Now that I have two cochlear implants, I’m done with hearing aids permanently. About a week after my surgery, I tried wearing my hearing aid but there was no sound. I realized I was completely deaf now. The attempt to save my residual hearing failed, but that was expected. After all, the surgery was lengthy and there were difficulties inserting the electrode. There are great improvements in technology and surgical techniques with cochlear implants and many people have residual hearing afterward. It just wasn’t meant to be for me.
It’s such a huge change for me to give up hearing aids. I’ve used hearing aids daily from the age of four and it was the most natural thing. I never thought I would ever be without hearing aids. They became a part of my identity. But due to slowly losing my hearing over the years and not being able to hear well even with hearing aids, identifying as hard of hearing was becoming demoralizing. It’s sad to put away my hearing aids and close that chapter but, at the same time, it’s been a relief to be free from the cycle. Cochlear implants have felt alien and unnatural from the start, but I’ve now come to love hearing with my implants and I’m embracing my new identity: I’m a deaf woman with cochlear implants in both ears.
July 24, 2019, was the activation day for the second implant. I’m happy to report that this activation was a pleasant experience for me, unlike with my first implant. I have experience, so I credit this with the majority
of the differences. Looking back, when I was activated on my left side, it was very difficult from both a hearing standpoint and from an emotional standpoint. When I went home after activation, I was fatigued, and I didn’t hear anything that seemed useful. I was near quitting.
Conversely, with my second activation I was mentally prepared for the worst.
I am happy to report that when the implant was turned on in my right ear, I was pleased with the sound. Clearly, my brain has made a huge transition in the past 12 months! Switching from the old familiar sound of the hearing aid to the electric sound of the implant felt right at home. As many of my readers know, the electric sound is unlike anything heard from hearing aids. Thankfully, since I adapted to this once before, my brain seemed to recognize the new implant as a friend instead of a foe and, instead of fighting it, my brain accepted it.
For the record, the sounds I heard on the right side were still strange and not normal by any means, but they were at least familiar. I heard the same squeaks and whirs that I heard with my first implant, but they weren’t as intense and not as constant. I heard sounds I couldn’t recognize at all but I also heard sounds I could. It was a good mix and this made the process way more enjoyable this time around. For example, upon activation, I immediately recognized the keyboard keys tapping, but the chair squeaking was just noise. I could hear a pen clicking but didn’t recognize my husband’s coughing.
My audiologist was so pleased that I was accepting more electrical input this time around. In fact, I did well enough that she decided to read sentences on my activation day. She started out having me read along and choose a sentence out of a list. That was pretty easy! Then she decided to read sentences without me reading along to see if I could repeat them back. Amazingly I was able to repeat most of the sentences without lipreading. Of course, they were easy and slow sentences like “How are you today?” and “How did you sleep last night?” I’m sure we will get to the harder sentences later, but it was a big deal to be able to do this on day one.
On the technical side of things, since my electrode arrays are not completed inserted, I do not have the use of electrodes 15 and 16. Unfortunately, 14 is also unusable. I only feel the electric input from 14 but there’s no sound to go along with it. The other electrodes (1–13) are all working well. I guess 13 is my lucky number since my left ear also has only 13 electrodes that work (left electrodes are 1–5 and 7–14). I’m glad to report that I do not have any open electrodes this time and, so far, there isn’t any facial stimulation.
In the first week post-activation, I still have a lot of work to do. I need to learn as many sounds as I can before my next appointment. I also have several accessories to try, including Roger Select (an FM System), Phone Dect (a special landline phone), and CI Connect (a Bluetooth streaming accessory). It will take some time to practice with all of them.
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