Age at Implantation: 41-64 years
Hearing Loss Type: Progressive Loss
Name: Dr Ray Hare
Profession: Principal Research Scientist (retired), Durum Wheat Improvement, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Cochlear Implant Status: Bilateral cochlear implants
Implants: 2 x Nucleus: 24
Sound processors: 2 x ESPrit: 3G
First implant: 10 July 2003
Second implant: 1 April 2004
I suffered from a progressive and gradual sensorineural loss of hearing. At school and during university it was always necessary for me to sit near the front of the classroom or lecture hall in order to hear well.
At 40 years of age I had a severe ear infection and after the infection cleared I was tested for hearing loss. I was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss and as a result of this my ENT surgeon recommended bilateral hearing aids.
However, my hearing loss continued to appreciate and I would have to replace my hearing aids every two to five years with new and increasingly powerful ones.
In 2003 my hearing loss was found to be in the profound range in both ears, making my hearing aids basically ineffective. My surgeon recommended bilateral cochlear implants as I had little effective hearing in each ear.
I received my cochlear implants sequentially which allowed for a period of adjustment to the new cochlear implant sensation while using the hearing aid in the other ear. My first implant was done on 10 July 2003, followed by switch- on 30 July 2003.
Prior to receiving the second implant I was tested again to determine if a second cochlear implant could deliver hearing benefits. Speech discrimination tests demonstrated that my understanding of sentences was superior without the hearing aid. A second cochlear implant was suggested, as it was believed that it would significantly improve my hearing.
I still had a few reservations about receiving a second implant. Would the second cochlear implant perform as well as the first cochlear implant? Would the sound sensation be the same as the first cochlear implant? Had the best ear been implanted first? I had a little residual hearing at the lower frequencies, which I could just still use with a hearing aid, although it was declining gradually. My expectation was that this residual hearing would be lost on implantation. Most implantees only receive one cochlear implant and manage well. Why was I being considered for a second implant?
With a second cochlear implant, I would be totally dependent on the implants. I had to put all my faith in these devices for all time, as there was essentially no return. The slim midterm prospect of being able to take advantage of a medical breakthrough in the regeneration of cochlear hair cells would probably be denied. Given that there were no research reports of successful regeneration results in any animals close to humans or humans themselves, I believed that a routine approved regeneration treatment was sometime away. I wanted to stabilise my hearing now and was not prepared to wait an indeterminate time for a maybeprospect.
Most hearing aid users are bilateral. Clinicians report that it is better to aid both ears as the overwhelming evidence suggests that the patient receives a superior hearing outcome when bilateral. Early research evidence and patient experience indicates a similar outcome for bilateral cochlear implants. Given these findings and my previous experience with bilateral hearing aids, bilateral cochlear implants appeared to be a reasonable option.
The cost of the procedure was not a factor as my health insurance fund would cover the second cochlear implant, and I considered the cost of batteries to be a small charge for continuing good hearing.
After much consideration I decided to have the second cochlear implant. While I received sound, confident and positive advice from both my surgeon and audiologist, the final decision to proceed was mine alone. My decision to proceed was made based on the experience of the highly successful outcomes from the first cochlear implant.
The surgery for the second cochlear implant was performed on 1 April 2004, with switch- on 22 April 2004.
After each switch- on I was able to understand speech within 24 hours on the implanted side, which was truly amazing. Following the first switch- on, I gave a lecture the next day. I could understand questions with some difficulty, but managed without too many problems. After the second switch- on, I could converse easily with the taxi driver while travelling from St Vincents Hospital to the airport.
Since receiving bilateral cochlear implants my hearing appears to have stabilised. I am now able to use a mobile phone (on to switch) with ease, which was not possible with hearing aids. I can manage TV without teletext, but I still find the text very helpful for certain programs where the accents are strong or the sound track is of poor quality.
My perception of music, particularly classical, is slowly improving. Some instruments sound well and truly off, while others are very near to how I understand they should sound.
I find the bilateral cochlear implants to be clearly superior to a single cochlear implant. Hearing in noisy situations can still be difficult, but there is a significant improvement in quality over just one cochlear implant or bilateral hearing aids. In addition, the second cochlear implant provides a backup when a speech processor requires repair, or the batteries run out. This means that I am never off the air, and I am always keen to replace spent batteries to remain bilateral.
In summary, my life is back to normal, both socially and professionally. In my case, bilateral cochlear implants have proved essential to manage in the hearing world when one is almost totally deaf. They have allowed me to continue an active participatory life without any real difficulty. For this I am most grateful to the people involved in the initial and continuing development of the cochlear implant technology, in large part, an amazing Australian development.
My bilateral advantages
a) Sounds are generally clearer, fuller and less distorted.
b) Sounds are centred in my head rather than to one side.
c) Adjustment to the second implant was very rapid ie several days, and the sound from each implant is identical.
d) People do not need to repeat speech as much as speech intelligibility is much improved.
e) Sounds are in stereo ie directional
f) Music can be better appreciated
g) Concentration on hearing during a full active day (eg meetings/conferences) is far less stressful. Stress induced headaches are less frequent.
If you are considering bilateral cochlear implants and would like to ask me questions about my experience I would be happy to take your call or answer your email. My contact details follow.
Home phone: 02 6765 6542
Please seek advice from your medical practitioner or health professional about treatments for hearing loss. They will be able to advise on a suitable solution for the hearing loss condition. All products should be used only as directed by your medical practitioner or health professional.
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