Arrow sign with the word "results" against a mountainous background and sunset.

My Cochlear Implant Story, Part 2: The Results I’d Been Waiting For

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

4 days following the hearing tests, I’m back at the hospital to meet the ENT specialist to discuss my results. I’m nervous. I try to focus my attention on my mobile phone, scrolling through social media posts. But every few seconds there is a loud beeping sound to alert patients that another number has appeared on the screen, directing the next person to their consultation room. My gaze goes from screen to phone and back to the screen, making sure I don’t miss my appointment number when it is called. My mind is busy with questions: Will it be the same ENT I saw before? Will they speak in English? Will I have a chance to ask all my questions? Will I be a candidate for a cochlear implant? After an hour, my number finally appears on the screen. I’m bursting with anxious energy, and I focus on controlling my breathing. 

It is a different specialist from the one I previously met. She asks me why I’m there. I explain that I’m there to see if I am a candidate for a cochlear implant. I hand her my medical history from my previous hospital in Madrid, which tells my story much more succinctly than I could ever do. I take a moment to ponder how I am just another patient, one of many that the specialist would see on this day. This was just a usual day at work for her, whereas for me, this day could hold huge significance in the future of my hearing health and quality of life. 

She asks me multiple questions about my balance issues and Meniere’s disease diagnosis, and types some notes into her computer. She asks a question about my vestibular migraines. I pause to think before answering. “Would you prefer to speak in English?” she asks. Yes! She speaks English! We continue the consultation in English, and I feel some pressure lift.

She checks my ears and then brings up my hearing test results on her computer screen. She shows me the audiogram and tells me that though I have a profound hearing loss in my left ear, I have good hearing in my right ear. On the speech discrimination test my right ear scored 100%, whereas my deaf ear scored 0%. She comments, “Even though the words were in Spanish, you understood them!” Well done me!

She tells me, they can only offer people the cochlear implant up until 10 years following a hearing loss. The sooner the better for a positive result. It has been just over 6 and a half years for me, and I know that this isn’t the best-case scenario for a favourable outcome. And then she says the words I’d been hoping for: “You’re a candidate.”

My facemask hides the true extent of my smile, but I’m sure the creases around my eyes show her how much this means to me. She continues speaking, and I force myself to pay attention through my joy. She tells me that they always provide the option of a cochlear implant for children with single-sided deafness, and only sometimes for adults, as it is an expensive procedure. She talks about me having a “fragile ear”—because I had suddenly lost hearing in one ear, they don’t know what will happen to my “good” ear, putting it in a fragile position.

She advises me to have the procedure. I wasn’t expecting her to be so open with her opinions but was thankful for her candour. “If you lose hearing in your other ear and it is out of the 10 years timeframe for the cochlear implant, then you could be left with very poor hearing,” she explains. She refers to having a cochlear implant as “insurance” and says that regardless of what happens to my “good” ear, if I get the cochlear implant, I will always have some form of hearing ability to fall back on. “I have nothing to lose,” I remark. “Exactly,” she says, pointing to the profound loss shown on the audiogram. “And they can remove the implant if you’re not happy with it,” she assures me. 

She explains that because I have good hearing in my right ear, my brain will always favour this ear, and the cochlear implant won’t ever sound as good, while I have a good level of natural hearing. She also tells me that people with the implant often report that the input through the implant is metallic-sounding. The rehabilitation would entail a lot of listening exercises and takes time and effort. Another consultant enters the room and comments that she has seen people with single-sided deafness, with a similar audiogram and history to mine, achieve an 80-90 % score on the speech discrimination test after rehabilitation. 

There is a one-year waiting list for the implant, but I am now on the list! In the meantime, I will need to do some balance tests and consult with a balance specialist, a psychiatrist, and a speech therapist. I will also need an MRI and a CT scan. 

I am still processing all this. But, one thing’s for sure, I am so grateful this treatment is available to me and am willing to put in the effort to make it work as best as it possibly can.

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