My Cochlear Implant Journey, Part 8: The Bubble

Not My Imagination

Nearly three weeks post-op I had a medical scare that was quickly resolved. The process of healing was going well, and I thought I was pretty prepared for what to expect along the way.

Still, I’ve come to realize that with cochlear implants there is much you can’t predict. People’s experiences can vary, and much of the process is discovered as you go along. My scare was no doubt fueled by reading stories about implant failures, so I think I’m partly to blame for how this went down.

I was just going about a normal day — had breakfast, went to work, attended a lunch meeting. On my way back from the meeting, however, I noticed swelling. While putting my hair up, I felt a distinct bubble and a large ridge behind my ear leading up to my magnet.

I thought I must be imagining things, but back at the office, I asked my husband, Phil, to take a look. He saw it, too. I had just come off the elevator and was feeling dizzy. To be fair, elevators have made me dizzy for a few years, but add in the swelling and bubble, and I started panicking with thoughts of an infection.

 

Detective Work

We called the surgeon’s office, which had me come right down. I’m fairly certain the doctor was on his way home and was paged and turned around. I’m so thankful that everyone jumped to help me, for I was growing increasingly nervous thinking of every possible thing that could be wrong.

En route to the doctor’s office, I took off my left hearing aid and glasses and just let the ear rest. By the time we arrived, Phil no longer saw swelling. I, too, thought the swelling had gone down, but it felt tight behind my ear, and I had an ache all over in the bone around my ear. It just didn’t feel right.

At the office, the doctor looked me over. He said he saw no sign of infection and reported that all looked to be healing very well. He explained that the tissues are actively draining as they heal and, with gravity, will sometimes pool in a spot.

I had been wearing all my gear lately — glasses plus hearing aids — and the doctor determined that the combination caused a dam effect blocking the drainage from occurring, creating a temporary bubble. Once I removed my glasses and hearing aid from that ear, the bubble went away with the drainage reabsorbed.

The ridge I was feeling? It was my implant. The doctor demonstrated it on an implant model, explaining that I have thin skin and, with the swelling nearly gone, could feel the components.

 

Great Relief

I guess I underestimated how much of a bump I’d feel under my skin. I was so relieved, I admit I cried a bit. I thought I had hurt myself or had not been careful enough. We were so happy to learn that things were healing properly. The activation, set for the following week, was still on.

Activation couldn’t come fast enough. I was feeling eager to have some sound again. The longer I waited, the more little doubts started to creep in. I suddenly felt I needed some results and some sign that this worked — that all this was leading to something worth the wait.

How did the activation go? Was it a success? Follow Dr. Yoder’s cochlear implant story here and on Facebook to find out!

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