It has been eight months since my cochlear implant was activated. Here’s what I’ve experience and have learned from others.Enjoying the sounds of my environment thanks to the cochlear implant
My Personal Experience:
Voices are still a bit garbled, but when I wear the cochlear with my hearing aid in my other ear on “surround sound,” I am getting along better in crowds, meetings, conventions, etc. I’m just better connected. But if the hearing aid is off, and I’m relying on the cochlear, I cannot understand anyone and I become quite disconnected.
The overall sound, however, with the cochlear implant is wonderful. In the morning when I turn it on, it is like opening a window to my mind. Hard to explain. “Light” is the only way I can describe the sensation of hearing so much more of the sounds of my environment – the wind, birds, clocks ticking, machines humming, etc.
Experience of Others:
Here is what I’ve learned from other cochlear implant recipients, or parents and friends of recipients. The following is my very “non-academic” understanding and explanation:
- Cochlear implants are not always an option for a child (or adult); it depends on the structure and type of damage in the ear. I met a man during my TEDx experience whose daughter is nearly deaf. She does not qualify for cochlear implants because she has no nerves to transmit vibrations. She, for now, is a happy child communicating with sign language.
- A child who can receive a cochlear implant, and does before age three, does extremely well. The younger the recipient, the better their brain can “learn” what the sounds mean that it is receiving.
- If an adult receives an implant after having normal hearing most of their life, they seem to adjust quickly. Why? Because the brain already knows what things sound like. The recipient has memories and neural connections for sound in the brain that supports them. The sooner a person receives an implant after their hearing loss, the better and quicker they adjust to hearing with an implant.
- For an adult like me, who has NEVER heard a wide band of sounds, the cochlear is not as effective. The brain has to learn what the sounds it is receiving are – as it has never “heard” them before. And, the nerves also need to “wake up,” as they’ve never been tickled with those levels of vibrations. This takes time.
- I met a person who received a hybrid implant – that is, a has partial cochlear implant AND wears a hearing aid in the same ear. He said he’s doing very well. He also, I must add, has had normal hearing for a good part of his life. That does make a difference
I still have hope that one day speech will be clearer. But even if that never happens, I’m still happy with all that I can hear, especially in conjunction with a hearing aid in the other ear.