The Road to Cochlear

I always know I have a good surgeon when I walk into his office and everywhere I look there is memorabilia for the “Fremantle Dockers” (my favourite AFL team). If that wasn’t enough reassurance, how about the fact that when I asked if he did ear drum transplantation (a reference to Australian comedy “We Can Be Heroes”), He knew exactly what I meant (the answer was no by the way).

It helps that he comes highly recommended, but actually it is things such as TV preferences and being a fan of the right footy team that are really important to me when choosing who I will let cut me open. Hey, I have to have criteria!

I went to a quiz night a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed myself but I must admit I struggled. Not with the questions themselves, (did I mention we won?) but rather with hearing what they were.

Between the murmurs of other tables conferring, the clinking and rustling of snacks being removed from their containers and the very bad acoustics in the hall my one good ear couldn’t cope; there was just too much background noise. This time it wasn’t that I couldn’t hear, it was that I could hear too much. Sheesh! I was able to participate; I just had to have someone repeat every question directly into my ear which was a tad frustrating. I shouldn’t complain though. It makes a nice change from when I get an ear infection. When that happens I can’t hear anything at all.

I have come to the conclusion that there is only one thing for it. It’s time to get my cochlear implant!

Being assessed for eligibility to get a Cochlear implant is a very different experience. It is the only situation where being told I am profoundly deaf (in one ear) is actually a good thing.

It started with an interview which was very much like a first date. Except that it was in a clinic (I prefer a restaurant) and there was no chance I would get a kiss at the end of it. We talked about my life in general (family, work, social life and hobbies etc.). Then as we got more comfortable with each other the conversation turned to goals for the future and other matters of the heart. This may seem intrusive but the purpose of it was to see if I was going to make good use of the implant.

Then things got really weird. I was told to lie on the bed, (at least buy me dinner first!) And I was given a pair of glasses to put on. The glasses looked a lot like the spectacle/sunglasses combination popular in the 80’s. For some reason they made me think of “Skippy” from the sitcom “Growing Pains”. I’m pretty sure he had a pair.

So I was lying on the bed (wearing the glasses) and suddenly the technician shoved a hose into my ear that was blowing extremely cold air.  Next the cover of the glasses was pulled down which made the room go dark and I was asked to list as many girl’s names in alphabetical order as I could in a minute without stopping.

By this stage I was sure I was being punk’d but apparently I wasn’t. The cover on the glasses actually had a camera on it that was monitoring my eyes. When the cold air is blown into the ear the eyes are supposed to dart from side to side and the amount they do this gives an indication of how much balance a person has. The girl’s name thing was to distract me from the sensation of the air. My eyes didn’t move at all, which means that I have pretty much no balance. But I could have told them that!

Finally I was placed in a sound proof booth and asked to repeat the words that were being fed to me. This is to give them an indication of my level of speech recognition and understanding which can then be used for comparison after the implant is inserted. Allegedly I didn’t do too badly with this. That surprised me as the accent of the recorded voice was so strange that I wasn’t sure that what I was repeating were actual words.

Having jumped through all the hoops I am now able to get the implant itself. This is a simple day surgery where a magnet is placed under the skin behind the ear. Two weeks later the outer parts are fitted and the implant can be switched on. I am told this will all happen in February 2016.

Apparently when the implant is first switched on the sound is similar to a radio that is not quite tuned properly. So once they switch it on I will need to start the training to teach the nerves to interpret the sounds.

I guess in my constant quest for self improvement there is always room for some fine tuning.



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