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Why Not to get a cochlear implant

I’ve started this post twice now and it has morphed into something else… Let’s try again.

There are lots of reasons to get a cochlear implant. There are also many people who will be happy to go on and on about the reasons not to get one, or more specifically why you shouldn’t get one for your 12 month old child. I’m not getting into that.  This is about My reasons.

As I said in the last post, I had a CI evaluation done about two years ago and decided not to do it.  Why?

Well, I am getting by quite well just as things are now thank you very much.

Big reason number one has to do with that too. A cochlear implant will destroy any residual hearing you have left.  If I’m getting by fine now, why would I make such a permanent change?

Reason number two goes like this:

“I have but a mere ten electrons that replace the 180,000 some hair cells that at one time did the job of firing sound at my auditory nerves.” – David at Five String Guitar (but not the first time I’ve seen that thought expressed)

Research is slowly unraveling how the ears work.  Hearing aids are no where near as effective as glasses are. Cochlear implants are even more mysterious.

Another reason, that middle-ear-implant I wrote about before. It doesn’t use a microphone, it is totally implantable.  I don’t care about invisible, but waterproof sure is nice!  They are trying to get it to work with a cochlear implant eventually.

Another reason, stem cell research. They should have a cure for deafness in the next 15-20 years or so.  What if getting a CI damages your ear so much that you can’t benefit from this?

My biggest reason though is that I’m a musician.  I started playing alto saxophone in 5th grade and played for four years before I lost my hearing.  I am still playing now.  I play in a band weekly and for the last year I’ve also been playing in a saxophone septet. It’s a hobby that requires a commitment so I try to go to rehearsals whenever I can.  I listen to music in the car on the way to and from work. I truly enjoy music. What if a CI makes it sound awful? I’ve heard that it’s hard to even recognize different notes on a piano, how would I ever be able to tune?

Just recently I was looking into new technology known as a Hybrid Cochlear Implant.  The technical name is “Acoustic-Electrical Stimulation”.  The idea is that a short electrode is used for the CI that doesn’t damage low frequency hearing. Thus you can use the CI for the high frequencies and use the hearing aid for the low frequencies.  The benefit may be a more natural sound.  It’s still in FDA trials.

I sent an email to the company, Med-El, to ask about their trials.  One more surprise waited for me in their answer.  They told me that my hearing loss was too profound for even a hybrid CI.


Once again I’m wondering, am I really That deaf?



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5 replies on “Why Not to get a cochlear implant”

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    Amy says:

    I think you might be underestimating the benefit you might get from a CI, particularly Med-el, which my son has. Only one of his is an Opus (though my 2 year old has two Opuses) and he plays the piano and can discern the differences in musical notes and also even differentiate the difference between tones much closer together, based on testing. He has normal to low-normal discrimination of musical tones, can play the piano by ear, and has 99% hearing in quiet and high 80s in noise. I know it’s hard to think losing your music appreciation, but in my discussion with researchers who do hair cell regeneration, it’s more than 20 years off… try more like 40. Not only that, but the longer period of time without sound will likely cause hearing nerves to atrophy. And, there is no reason to believe that implantees will not be able to benefit from hair cell regeneration. They are and have been experimenting with delivery of medicine via the Med-el electrode, and so there is a great possibility that the two will go together like peanut butter and jelly! 🙂 Not telling you what to do, but wanted you to consider some of these things, too.

  2. Share

    Very interesting!

    Almost exactly my thoughts pre-CI. And a very similar audiogram too although my low frequency is a bit worse. It was probably about the same as yours when I was your age (I’m 50-ish now).

    After a little over a month, I’m still finding that music sounds pretty bad. But it’s improving every day and a new alternate program (no AGC) helps a lot for music.

    The big benefit so far is being able to hear those high frequencies again. It makes a huge difference .. almost like going from shades of grey to colour!

    Steve’s last blog post: Two plus two equals … five?

  3. Share

    Tiffany says:

    I just got my CI activated 3 weeks ago. Today I am having anxiety attacks about having given up one of my ears residual hearing for the Implant. At this time it sounds like I had an electrical transformer inside my head. buzzing and crackling. Every tells me that it will evolve. However every where I look people with implants say they could at least tell that it was some form of sound coming in. I can honestly say.. I am worried that I just made a mistake. I am a nurse and life was hard enough with 2 hearing aids. I did this to improve my life and make it easier.. I wonder now.

    1. Share

      Sara says:

      Hi Tiffany. That must be awful, scary and frustrating. I hope things get better for you fast.

      Here’s a blog of another gal who didn’t hear right away (and hasn’t yet as far as I know).

      I wish more people in your situation would share their experiences. It’s so helpful to others who need reassuring.

      Sara’s last blog post: Week Two

      1. Share

        Thank you so much. I actually finally laughed when I read Queen Alpos entry… I also decided to quit being so politically correct on my own blog.. I have put some entries in there very recently that tell it like I am really going through… Thanks for the laughs, I needed it.

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