Yesterday, I had my long-awaited appointment with the specialist who performs the cochlear implants. Dr Marcus Atlas is also the inaugural Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Western Australia and the founding Director of the Ear Science Institute Australia and is certainly an expert in the field and highly experienced.
It was delightful to actually meet him, because he is younger than I expected and a lovely man with a very kind and reassuring manner. My parents had come with me again and I was going to leave them in the waiting area but he smiled and said, “Go on, bring your parents in,” so I did and that was nice for them, because they are so interested and keen for me to get these cochlear implants. It also saved me from having to try to remember everything Dr Atlas said, to repeat it to them afterwards.
It was a fairly simple and straightforward consultation. I’d already had a CT scan a week or so ago. Dr Atlas asked me to “tell my story”, then he looked in my ears, and then got me to stand with feet together and arms stretched out in front to test my balance. Then I sat down and we just talked.
I had a moment of sickening worry when he said very seriously, “We have to look at whether or not cochlear implants will benefit you over and above the benefit you get from hearing aids. In your case…” (and I knew this was the moment of revelation and my heart was in my stomach) “… I believe it will make a drastic difference.”
That was his word — drastic — and he used it several times.
I was, and am, so incredibly relieved. I said to Dr Atlas, “I was afraid I wouldn’t able to have the cochlear implants, because there are no other options and then I’d end up totally deaf.”
Dr Atlas said, “I think you are right and without the implants you would lose all hearing and have to rely completely on lip reading.”
It doesn’t bear to think about it.
From there on, we discussed the implant itself, what health insurance will and won’t cover, and what to expect.
Dr Atlas explained that he thought it a good idea to have both ears implanted at the same time as this apparently helps with understanding speech in situations where there is a lot of background noise. In quiet situations even one implant would make a “drastic” difference, but background noise is more difficult and so rehabilitation of both ears at the same time would assist with that. That’s fine with me! I can’t wait to just get it all over and done with: the surgery is only the beginning.
Because my private health cover was only taken out in June this year, there is a 12-month “pre-existing condition” wait before the health fund will pay for any kind of surgery. This is standard amongst all private health funds. So I’ll get the cochlear implants next June, with a further appointment with Dr Atlas a month beforehand to select the brand of implant (which I’ve already pretty much decided on, but don’t need to make a firm commitment until then) and settle on a date.
Now I “just” have to wait. I am totally rapt that it is actually happening — it is going to become a reality — it is well on the way to being a reality and I will, in the foreseeable future, be able to communicate effectively again. YAY!!!