Blog: My cochlear implant 6 years on
It is now 6 years since I was implanted, and a lot has changed since then. I am older (wiser??) and my daughter is now 10 and as tall as me!
What I can hear
What I can hear has not changed. I can certainly hear more than pre-implant – my breathing, the wind, music, radio, people shouting from another room…. but if you expect me to say I’m still hearing new things every day then you will be disappointed. I think I reached the limit of ‘new sounds’ about a year after implantation.
I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything new since. It’s important to remind those considering an implant that it will not give you 100% hearing, but it is still the best thing I have ever done, and I have no regrets whatsoever about having an implant.
One implant, not two
The limitations of my cochlear implant are mainly around the fact that I am only implanted in one ear. This creates difficulties for me if I am in a busy environment, such as a large meeting or a conference. It can be hard to hear sound from my non-implanted side, and hard to keep up with multiple conversations.
I work full time and the nature of my job is very busy. Lots of conferences, presentations, meetings etc and it can be very tiring. Lots of headaches etc. For these reasons, I would very much love two implants, but I am told that this is normally only the case for children who are still to develop language skills, or for those who have additional disabilities.
I’m told that my cochlear implant centre is piloting something whereby you would have a speech processor on each ear, but the sound goes into the one implant. This is designed to help with the direction of sound. Unfortunately, I have not yet been selected to take part in this pilot but hopefully my turn will come so I can share my experience.
I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that one implant is not ‘enough’ for me personally so I do admit I’m disappointed not to be selected for a pilot.
Gadgets – iphone and Roger Pen
Every five years however, cochlear implants recipients are given a speech processor upgrade. This is the part that looks like a hearing aid. The “outer part” of your implant if you like. This does not provide an improvement to WHAT you will hear, but an improvement to HOW you hear it. I now have a Nucleus 7 speech processor which works with Iphones. This is great as I like my gadgets.
It means I can use my Iphone to adjust the volume or setting of my speech processor. I can also use my Iphone to set up Bluetooth connectivity in my speech processor. This means if someone calls me, or I want to listen to iTunes, the sound will go straight to my speech processor. Useful if you want to give the appearance of paying attention to a boring conversation when you are in reality listening to the top ten on the radio. Not that I would ever do something like that….
My original speech processor was heavier and did not have Iphone compatibility. I’d have to hold the phone to my ear and the sound wasn’t always very clear. This new Nucleus 7 is much lighter on my ear and because it is Iphone compatible, phone calls are easier and clearer. I can use Google Maps on my phone whilst driving and the sound goes straight into my speech processor without any need to look at my phone.
It works well with FM hearing systems that you may need in the workplace or in school. I use a Phonak Roger Pen microphone which I love because it literally just looks like a pen so is discrete and no one really needs to know what it is. Great if you can get self-conscious like me.
However, the Nucleus 7 comes with a mini microphone, which also helps you to hear what a colleague or lecturer is saying. You simply point it in their direction or ask them to wear it. You can also plug it into laptops if you wish to watch YouTube or Netflix. The only problem I find is that I cannot speak into it, which you can do with a Roger Pen. Therefore, I have preferred to continue using the Phonak Roger Pen.
If you would like more information on the Nucleus 7, then visit https://www.cochlear.com/uk/home
For information on the Phonak Roger Pen, visit https://www.phonak.com/uk/en/hearing-aids/accessories/roger-pen.html
Kirsteen Allison has written a blog about her cochlear implant and experiences of deafness. Click to read her cochlear implant blog.