Category Archives: Changing Cochleas

At My Service!

Welcome to the 7th and final part of the Changing Cochleas blog series – my journey with a cochlear implant.

 

Service, as defined by online dictionaries, with my additions in italics:

A valuable action, deed, or effort performed by a hearing care professional to satisfy a need or fulfill a demand by a person with hearing loss.

To perform routine maintenance or repair work by assistive hearing technology geniuses on something like a hearing aid, cochlear implant (CI), and other assistive devices.

There it is in a nutshell—what we, the people with hearing loss, need to move us from exclusion to inclusion: competent and caring assessment, support, reduction or elimination of negative emotions, assistive technology and improved communication skills.

The heaven of good service is in the additional details: the technology type, style, cost, and ease of use, along with training on assertiveness, speechreading, and emerging tech stuff, etc.

Family and friends are our communication partners and allies but they aren’t at our service. That’s the role of the hearing specialists and technical geniuses—the professionals, many of whom go far beyond what they’re paid to do. In return, I help them out by being a person on which to practice their trade, showing up for appointments, usually on time, and being honest about my needs so that we can mutually decide the course of action going forward.

I’ve been receiving services and ‘treatments’ for hearing loss since I was two years old. Doctors examined, prodded, scoped, diagnosed, and prescribed (or not). Various hearing professionals put me in the torture chamber…oops, I always get this one wrong…I mean the sound booth…to test my hearing and then make recommendations for hearing aids which they then sell to me.

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Thank you to Cochlear Americas and to HearingHealthMatters.org for their support in the development of the “Changing Cochleas” series. 

Learning What We Need to Learn

As we human beings grow up, we get bigger, hopefully better, although never perfect. Nature likes to throw curve-balls, forcing us to adopt exercise or medicine or body adjustment changes to recover and improve our well-being.

Some of us actually transform into semi-technical creatures. In order to hear, I’m a battery-operated person with my hearing aid and electrically-powered with my cochlear implant. This electrode array in my cochlea has turned me into a computer; I have stuff operating inside my head! In this computer, the Cochlear technology is the hardware—and I’m the software; I control my own hearing success through a variety of communication strategies.

So—what do I need to understand?

  • How cochlear implants work and how my brain makes sense of the universe’s sound signals.
  • How to turn the sound processor on and off, keep it from falling off, get the batteries in and out. (Hint: it takes repeated attempts with fingernails, until you remember the magnetic battery-remover they gave you.)
  • What’s in that powerhouse of a sound processor—the listening programs, status information, how sound can be tweaked, etc.
  • The CI’s technical add-ons, the magic that connects us to the world of people and nature.
  • That we’re now in rehab! Aural rehabilitation is ongoing (for most of us), taking weeks, months, years, but at least we can do it from the comfort of our own homes at our own pace, rather than at a treatment center, with weekend passes.
  • That the big payoffs only come from—Practice, Practice, Practice. (This was a direct order from my surgeon.)

So—who and what helps us to learn all this?

Small, Wonderful Black Things

  • Our audiology and medical team
  • Reading the many manuals that explain the equipment, which includes many small black things that look alike and all must be charged.
  • Watching online CI videos and reading other CI blogs
  • Online aural rehab programs and exercises
  • Other CI recipients and their family members
  • Support from the cochlear implant manufacturer

 

 

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Celebrating with 1000 New Friends: Changing Cochleas, Part 4

A group of geese is called a ‘gaggle’ and cows form a ‘herd’. So what do we call a group of cochlear implant users?  A “cockle”? A “CI-heard”?

I don’t know, either, but recently I attended a very large gathering of electrically-operated people who, like me, have electrodes inside their heads and processors on top of them. And every single person in that cockle-heard, whether or not they understand it, was grateful for the technology (and to the people who created it) for returning a sense of hearing they had lost, or never fully had.

Cochlear Celebration was quite the party—but not the crazy-party bash like March Break in your university days. This was a well-orchestrated event that combined information sessions, technology demonstrations, cheerleading and candid, impromptu talks with people who know more than you do. It also inspired at least one personal, important aha moment.

There were 1000 of us at the Cochlear Americas event: CI and Baha recipients of all ages (and I mean all ages, from kids to the elderly), their favorite hearing people (spouses, friends, children, parents and whatnot) and Cochlear staff, who had convened in Orlando for three days. (If you’re going somewhere in the middle of winter to talk about reclaiming lost hearing, there should be palm trees, right?) The focus was simple: cochlear implantation and its positive and profound impact on our lives.

At Disney, you see mouse ears everywhere!

People with hearing loss should meet other people with hearing loss. Life changed when I attended my first hearing loss conference back in the ‘90s. Hearing professionals and technical people give us the technology and operating instructions, but it’s other people, walking our walk, who help plug the holes that hearing loss has punched in our lives. As I wrote in a 2014 article:

When I finally met other people with hearing loss, the lights went on, fireworks exploded, and angels danced. It was like falling in love – but with a group of people, with a new awareness and with a new me.

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