Is a Cochlear Implant really that good?

August 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 15 Comments
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Since my ‘switch on’ nearly 10 weeks ago I find myself making great progress in the old sound department but with the improvements continuing on a daily basis I am finding I’m forgetting what it was like when I was just using a hearing aid.  I get asked by friends if the implant is really that good and I find myself saying………’Oh yes……….it’s 500 times better than the hearing aid’!  I should add that I can only comment on my own experiences and remind you that before my CI I was totally deaf (unaidable) in my right ear and profoundly deaf in my left ear.

So………..why is the CI so much better than the HA??  For me it’s easy.  All I have to do is take my CI off and put my HA in.  Voila!!  I can now hear sod all apart from loud tinny sounds that I have to really concentrate on to work out what it is.  If I was to have a conversation now with just the HA I would have to turn my ear towards that person, screw up my eyes and really focus on the mouth of that person…………..then I would have to say………’sorry, I didn’t quite get that………..what did you say’?

I hate the sound of my HA so much now and the quality of sound that I get from it is so poor it actually messes with my CI sound!!  I therefore have ditched the HA………….not quite for good…… I am going to try to get it re-tuned next month……….but pretty much forever!!!  Yay!!

I think the CI is so good that the only thing I can think of that HA’s are better than CI’s with is the batteries!!  That’s it!!  The CI out ranks, out performs and out thinks the HA on every other level!!

So, what am I able to do now that I couldn’t before??  The list is endless and everything I am about to mention I was not able to do or hear with the HA:-

I can hear simple every day sounds like the Kettle, Microwave, Fridge beeping to tell me I’d left it open, a knock at the door, traffic noise, birds singing, a bumble bee buzzing nearby, the squeak on the kitchen door, my cats meowing and purring…………as I said, the list goes on!!!  Environmental sounds are pretty much normal!!
Now the harder stuff to master!!
I can listen to my MP3 player and enjoy 80% of the music I play!
I can listen to a Harry Potter audio book and make out 99% of the words!
I can hear the TV and use the subtitles (some programmes differ) only as and aid not a requirement!
I can use the mobile phone for simple conversations with familiar voices! (I still have a lot of work to do on this!)
In the last week I have found that I am able ear wig on conversations in the car and join in the chat too, whilst sitting in the front and hearing what was being said in the back seat!!
I have also been able to use the phone to hear and answer security questions about my bank account before having to hand the phone back to a member of the bank staff to finish the conversation for me.  That was tough but satisfying at the same time.
I have been able to attend a social event with loud music and have conversations with people without struggling too much!!  I did have to stop one person and asked if they were from Ireland…………as I was struggling to make out her words!!  At least I could tell where she was from!!
All in all the CI IS 500 times better than the HA if you have profound hearing loss!!  Remember, all mentioned above was impossible to achieve with just the HA!!Other pro’s are it is so much more comfortable to wear!  No more horrible plastic ear pieces and no more horrible feedback and buzzing when laughing or eating!!I have the Advanced Bionics and I’m glad I have chosen this model over the others.  The sound quality at the moment is equal to if not better than the MedEl or Cochlear makes (although this is a contentious subject with users of the other makes).  All implants work well and whichever anyone chooses will do well for them.  I prefer the AB for other reasons.  The AB has a microphone that sits nicely in the ear canal and uses the natural shape of the ear to capture the sound and send it into my brain.  This also means that when using a telephone you can just put it to your ear like a hearing person would rather than hover it over the mic at the top of the ear.  I also like the fact that I have 4 rechargeable batteries, rather than throw aways, that last between 8 and 12 hours a day.  As long as I remember to charge them and carry a spare with me!!!  The AB also has a clever bit of software called ClearVoice which acts to soften harsh sounds and make everyday listening even more comfortable.

A slight word of caution………..the CI is never going to be perfect and I will always need it to help me hear….


Is a Cochlear Implant really that good?  You bet your life it is!! 



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  1. Hi Graham,

    Brilliant!! That’s what we like to hear (with our cochlear implants!)

    Your description of what it’s like to listen with the HA – turn, screw up eyes, and really focus – is just what I had to do the first time I encountered Picasso. A Cubist experience!!

    • Yeah it’s so nice to not have to concentrate so hard on what is going on in the world!! Assume you are doing well too?? Not had any updates from you in a while?? Hope the house is on the mend??!

      • Yes thanks Graham, still doing well – life has taken over a wee bit with one thing and another, at home and at work, but my progress is coming on in leaps and bounds. Waiting for the surveyor to come and look at the house but it looks really sad with the demolished porch and uprooted plants. Like a child’s drawing of a house as a face with gaps in its front teeth.

        Anyway – progress! Yesterday, for example, I heard the announcements on the bus in London perfectly, which I’ve struggled to catch clearly before, because it’s so noisy – on the bus itself with all the people chattering and the roar of the traffic outside pouring in. It’s as if every day brings new clarity and a new ability to sort out sound.

        Today we went to a wedding and I was able to follow the service, including the sermon, without any difficulty. Yippeee!!!!! I’m so pleased for you that you’re doing so well and we look forward to seeing you on the BBC!

  2. Graham, that’s amazing! I’m so pleased for you 😀

    • Cheers Fi. Hope it inspires you to make the jump in the future?? Glad you like the girls too 🙂

  3. Man….this brought a tear to my eye! It’s emotional!!!!

    So are you going on GM-TV to talk to the world about how damn turned on you are??? LOL

    • Ha ha…….not doing live tv!! Have had it all filmed by the BBC See Hear programme and it will be shown in Sept some time. Not looking forward to that!! 🙂

  4. wicked, congrats Graham that really is awesome. You must be so chuffed. x

    • Cheers Soozie………..yeah it’s going well and I’m looking forward to hearing all about your progress too. Good luck for your op next week 🙂

  5. Hi Graham,

    A brilliant blog and so interesting to read your thoughts. Dad and I are so happy for you that the CI is working so well. Much thanks from us to all your medical team who have helped you so much along this journey. I am sure this will be helping other people to decided whether to get and impant or not. Can’t wait to see the result of the BBC doc. soon. Let us know then dates on your blog please. Mum & Dad with all our love. xx

  6. You do have a 115db loss at all frequencies, your hearing is actually worse than mine! I have usable hearing at 500Hz and below, but a 110+ db loss at 750Hz and above.

    I have no interest in a CI, especially that I can get stem cells anytime I am ready. I have a blog about this. Im glad your CI is working well for you, hope stem cells works well in your other ear if you choose to save it.

    How does your CI compare vs. when you used to be hearing? What about when you were hard of hearing, but not yet deaf? Thanks for sharing your CI experience, I will bookmark your blog.

    • Hi again…………I lost my hearing over night so have not had the middle bit of gradual loss. The CI was my only chance of getting some hearing and I think it’s great. It’s never going to be normal hearing but it’s better than none for me. If you’rs got worse do you think you would consider a CI?

      • Did your hearing go out like a switch or did it decline over an hour or something? What was it like? Turning the volume down on the TV?

        Didn’t your hearing stay in one ear for a while and you had one HA till you lost it in that ear too?

        How does a CI compare to normal hearing, such as half as good? A third? A tenth?

        Im already unhappy with my hearing(see my audiograms in my blog) and am getting stem cells in the near future overseas, it does work for many people and I hope it works for me. 🙂

      • Hi. I had normal hearing up to 10 years ago and then lost it totally over night in one ear. Then I managed perfectly well on one normal hearing ear upto last year when I lost the hearing again in my good ear. Both losses were instant over night and unexplainable by the hospitals. They assume a virus. Therefore I went from hearing well to nothing in a flash. Very hard to cope with as I had never had any time to adjust to lip reading sign language etc. I had one ear that could use a HA but that gave me very little. Now I have the CI I would say that I have between 60 to 80% normal hearing. What is tough is how the brain interprets speech but that will get better over the next 12 months or so. I had my non aidable ear implanted to preserve my aidable ear as I wanted to hang on for further scientific improvements such as stem cells etc. I too have inquired abroad and at the moment it is the cost that puts me off…….i.e I couldn’t afford it! Here in the UK they will only implant you or offer you an implant on the NHS if you get no benefit from the HA’s. I’m not sure you’re hearing loss would qualify as you still get benefit from your HA’s.
        If you do go for the stem cells then I would love to see how you get on. Even an improvement to help the HA’s would be something!!

  7. Graham, you’re getting there; but be careful to not overcook it. as there’s a “sweet spot” for your IDR. As Mike says, if the IDR is too high, your brain has to work harder “to pick out the good stuff” — The speech in noise.

    Also, and this is important, make sure the T (threshold) levels are actually measured and .NOT. estimated at the default of T = 0.10 * M. If the T levels are assumed (Soundwave default of 0.10 * M), then you will not have accurate “apples-to-apples” IDR figures. As it turns out, any inaccuracy in the T-levels is inversely proportional to the IDR, as described in the next paragraph.

    For example let’s assume an M level of 100, the measured T level is 35 (but not used), the Soundwave default T-level is 10 and is actually used; and the IDR is set to 80 dB. You and the audiologist may think you have an IDR of 80 dB — and it will work — but in fact the true IDR is actually about 55dB when the measured T=35 is input, because you cannot hear from 10 to 35.

    Your CI audie can use the assumed T=0.10*M, and it will work… But the numerical IDR results will be just a nebulous figure, with no real meaning. The audie can speed up the threshold determination in Soundwave by grouping the electrodes into 4, and the software will interpolate the intermediate values.

    Once the T-levels are properly set, only then is the IDR displayed in Soundwave accurate.

    There is one caveat: If the T-levels are set too high, with a CIS stim you can hear a crackling noise.

    Be sure to read Mike Marzalek’s How to Optimize your CI’s MAP, including downloading & using his calibrator tools.

    I know you remarked that your CI audie reads your blog: Ask him or her to explain this tech-talk.

    Dan Schwartz
    The Hearing Blog

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