I have been embarking on a special journey. I have just been implanted with the newly FDA approved Cochlear HYBRID hearing implant, designed for people like me who have a high frequency hearing loss. After following the development of the implant for several years, getting testing, and finally becoming an official candidate, I was implanted on March 23, 2015!
The Cochlear Hybrid was just approved in March of 2014, after about 15 years of development. Thank goodness there is an option for people who don’t have total hearing loss, but are not satisfied with what hearing aids can provide. After following the development of the implant for several years, getting testing, and finally becoming an official candidate, I was implanted on March 23, 2015!
The most common area of the cochlea that hearing loss affects is the high frequencies. When this area becomes severe enough, the gain provided by hearing aids is simple not enough to compensate for the loss. The hybrid’s electrical stimulation helps to compensate for these lost frequencies – it doesn’t restore things back to normal, but rather enhances sound.
Here are a couple of links about the hybrid cochlear implant from Cochlear’s website. I encourage you to check them out:
I have a mild loss in my lowest frequencies that increase as the pitches get higher. This means I have a loss in speech discrimination as sounds sound similar when there are fewer high frequencies to help the brain distinguish between certain words. A lot of speech to sound muffled and requires a lot of concentration and energy to have a group conversation.
Like I said, this implant is designed for people like me who have high frequency hearing loss as opposed to total or near total hearing loss across all the frequency ranges, which has been the only surgical option up to this point. I do not qualify for this more intense implant because of my excellent low frequency hearing.
After I finish the Winter 2015 quarter at my university (I am studying psychology and will be fast-tracking into the Masters in Clinical Psychology program), I will be taking a leave of absence for six months from Antioch in order to allow time to get used to the new sounds – this requires retraining so the brain understands more sounds. Making an exact time frame when retraining after surgery is required is frequently a guessing game, but after consulting with the surgeon at this point the time frame seems right to me.
This surgery should significantly improve my hearing in my right ear (where I am having it implanted), but won’t completely cure the hearing loss. I have kept this blog active ever since I learned of my surgery around the holidays in 2014. I wanted to share this news with everyone as being formally approved for this new device was a true holiday miracle!
There is no cure for hearing loss. The fact that I have always had a high frequency hearing loss will likely mean formal auditory retraining therapy coupled with less formal forms will be extremely important to help my brain understand the new high frequency sounds. The outcomes vary for everyone and the brain is always going to be learning new sounds for life.
I know a lot of people also have that “feeling different” experience for a multitude of reasons so I am not alone with having something that has made me feel “different.” Hearing loss has been a blessing in disguise for me as it connects me to people who also have trouble following the dominant societal discourse, or like me, don’t want to and hate the pressure to do so. Thank you everyone!
Please stay tuned here for updates as I plan to keep everyone in the loop.
Feel free to spread the word of this blog to everyone as my hope is to inspire or help anyone in whatever way. I’ve lived with hearing loss my entire life and I’m glad to be embarking on this journey. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, we all can do what we want to do!
The process of the implant included:
1) Formal candidacy and meeting for surgery
2) Pre-Op appointments to prepare for surgery and after-care. Discuss realistic expectations.
3) The actual surgery.
4) Start healing and have the implant and external processor (similar to the design of a hearing aid) be activated shortly afterwards (a little over a week later for me)
5) Continuous re-programming of device and formal / informal retraining to learn new sounds (they come in as electrical signals that stimulate the auditory nerve; the brain, with time, learns how to decode these signals as normal sounds)
6) Continue to practice and learn new sounds; continue reprogramming of device