We’ve all seen the viral videos of Cochlear Implant activations all over the Internet. The person or their family breaks down into tears when they realize they’re hearing sounds.
But these “inspiration porn” videos, as I call them, doesn’t show is what happens once the camera turns off.
Here’s the reality of Cochlear Implants that many people, including many in the medical community, don’t realize
It’s not an “Instant Fix”:
We can’t just slap it on our head and instantly hear and understand everything. It takes a lot of time and adjustment for our brains to learn to translate the electronic signals into sounds that we may recognize.
We have to go through a lot of technical adjustments (mappings) to adjust how we’re hearing. Pitches and loudness have to be adjusted every time.
I’ve had one C.I. for 10 years until an internal failure (long story). I was reimplanted with the newest version in November 2015 and even though I’ve learned to hear well with the first one, I’m having to relearn everything all over again.
It’s not a cure for deafness:
Once we take the external part (the Processor) off we are deaf again. We’re deaf when we sleep, shower, swim (unless we have the waterproof case), or any other time we take it off.
We’re also deaf when our battery dies, there are instances where we’ve forgotten our replacement batteries and have had to go without the C.I.
I was born prelingually deaf, so I’ve pretty much missed the window for speech discrimination (0-3 years old). People expect that since I have a C.I., that I’d be able to understand them clearly without lipreading. With my first C.I., I was able to understand my husband and my kids without lipreading….sometimes. Now with the new one, I struggle to hear them even when I’m looking at them straight on, but hey, it’s only been 4 months.
It will never match natural hearing:
It is electronically produced hearing. As great as this technology is and it’s improving all the time, it will never match the complexity and range of natural hearing.
For those of us prelingually deaf, we will never know what true hearing is. For those late deafened, they never will be hearing like they used to again.
Even though it’s electronic hearing, after much training and adjusting, people can get pretty close to how they were hearing before.
It takes a lot of training:
Even some C.I. users wonder why they’re not hearing well. It takes a lot of training to hear.
You don’t need to attend aural therapy sessions by a specialist to train to hear. Play the radio or TV in the background while you go about your normal routine. Get an audiobook and print version of the same book and read along with the voice to learn different speech patterns. You can also turn on Speech option in the Accessibility menu of your tablet or phone and it can read out loud any text you highlight. Have someone read the newspaper or magazine out loud next to you. All in all, the saying “you only get out what you put in” stands true here.
You also need a lot of patience, it may take months and months, or even years before your old brain “clicks” and you finally realize that weird high pitched sound is actually a bird singing outside your window.
So there you have it, the reality of a C.I. It’s the same as any other medical restoration. You don’t expect that patient who just had knee replacement surgery to suddenly jump up and start tap dancing after their stitches are out do you?
To new C.I. users: Be patient; enjoy the little “a-ha” moments; practice listening wherever you are; don’t forget to escape to the quietness of silence when things get overwhelming; and enjoy your “new ear”.
To everyone else: Be patient, help with identifying sounds; have realistic expectations; and enjoy their hearing “progressions”.
If anyone wants to know more, please shoot me a line.
"One finds limits by pushing them" ~ Herbert Simon