I think it most apt to start a new personal blog with the momentous news that, after submitting to nearly two hours of a cochlear implant assessment a few days ago, I am (from an audiological perspective, anyway) suitable for a cochlear implant.
I was pretty nervous before the appointment, because although I’d tried not to get my hopes up too much, my audiologist had told me a cochlear implant was the only thing that was going to get my speech frequencies back. If they told me I was not suitable, there were no other options and I’d actually have to accept that I was going to be a social outcast forever. (Yeah I know that sounds dramatic but that’s what it feels like. It’s not that other people are casting me out, it’s that my hearing prevents me from being drawn in because I can’t hold a conversation in most situations.)
The cochlear implant assessment
My parents kindly wanted to offer their support and they drove me to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) where the assessment was to take place at the Ear Science Institute Australia and Lyons Hearing Clinic and where the surgeon also has his rooms. We were told the assessment would take about an hour and a half so Mum and Dad disappeared to do… whatever… while they waited.
An audiologist conducted the assessment and she was just gorgeous and really put me at ease. Isn’t it fantastic to meet someone whose job is to help people and who clearly loves their job and takes it really seriously? (Don’t ask me about the man I had the misfortune to deal with at Centrelink last week! Now that was a demeaning experience.)
The audiologist asked some preliminary questions related to my hearing history. I hadn’t received my information pack in the mail, which apparently included some forms for me to fill out and send back, so she was really starting from scratch. Then we did a series of hearing tests, with and without hearing aids, including the standard “beep” type of test and also some speech recognition tests.
Basically, she learned what I already knew: I am deaf, and I am good at guessing what people are saying!
And the short story is that she thinks a cochlear implant would really help me.
She explained that I will never have normal hearing, but after the implants I should be able to cope quite well. When she said that the implants are designed to improve hearing in the speech frequencies, which means that music will never sound good to me, I confess to experiencing a certain degree of disappointment. I have always loved music and it has frustrated me that most music just sounds like noise to me and I can’t make out a tune, let alone hear the words — and it saddens me that I can no longer hear myself play the violin. But definitely, communication is the main thing, and if I can hear enough to know that my violin is in tune, even that will be a huge improvement. :-)
The audiologist showed me the two brands of cochlear implants that are used in Australia. Primarily due to strict standards in this country, only two are allowed. There is the Australian brand, Cochlear, and the Swiss brand, Med-El. For both brands, the speech processor (the bit that fits behind the ear like a hearing aid without a mould) is huge compared to a standard hearing aid. The Med-El speech processer was significantly more slimline, however my understanding is that each brand has its own programming advantages, and anyway Cochlear may have a new design by the time I get my implants, so it’s a very individual thing to be decided closer to the time.
It was really good to be able to see exactly what the implant looks like and to have everything explained to me. I came away from the assessment feeling both relieved and reassured. The knowledge that I was suitable, together with increased knowledge about the implant itself, was a big weight off my mind.
It’s All Good™
I still have to see the specialist, who is apparently the cochlear implant “person” in Western Australia — Dr Marcus Atlas — and make sure there are no medical reasons why I shouldn’t have the implant, and gain his approval (obviously!) but the outlook is positive. Yay!
And the icing on the cake was that Mum and Dad then took me out to lunch at Walk Cafe in Subiaco. There, I consumed a huge plate of yummy food (a very different kind of bruschetta, with pumpkin and marinated capsicum and other interesting stuff — and a ginormous side serving of salad) and a glass of red wine. Who could ask for more?