The first step to determining if I can get a cochlear implant was to make an appointment at one of the centers in Pittsburgh with a neuro-otologist and cochlear implant surgeon. My insurance required that I go to Eye and Ear Institute, an old, familiar friend. I did my clinical rotations there as a student, I’ve been a patient there, and I’ve sent my patients there for services and cochlear implant evaluations. I felt very comfortable making my first appointment with the surgeon.
That first appointment was fast: I’d already completed the requisite paperwork, I had a recent audiogram, and I had a CT scan on file that the surgeon could review. We discussed whether to go forward with the testing to determine my candidacy, and I told him I was ready. He said if I met candidacy he would have no qualms going forward with the surgery. I was happy to hear this. Although, I was pretty sure I was a candidate, I still had some doubts. Hearing the surgeon agree to take me as his patient added to my confidence and I started looking forward to having the final determination.
The implant audiologist had a busy schedule, so I had to wait six more weeks to be tested. It felt like time actually slowed down as I awaited this appointment. People kept asking me if I was excited or nervous. I was both. I knew the results could go either way. I’ve seen the disappointment of my patients after being denied an implant — the testing disqualified them even though all signs indicated they were a candidate. I guess I was wearing emotional armor while awaiting the test results.
I won’t keep you waiting — my left ear qualifies for the implant! The testing went well! They definitely put me through my paces during the audiology testing — I had to perform four critical-listening tests for speech and one test for hearing beeps.
Each test was performed with my hearing aids, but only one ear at a time. For the first test, I repeated long, single-word lists (about 50 words per ear). That was difficult because there was no context or clues. For the second test, I repeated sentences that were read to me slowly. This was a good deal easier because I had some context. My better ear actually performed well! My left ear barely registered what I was hearing — I might as well have just guessed my responses. For the third test, I repeated sentences read more quickly with four different voices, two female and two male. That was so hard. It was weird that one of the more bass, low-pitched males was actually harder for me to hear. I thought it would be the other way around. The final critical-listening test was sentences in noise. That test was impossible; I don’t think I heard more than a few words.
As I said, each test was performed on only one ear at a time. My brain doesn’t like that! I much prefer to have both hearing aids in together. Before we wrapped up the test, the audiologist had me use both hearing aids together, just to see. I was thinking to myself, “This is going to be much easier.” I was WRONG! Even having both hearing aids in, I only understood 16% for the speech-in-noise test.
By the time I saw the surgeon for the medical consult I was so wiped out I didn’t think I would be able to follow. Thankfully my husband was there to lend his ears, and they put everything in writing, too.
Auditory fatigue is no joke. Every day I deal with fatigue from straining to hear. Testing took at least an hour, and then I had the consultation. I was with my audiologist from 8:30am until almost noon, and I was hyper-focused the entire time. I was practically dizzy from the effort.
I was still feeling the effects of the strain the next day. My eyes were tired from lip-reading, my brain was tired from piecing together a jumbled mess of sounds, and my ears were ringing. Since I didn’t have patients scheduled, I decided to take the day off and rest up. A little rest did the trick. I was back to work the next day and holding up just fine.
This experience reminded me that when I finally get the implant surgery my listening skills are going to be pushed to the limits. I will only have my “good” ear for a few weeks while the surgical site heals. I am preparing for the challenge and making sure I have assistive devices in place to support my listening needs.
Thanks for visiting again and please feel free to comment. I may not be able to reply to everyone but I am thankful to have so much support. I’ll be updating again soon!
More milestones to come! Stay tuned here and on Facebook for future updates on Dr. Yoder’s cochlear implant journey, including recovery, activation, and rehabilitation.