Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm No Jamie Sommers

I've had a few people ask me if I can hear better yet, and I realized very few hearing people understand what exactly the cochlear implant does and how it works.

First of all, a cochlear implant isn't anything like the Bionic Woman on TV in the 70s. It is NOT a miraculous cure that suddenly restores hearing. It is a technological device that stimulates the cochlear nerve directly. A hearing aid sends sound waves through the middle ear, but the cochlear implant works directly on the inner ear. For more details, check out this article at called, "How the Nucleus 5 Works". (That's the brand I received.)

Second, the cochlear implant is a two-part process. The first stage is having the implant inserted into the cochlear nerve surgically. The second stage is setting up the sound processor to work with the implant (called mapping).

In my previous blog, "Cochlear Implant Timeline" (written under the influence of anesthesia and Percocets), I described to the best of my ability what I went through during my surgery.

The second stage, mapping the sound processor, will take place in 2 – 3 weeks. The sound processor looks similar to a hearing aid, except it uses a magnetic coil to send sounds from the processor directly to the cochlear implant. Without the sound processor, I am completely deaf in my left ear. I won't ever be able to use a hearing aid again. That's what I meant when I said, "If the implant doesn't take, I'm screwed."

My doctor is optimistic that I will be able to use the cochlear implant, but keep in mind, using the implant doesn't happen overnight. Recipients have to be trained to recognize sounds digitally. With auditory therapy and a lot of hard work, I may be able to understand words and sounds without needing the visual cues I use now, like speech-reading.

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