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Cochlear Implant

Michelle Nashleanas nashlean at mail.med.upenn.edu
Tue Aug 27 10:10:19 EST 1996

lazybum at cottagesoft.com wrote:

You have a really cute email address.  :-)

: Here real soon, like in the next 30 days, I am set to have a cochlear implant 
: done.  I do have tennitus, and not real sure what to expect out of this.  Not 
: sure if the tennitus will get worse, or maybe get better.

In general, the tinnitus gets better with an implant, at least on the 
implanted side.  I still have a bit of the high-pitched symphony in my 
non-implanted ear, but not in the implanted side.  It is a nice change of 
pace.  Some folks have a transient increase in volume of the tinnitus 
that then disappears, which is annoying cuz it is so loud you can't 
really think clearly, but this goes away in a few days.  

I bet that you're alternately excited, nervous, scared and apprehensive.  
The head is a serious place to go digging about but please believe me 
that the surgery is relatively minor.  I was out of the hospital in a bit 
under 36 hours and I've known of folks who got out of the hospital the 
same day.  You're going to have a rather substantial bald area and plenty 
of stitches from the surgery, but this goes away as the hair grows back.  

In addition, the period between having the surgery and getting hooked up 
is a bit stressful.  You're so full of anticipation that you can drive 
yourself nuts wondering "how well will I do?  How long will it take 
before the benefits carry over into my life?  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE"  It is a 
long 6 weeks.  

: I'm also looking forward to "hearing" from people thats had this done, I'd 
: really like to know what to expect, things I can an can't do.  I really would 
: like to see how those thats had this done like it, both good and bad sides.  

Well, scratch scuba diving from your list of pasttimes.  And you'll have 
to be really gentle with blowing your nose after the surgery.  I feel 
that there are several things that you can do to maximize what you get 
out of the implant:

1.  Go into the mapping sessions with your audiologist (programming of the
	speech processor) with a sense of fun and exploration and 
	experimentation.  Try variations "just to see what it is like" if the
	standard programming doesn't sound decent.  Some of what you hear
	will be absolutely terrible, some will be neat, some annoying,
	and some distracting.  But some will also be really cool.  Remember
	that CI sound is NOT like hearing aid sound.  It is not amplified
	sound, so you won't have distortion.  You need to put some faith
	in the audiologist at the outset especially if s/he has lots
	of experience and has a good feel for maps that optimize 
	speech recognition.  It may sound too quiet to you (compared to 
	HAs) but you'll be amazed at how much less background noise you get,
	and how much more speech sound you get from the implant.

2.  Be nice to yourself after surgery and during the first several months
	of wearing the speech processor.  I can't emphasize this enough.
	You need to minimize your stresses as much as possible because
	you will learn an entirely new way to hear.  It takes a while
	for the sound to make sense initially (especially if you've been
	deaf for 20 years, like I was pre-implantation).  Try not to 
	beat yourself up if communication is difficult, if you get tired
	easily at first (it can be sensory overload in some ways), and
	if you can't make sense of sounds for a while.  Learning to hear
	with the CI is an ongoing process for me, and I've been hooked up 
	for a good 8 months.  

3.  Prepare those around you for the experience.  Tell them that you're 
	getting a Bionic Ear, that the technology isn't perfect but you're
	hoping for an improvement.  Also explain that you'll have to
	rely on them to be patient with you after hookup.  Include those
	around you in the implant experience -- ask them the sources of 
	noises (I was so surprised when I heard a mouse squeak that I 
	dropped it and had to chase it to get it back in the cage) and
	see if they'll spend a little time with you helping you learn to 
	identify words without visual cues.  If you "sell" the implant
	as a really fascinating, potentially life-changing experience
	people are really interested in sharing the journey with you.  
	I found that getting my friends and co-workers and family "into"
	the experience really maximized my performance early in the 
	development of speech recognition, not to mention improving my
	interpersonal relationships.

4.  Get the audiologist to do auditory rehab exercises with you, and then
	do the exercises at home as much as you can.  By the same token,
	more than an hour a day in auditory rehab stuff is tiring and
	annoying, so do it consistently but don't make it your entire life.
	You had a life before the implant, you'll have a life after it, too.
	If the audiologist isn't into giving formal rehab, email me 
	privately and I'll give you some suggestions.

I was very successful early on -- I was using the telephone 2 weeks after 
the initial programming and no longer require interpreters in lab 
meetings or lectures.  It is not perfect -- I'm still hard-of-hearing but 
I can recognize music that I heard in my childhood, and I can even 
identify musical styles of the different artists that we listen to in my 
lab.  Not to say that I actually like rock....  but I can tell who is 
playing now.  I listen to news programs on the radio.  I've listened to 
political commentaries, call-in talk shows, all kinds of stuff while 
doing experiments.  It has been a life-altering experience and I'm 
grateful that I did it.  That is not to say it is for everyone, and I do 
know folks who have not had as much benefit as me, but if you're a strong 
candidate it is pretty much a given that you WILL hear more with the CI 
than with hearing aids.  

Keep us posted!  We're rooting for you!

MEN (Michelle Nashleanas)

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