What's Wrong With Cochlear Implants? Part 1
It's Deaf Awareness over at Weekly HubMob!
- Cochlear Implant and Cell Phones
Much better explanation and photos of how cochlear implant looks and works right here!
What It's All About
Cochlear implantation is a technology that is now mostly known by the mainstream. I believe it is at a stage of acceptance and resignation by both deaf culture and the mainstream. It is one of the many devices that acts as boosters or aid to the daily lives of the hearing impaired. People find ways to function better, to communicate, to get around. There are wheelchairs and limb prosthetics for the physically disabled. There are corrective lenses and glasses for the vision impaired. Yet, cochlear implant could be considered the bane of deaf society's existence. So, what was wrong with cochlear implants?
- What's Wrong With Cochlear Implants? Part 2
Don't miss part 2 here! What you're about to read here is what happens after the implant has been turned on.
What I Know
In 2003, I was given a suggestion to look into cochlear implantation. At 15, I had spent my entire life from the age of 2 wearing hearing aids with very small, imperceptible success. With hearing aids, I could make out sounds that would come to me as a white noise. I could hear distinct voices but never make out the words unless I was lip reading. The baffling thing was that when I removed it, there was not a single sound that existed. So, how was the hearing aid working if it only worked as an amplifier to what sounds you could hear? It is still a mystery to me.
My damage was done externally. I had gone from a dancing and singing, hearing child to a quiet, deaf one with a single blow in 1989. It was this blow that took my mother away. I had little to no hearing. Because of this, when my grandmother signed me up to be a candidate for cochlear implant surgery, I was warned that cochlear implant may not work for me.
be a candidate, I had months of bloodwork and audio testing done. I
was kept up to date on all of my shots. Then, with a counselor, I had
to confirm that I had a support system set up with my family where they
understood the work that had to be done post-surgery. Once my implant
was clicked on, I had years of retraining my brain and ear ahead of me.
Cochlear implant is never a cure-all, end-all for hearing impairment.
They only work with what tools are left inside your ear, i.e. your
nerves. I missed quite a bit of school, but they allowed me to make up
for it by having schoolwork with me every time my grandmother took me
four hours to Chapel Hill.
So, the date was set just before Thanksgiving of 2003. The surgery consisted of delicate cutting of my scalp behind my left ear so that they could attach a metal to my skull and wire the cochlea. Post-surgery, I was taken home for Thanksgiving break. I spent most of the week with a wrap around my head since I essentially had an open wound. Much of that week was a blur because I was so tired from the painkillers.
For thirty days, that incision had to have time to heal. There was no external device to click on any hearing yet. That came when the month was up.
Christmas break rolled around and I had a present. To get this present, I had to ride the four hours once again to Chapel Hill. My stitches had fused and the surgery line had healed. Everything looked good. Excitement was palpable.
I was tested again. Then, I had the external device assembled and hooked up to a computer before the magnet was touched against the metal under my skin. It clicked. Audio testing program came up on the screen. The decibels had to be kept absolutely low so that sounds did not burst in my brain and burst whatever nerves I had left. The audiologist increased it gently, slowly, until my ear felt too sensitive. I could hear fairly good! I couldn't yet make out distinct sounds or words, but I could hear things that I hadn't heard before. It took time, a lot of time, to recognize what those things were.
The first public outing with this device on was a Chinese restaurant right after I had my cochlear turned on. We sat next to a fish tank. I was fascinated by the warbling and bubbling sounds, as well as hearing Chinese accent. But the noise still sounded electronic and tinny, and at times grated my nerves raw.
That's where the retraining the ear comes in. I had speech therapists that doubled as audio trainers. After tune-ups, practice, audio and speech training, the noise around me had increased to an almost normal hearing range. I had adapted.
Mainstream Wild Child
I was neither part of the deaf culture nor the hearing world. Because my family all had hearing, I had to adapt and take part in the mainstream society. Not without sacrifice on my family's end, though. They spent a lot of time learning sign language for me. So, together, we navigated this in-between world of mine. It's not a far stretch, then, for those with cochlear implant to be considered stuck between two worlds. I already had been. It felt like no change socially except I was highly expected to suddenly be healed and hear like everyone else.
So, what was wrong with cochlear implants? Tune in to the next hub!
World of Cochlear Implants
- Hearing Journey - Cochlear Implant Forum
A very warm and supportive group of people who are very informative on this subject! They are currently my favorite audience.
- Cochlear Implant Information
Very useful, comprehensive list of links to information about cochlear implants.
- Cochlear Implant Online
Someone compiled a list of a variety of online support groups for parents of children with cochlear implant, cochlear implant users, Cochlear users, Advanced Bionic Users, Med-El users, Auditory-Verbal parents, professionals, etc.
- Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Companies
A guide for people looking for more information on companies and hearing professionals in general.
- MED-EL - The Hearing Implant Company
Another company that provides services and products for those wanting or have cochlear implant.
- Cochlear: World leader in advanced hearing solutions.
Another company. This was one of the first to introduce cochlear implant devices.
- Cochlear implant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article has really good photos that explain the metal/cochlea wiring/external device terminology that I used in this hub.
- Advanced Bionics
One of the few companies in the cochlear implant industry! This is what brand my device is.