cochlear implant

Retraining the brain

When you’re over 30 years of age, training the brain to adapt to something new is tricky. And tiring. And slow.

Last week was my one month date since activation of the implant. Surgery was just 7 weeks ago. Isn’t that incredible? It feels sooo much longer but it’s really so recently still. During that session, we had good news, typical news, and eh news.

First, good news. At the time of my appointment, I was one week free of headaches, magnet friction pain, and any sensitivity in the surgery area! Yay! It’s much easier to become used to something when there is no pain involved. That was the first week that I was able to wear the implant all day every day without issues. I finally felt like I was getting something out of it.

Typical news: We did a normal “beep-beep-beep” hearing test in those soundproof booths. I tested in the normal range of a hearing person! (with just the implant on, no hearing aid, the good ear plugged with an earplug). I think that is just incredible. However, it is just beeps, not voices. And clarity and legibility is where I have problems.

So, we also did three tests with spoken sentences. The first test: the tester sat outside that window in the booth and spoke 10 sentences. I was able to use the implant sound and lipreading to repeat back what she said. On this test, I scored 92% (bear in mind there is no distracting background noise and they speak slowly and enunciate clearly). Second test: lipreading only, no sound at all. Score: 79%. Third test: no lipreading or facial expressions, implant sound only. Score: 15%. Booo.

What that tells me, the sound is there, but the legibility is not. Again, it’s only been on for a month, and not constantly either. So that should still improve, but we’re just not sure how much.

Eh news…. My audiologist wanted to go 2 months before another session at that point. This is normal. They want people to just wear the implant and get used to it. My problem is, I’m just finally starting to feel like I can push my map ranges out more, and get more pitches, because I’m finally able to wear it daily now. I wanted to go back in and re-map sooner than they wanted me to. I don’t want to “get used” to this map program if I’m not going to stay with it. Supposedly, at the one month point, you’re supposed to be near the map that you’ll use “forever.”  Again, since I’ve only just been able to wear it daily this week, I feel like I”m at ‘week 2″ of my mapping processing instead of week 4. It’s a difference of opinion between what the audiologists think (who are the experienced ones here) and what I think (who knows my body and my ears the best).

So we compromised. I will have appointments sooner than 2 months, and I do plan to push the programming more, despite the fact that they seem to think it’s pretty set now. Yes, I’m stubborn. I know this. 🙂

As of right now, I’m wearing the implant on its own, no hearing aid, but not plugging up the good ear either. I’m still very reliant on lipreading of course, but I am hearing quite a bit more of voices this week. It’s still garbled and static-like noise, and words drop out here and there. But it’s clearer than it was just a week ago. You can only call that improvement, eh?

Some weird things I noted: I had the radio on in the jeep. When I have my hearing aid on, I can hear the radio. Turn my hearing aid off, and the implant doesn’t pick it up at all! Putting silverware away at home: the hearing aid picks up a dull thud when I drop a piece into the drawer, but the implant picks up the high pitch “clink” noises when they hit also. So there are pros and cons to both devices that are happening right now.

Now, it’s all up to the old brain….


One thought on “Retraining the brain

  1. “You tell your story so clearly Sarah, thanks for including us in your audience.” (says Jim) “I come from a long line of stubborn women.” (says Sue) and Jim says he does too – so keep on keepin’ on! Trust yourself and you will get where you want to go! With love, Sue and Jim


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