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Cochlear Implants

In my last post, “I don’t need hearing aids!”, I wrote about hearing aids and how much they can improve your quality of life.  I shared a story from a friend that described her experience so well. Now I would like to share information about Cochlear Implants.

When I first started attending HLAA meetings in 2006, I had never met anyone with a Cochlear Implant (CI).  I imagined that anyone with a CI would be very hard of hearing and difficult to understand.  Boy, was I wrong!  We had so many members with CI’s who could hear and speak almost as well as a hearing person.  The technology of cochlear implants has improved so much and the many CI wearers I have met feel that getting a cochlear implant turned their lives around.

I would like to clarify that the people I know with CI’s are late deafened adults.  They grew up hearing and later lost their hearing.  I know there is a lot of controversy about children getting CI’s and about trying to “fix” a deaf child rather than raising the child in the Deaf community using sign language.  That is a completely different topic than late deafened adults.

I would also like to emphasis that you no longer lose all your residual hearing when getting a CI.  Cochlear Americas has developed a hybrid CI that is a combination hearing aid and cochlear implant that allows you to keep your hearing in the lower frequencies. I don’t doubt that the other CI manufacturer’s will soon have something similar.  Click here for more information about the Cochlear Nucleus Hybrid Implant.

So, if you find your hearing aids no longer help you and you are struggling to communicate, I recommend you at least get evaluated for a CI and learn your options.  Most private insurance companies and Medicare will cover the cost of a cochlear implant.

Here are CI stories shared by three friends.

From Char S.

Over seven years ago, a cochlear implant allowed me to be me again. A progressive hearing loss starting at the tender age of 15 had made me concentrate on hiding my inability to hear. I found it more and more difficult to be myself and fit in. I was ashamed that I couldn’t measure up. Simply unable to admit hearing loss, I mourned each drop in hearing, which was progressing predictably over the years while responding somewhat to advancing technology in hearing aids.  Finding a support group did wonders for my self confidence and I was thriving at work, but when the telephone became increasingly problematic, I tested and qualified for a CI.  However, it took almost four years after that to finally schedule the operation.  I don’t regret not getting one sooner.  The right time is different for each person.  After the CI I was able to hear birdsong again, something I had been missing for several years.  I could listen to talk shows and music on the radio while driving to work. I was back to using the telephone in the office, although conference calls were still tricky.  I could participate in conversations in a relaxed manner and actually enjoy social and work interactions again.  The CI didn’t just give me the world of sound, it opened me up to the world around me.

From Corinne B.

After I was diagnosed as a cochlear implant candidate, I made the first appointment available.  Right before Christmas in 2012.  When I was finally activated, I was in love!  I could hear voices.  They sounded like Mickey Mouse, but I heard them!  The Micky Mouse quality soon changed as my brain learned to hear a different way.  My world opened up.  I went to social situations.  HLAA meetings were a joy! I was elected to the board of the San Diego Chapter and soon as the Vice President.  In 2015, I received my second implant.  I have been blessed to have had very good progress with both of my implants – but I work at it too. I spent over three hours a day using rehabilitation software on my computer.  I make use of the telephone with confidence that my CI manufacturer offers.   I wear my implants from the time I wake up until my head hits the pillow at night. And I know that I am blessed to live in the days of the technology we have.  Had I been born fifty years earlier or even twenty, life would be infinitely more difficult.

From Susan A.

My CI has been a life changing experience.  It has helped my personal relationships immensely by making hearing more effortless.  My CI is an Advanced Bionics Naida and it is fab.  The company’s technology and customer service is amazing.  I now have a Roger pen that I can use on my travel tours and I do not miss a word.  Also use the Roger that streams into my CI to hear my colleagues at meetings and in the workplace.  Watch out everyone “Susie is listening”, and does not feel so left out of conversations!!

The technology continues to improve! Now there are many accessories available to use with your CI such as TV streamers, wireless microphones, Bluetooth phone clips, etc.  The three companies that manufacture cochlear implants are:  Cochlear Americas, Advanced Bionics, and MED-EL.  Cochlear Americas products are compatible with Resound accessories;  Advanced Bionics CI’s are compatible with Phonak accessories;  MED-EL implants work with all generic assisted listening devices (as opposed to only working with one brand).

This 2 minute video explains how a cochlear implant works.

Many thanks to Char, Corinne and Susan for sharing their stories.  If you would like to share your personal experience with cochlear implants, please leave a comment.  THANKS!