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……..as 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….

BUT……

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

Switch on update – day 15!

June 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Language, My Cochlear Implant choice, Speech | 5 Comments
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Well the 2 weeks since my switch on have flown by.  I’ve been so busy with work and social stuff with friends and family that I haven’t had too much time to really think about my CI progress.

The initial switch on was a bit of a disappointment as you may have already read.  But in hindsight it wasn’t as bad as I thought and to be able to make out some music on my MP3 player after only 4 hours is pretty amazing.  After only 2 days though the volume on my CI had dropped so much that I was really struggling with it on its own as everything I was hearing seemed like a robotic whisper.  So I kept using my HA in my other ear and that seemed to boost the volume on both sides by giving me a stereo effect.  I definitely was enjoying that.  First time to hear something out of both sides of my head in over 10 years!! 🙂

The external unit itself is very comfortable on my ear but I was having a problem with the cable sticking out and getting it caught on clothing as well as offering something tempting for my girls to grab hold of!!  I have over come this problem by wrapping the cable around my external unit which shortens the cable perfectly to attach the magnet.  No more sticking out cable!! Yay!!

Before                                                                                                                                                              After

I went back for re-tuning and a volume increase after 7 days and boy did I need it.  This time my volume was increased a huge amount and my IDR was put up from 60 to 80. (Which apparently after only 7 days is pretty good).  I also got them to take off my loop setting and go with normal on setting 1, clearvoice medium and high on settings 2 & 3.  The loop setting was pointless as my recognition of speech was still so poor it was a waste of a setting.

After my re-tuning I found the next few days a real struggle.  Everything was so much louder and distorted that it was not fun.  Gradually though after 2 to 4 days the sound has become much more comfortable and dare I say…….NORMAL!!  Yay.  I still find speech really tough but people are sounding less robotic and more how I remember them. My little girls however are still like little robots……but sounding like very cute little robots………most of the time anyway!!

I have been using my CI more and more without my HA since my re-tuning and it has been fine most of the time.  Sounds are becoming normal.  I find when I have my HA on too I get two different sounds entering my head too.  Quite amusing I think at the moment.  A text message on my phone comes through in two different tones!!  It could be confusing I suppose but I’m riding along with it and enjoying it most of the time.

Social situations are still very tough and this is what I miss so much.  The world cup is on and we are having BBQ’s round at friends houses for the games and I miss joining in the banter with my mates & slagging off the commentators because they don’t know what they are talking about.  Having said that though my mates are being really good with me and not getting bothered when I say pardon or sorry, I didn’t get that!!  (Until they get drunk that is and still think it helps to get closer to my ear for me to hear them rather than letting me see their faces!!  No names mentioned Stu 🙂 )

I mentioned sounds are becoming more normal now.  Well, I have to say they are generally.  I still can’t make out the radio or the TV but other than that I reckon it’s nearly all there.  I noticed a squeak on one of our doors the other day and asked my wife when that had started.  ‘Months ago’ was the reply.  That’s nice……..squeaky doors again!! Yay.  Other sounds are the birds chirping, the owl in the evening twit twooing, indicators in the car, aeroplanes and helicopters overhead, branches rustling in the wind, cat meowing and purring………the list goes on!!  In fact, when I take the CI off now and just wear the HA the sound I hear is so poor it just shows how good the CI is.  I’m still frustrated by speech but I have to keep reminding myself it’s only been 2 weeks!!!

A quick mention of my tinnitus.  It’s still there 😦 but hardly noticeable when I’m wearing the CI.  As soon as I take the CI off it’s there straight away with that lovely washing machine sound!!  Ah well, at least it’s gone most of the time.  Maybe that will calm down in time too??!!

To sum it up………my hearing is loads better, I’m frustrated by speech and social situations, my girls are still robots although other people are sounding more like themselves again, environmental sounds are pretty normal now, music on my MP3 is about 70% now (compared with zero before!) and I’m going back to the hospital in 2 weeks to get re-tuned and tested again.

I’ve had my doubts about the CI but I’m definitely pleased I got it done!!  Roll on the next few weeks of improvement!! 🙂

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