Monday, July 27, 2009

The Other Ear

A few weeks ago I was at a party. People who had not seen me since before the surgery were there. I had the best time, and everyone thought my new ear was cool. I had a blue headpiece cap on, and wore a retro hat, which covered the headpiece. I felt like an extra from the holodeck with the combination of retro stylin' and hi-tech gear. Although I could hear much better than I ever, ever could before, it was still difficult. I wondered how having a second bionic ear would have helped.

Last week, on Friday, Brian and I had a meal at a very nice, but noisy restaurant. He was sitting just to the left of me, right by my bionic ear. We had no problem conversing. I wondered what I would hear with just the hearing aid, and pulled the magnet off to find out. Instead, I found out what I could not hear. I couldn't hear myself talk in the noise. I couldn't hear Brian talk, either. Before the CI, Brian would have had to sign at a place like this. Before the CI, we probably wouldn't have gone out to eat at a place like this.

The next day, we were at the car dealer, in the finance office. Hours earlier, we had stopped in to check around, and now Brian was in the final moments of buying a new car. Poof, my CI battery died. We did not plan to be out this long, and I did not have a spare battery. The hearing aid was still chugging away, and it wasn't like the noisy restaurant, so I settled in to make do. I quickly realized that I couldn't make anything out; I couldn't make do. I announced that I was getting nothing out of this, and that since Brian would drive his new vehicle home, I would be on my way.

I had no patience for not being able to hear. How times change. How quickly I grew accustomed to my much more capable bionic ear. The dominant ear has switched sides to the bionic ear. Now it's easy to forget how bad the hearing aid alone sounds. How much better could I hear with two bionic ears? Going bilateral improves hearing in noise and locating sounds, as well as overall hearing comprehension. I've considered going bilateral since before the first implant. Now that I know how massively superior cochlear implants are to hearing aids, I am moving forward with my 2nd implant.

Monday, July 20th was the bilateral evaluation along with the third mapping appointment. The day before, because I wasn't wearing it, my hearing aid was in my short pockets. These shorts were about to be washed. *cue Jaws theme* The hearing aid eluded the pocket-emptying process before starting its sudsy bath. It was already at the final spin cycle when I realized where it must be and rescued it. Because this was the day before my bilateral evaluation, I needed to have a functioning hearing aid. Calmly, I put it on. Nothing. I changed the battery. Bingo, it was working. It was working just fine, which was impressive. Phonak did a fine job making the Naida water resistant. The aid has worked fine since then. That this happened told me something. Since I was a small child, I've been very diligent about where my hearing aids are. I've never lost my hearing aid, much less washed it. Now, not long after the new ear comes into town, the old one gets left behind, forgotten, and mistreated.

At the center, we did the mapping portion first. We went through the electrodes, and adjusted the levels. They didn't change much, showing that my levels were settling down. Then we went to the sound booth. To qualify for a bilateral implant, I needed to score less than 60% in the best aided condition. The center I go to considers the CI in the 'best aided condition.' Fortunately, I got exactly 60% correct on sentences in noise with the CI and the HA, so I should qualify.

The next part was met with elation. Using just the CI, I correctly repeated 97% of the words in a test, hearing sentences in quiet. I also tested at normal hearing levels with my CI, responding at 15-20 dB all the way across the frequencies. This is the goal range, the optimum for bionic ears. I am so grateful that I have raw hearing power as good as it gets. I still need to work on my agility and comprehension with the ear, though those abilities are coming along nicely.

Now, I wait. The insurance approval process will take a little time. It may happen this year, or maybe early next. Until then, I'll keep working on my first ear, looking forward to the day when both ears are upgraded and hearing is even better.


  1. Way to go Gregg!!! People were asking about you at the chat last night. Some are wanting a Pheonix area get together to meet and greet one another.

    So happy to read of your success and thinking of you as you go through the process to go bilateral!

  2. Tia Prince SrachtaJuly 31, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    Gregg! What a fascinating story! I think it's wonderful that you are moving ahead, hopefully the insurance approval will happen quickly! I wish you nothing but the best! Good Luck!