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An audiologist’s cochlear implant surgery

Dr. Suzanne Yoder has had severe hearing loss since childhood. She managed well for a long time by using hearing aid, but in 2003, she lost all the remaining high-pitched hearing in her left ear overnight.

At the time, she wasn’t a candidate for cochlear implants, but as her hearing loss worsened, that changed. A year ago, she was implanted with an Advanced Bionics’ cochlear implant. Recently, she also received an AB implant on her right side as well.

Dr. Yoder, an audiologist, chronicles her cochlear implant surgery in her blog, HearWellCenter.com. She hopes it will benefit her audiology patients and others. Here, she shares with Hearing Like Me the story of her two implants.

My second cochlear implant surgery

There is such a difference between my activation last year and my activation today. I have experience

cochlear implant journey

now, so I credit this to the majority of the differences. When I was activated on my left side it was very difficult, both from a hearing and emotional standpoint. When I went home from activation last year, I was fatigued and didn’t hear anything I deemed useful. I was near quitting.

Today I was mentally prepared for the worst, but am happy to report that when the implant was turned on in my right ear, I was more pleased than anything. Clearly, my brain has made a huge transition in the last 12 months! I switched from the old familiar sound of hearing aids to the electric sound of the implant. For me at least, the electric sound of the cochlear implant is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from hearing aids. In many ways, my brain was starting over and learning to hear as if for the first time when this started a year ago. Thankfully, since I already did it once, my brain seems to recognize the right implant as a friend instead of a foe. Instead of fighting it, my brain is accepting it.

“In many ways, my brain was starting over and learning to hear as if for the first time when this started a year ago.”

Read more: Cochlear implant surgery: Preparing yourself and your infant

Familiar sounds

For the record, the sounds I am hearing on the right side are still strange and not normal by any means, but familiar this time. I hear the same squeaks and whirs that I heard with my first implant, but they are not as intense or constant. I hear sounds I can’t recognize at all, but I also hear sounds I can. It’s a good mix. This makes the process way more enjoyable this time around. For example, upon activation, I immediately recognized the keyboard key tapping, but the chair squeaking was so strange. I could hear a pen clicking but didn’t recognize my husband coughing.

My audiologist was so pleased that I was accepting more electrical input this time around. I was doing well enough that she decided to read sentences to see if I could hear them. She started out by 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 very 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.

Goals

I saw the surgeon while at the clinic today and he was happy with my healing process. There is a stitch that is trying to make its way out of my incision, but we are just watching it for now. The stitch should dissolve on its own.

I have much work to do now that I’m activated. Trying to learn as many sounds as I can before my next appointment in one week is on my list. I also have several accessories to open including the Phonak Roger Select (an FM System), Phonak Phone Dect (a special landline phone) and CI Connect (a Bluetooth streaming accessory). I’ll take my time unpacking things and learn to use them over the few weeks. As my cochlear implant journey continues, the main thing I’m is focusing on is hearing with my new ear.

Update: How my cochlear implants have changed my hearing

My hearing is much more balanced now that I have two cochlear implants. Even after only two weeks of using my new implant I was able to understand speech on the new (right) side. I believe this speedy process occurred because I already adapted to the first cochlear implant and it was familiar territory the second time around. Now that I’ve been using it for four weeks the sounds seems close to natural when I wear both. The two implants complement each other very nicely.  Removing just one makes me feel very unbalanced.  I love hearing with two ears!

“I love hearing with two ears!

Localization is definitely better and I’m less likely to be startle because I know where sounds are coming from and I can anticipate more sounds because I hear them approaching.  Interpreting sounds has also improved but it’s still a work in progress.  I thought that my husband’s computer was acting up but it was just music he was playing and a different beat than I was familiar with.  With few exceptions I’m able to recognize the sounds around me for what they are.  I know the different between the dishwasher running and the air conditioner kicking on for example.  I can tell the difference between a cicada and a bird song. I can tell if there is a dog barking nearby or further away.  I am able to hear the door open at work and know when someone comes into my office. There are some new sounds that I’m learning for the first time such as some of the vocalizations my cat makes.  In the past a meow would be heard but I didn’t hear the intonation as well. It turns out my cat has many sounds he makes including a call for finding me in the house (which are louder and rising in pitch like a question), meows when he is just “talking” with me (which are pretty high pitched as well but do not have a rising pitch quality) and a meow he makes when he is hungry (which sound more urgent). I can also hear some of the impersonation voices my husband uses when he is joking around and I’m able to recognize who is impersonating.

Follow more of Dr. Yoder’s cochlear implant journey on her blog, HearWellCenter.com.

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The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill von Bueren, Kirsten Brackett and Lisa Goldstein.
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The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill von Bueren, Kirsten Brackett and Lisa Goldstein.