There are several reasons I decided to take this journey again.
I realize with all the positive outcomes of having just the left implant, it may seem unnecessary, so I’ll try to explain.
For one thing, my right ear uses a hearing aid and ever since I was activated, the hearing aid doesn’t seem to help. In fact, for many months, I could not even tell if the hearing aid was on or off.
Now that I’ve adjusted to hearing with electrical sound, when I take off the implant processor to hear with just my hearing aid, the acoustic sound is too weak to be useful. It would probably take months for me to re-learn how to hear and cope with only a hearing aid again. So, when in immediate need, I feel I cannot count on my right ear to help me. This means if my left implant is not working or I forget to change my processor battery, I would be without functional hearing. My coping skills are so unused at this point that hearing with only my hearing aid is very stressful. I have become wholly reliant on hearing with my cochlear implant. I want to be able to hear equally on both sides so that I have that security of at least one ear that can help at all times.
It’s a small annoyance but having to always place people on my “good” side can be challenging. And sometimes I wish I could use either ear on the phone. I’d like to be able to switch ears when doing any listening- dependent activities.
Feeling more balanced and using both ears as the brain is designed to use them is important to me. I know that binaural hearing improves concentration and focus in noise, localization, and overall clarity of speech. I want to give my brain the best chance it has.
I’m not giving up much. At first, the idea of losing the remainder of my residual natural — hearing was terrifying to me. If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t have much functional hearing on my right side. The best I can hear without the hearing aid is a loud thunderclap, a dog barking 10 feet away, or maybe a very low-pitched machine running if it’s close by. The only usable hearing in my right ear is the lowest pitches and even with a hearing aid speech is muffled and reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s teacher.* To think that before I took this journey last year I used to understand this rumbling-mumbling with a percentage greater than 50% accuracy is just crazy to me now.
Finally, I have hope that my right cochlear implant will work even better. The right ear, historically, was my critical listening ear. Growing up, this was the ear I used on the phone and that had the most residual hearing for the longest time. My right ear, being that it has not been as deaf as long, should, in theory, respond better to the implant. I hope that all 16 electrodes will work with this one and that I’ll have even greater outcomes. My left cochlear implant, although it has performed well, does have some problems. On my left side, three of my 16 electrodes are compromised, and my hearing comprehension fluctuates, which means that I have good and bad listening days.
I’m very hopeful the right side will not experience problems; however, I’m prepared for all outcomes. I know there are no promises with surgery. It’s possible that it won’t work at all. I’m prepared that if it doesn’t work at all, I’ll need to rely on my left ear. If that happens, I will seek the help of the CROS device, use my FM system, and all the other accommodations I can make use of in order to continue to perform my best. I will hold to my optimism that it will work. I am prepared, even with a perfect implant, that activation may be difficult and that hearing with it will be harder before it is better. I expect it will take six months or more to adjust as it did with the first. I’m very excited and I feel ready!