanes. Organizations were donating these things to evacuees. But imagine if you were someone in a shelter and you didn’t have a place to recharge your batteries and people were saying over a PA system “If you are deaf, come to the front.” (I’ve heard that same story over and over again, it took people who knew sign language or who knew how to communicate with people with hearing loss to go through the shelter to get to these people – they would hold up signs – and these people didn’t have access to these shelters right away) You’re not going to hear that. It’s always good to have that emergency plan.

** a side note, like my disclaimer says, I am not a medical person. It’s always best to ask your doctor/audi about these things. I’m publishing this as a list of things I’ve come to understand in this process of researching cochlear implants.

More Jokes

I went to a Web site the other day during my lunch break to look for deaf jokes. I spent my lunch break laughing and sharing the laughter with others I thought might appreciate the jokes. My absolute favorite ones on the Web site I found was:

One day at the end of a church meeting, the person conducting asked, “is there was anything more that needs to be brought up before we end the meeting?”
One of the oldest members slowly raised his hand. “Yes. I guess I should tell you that I’m going to have to resign my position.”
Most of the members around the table looked surprised at the gentleman.
He continued, “I went to the doctor the other day. I now have AIDS.”
Astonishment filled the room. As they starred at him in amazement, he went on.
“It’s true. I now have an aid in my left ear and another in my right ear!”
(Kerry Rasmussen from Ogden, Utah swears this is a true story.)

Doctor, I think I’m losing my hearing!
What are the symptoms?
It’s a show about a little yellow family, but what
has that got to do with my problem?

(If you don’t get it, look under cut for the joke)

Continue reading

What is a Cochlear Implant?

I just realized that I’ve posted all these posts without explaining exactly what a cochlear implant is. Basically, a string of electrodes are surgerically-implanted through the mastoid bone (I believe) and into the cochlea, which is that snail looking thing in your ear. There is a wire that leads up to the receiver and stimulator. Included in that receiver/stimulator is a magnet. This part lays on top of a section of your skull that has been flattened to make room for it.

Illustration of a cochlear implant in an ear.

All of the parts of the cochlear implant in this photo are gray – except the speech processor – that’s biegn. This is a photo off of Wikipedia. Click on photo for link.

Then on the outside of the head (the non-surgerical part) is the transmitter which is attached very much like a kitchen magnet would to the receiver and stimulator (these two pieces are in fact magnets). Then a wire is attached to the speech processor, the part that looks very much like a hearing aid.

This is not a hearing aid in the fact that a hearing aid just amplifies sound. A cochlear implant in effect replaces the hairs that are missing and stimulates my cochlea the way the hairs inside the cochlea should.

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.