Friday, February 10, 2006

Going Bilateral?

I am doing so well with just one CI and keeping thinking how nice it would be if I had a CI on the other side. Would two be better than one? That is one of the questions that I've been pondering and praying about lately. I love being able to hear as well as I do now but would like to hear better with my unimplanted ear and be more balanced. I'm doing good and still making slow but steady progress with my CI. Yesterday, I had an appointment with Dr. Merwin about getting my other ear implanted. When he walked in the room he asked me why I was there. . . I told him I just wanted to see my favorite surgeon again! He just smiled and chuckled at me. He is thrilled that the implant surgery was successful and commented on the improved clarity and tone in my voice and speech. We talked for a little bit and then I told him my real reason for being there and expressed my desire to go bilateral. I asked him what the chances were of having my other ear implanted. He surprised me by saying that he has not done a bilateral implant yet because most insurance companies still consider them experimental, including ours. He wanted to do some testing before we proceeded any further with the appointment. His audiologist did a speech and language assessment with my hearing with my CI and HA together. I still qualified for a CI even with my implant. My HINT (Hearing In Noise Test) score was 42% and the criteria for a cochlear implant is 50% or less. Dr. Merwin plans to present my case to the insurance company and will write a letter but it will take a few weeks for him to do that. He said that Cochlear would have some ideas on how to write a good letter. He is very interested and agreed with me that it is worth a try but did not want to encourage me too much. I told him that I understood. I shared with him that Steve and I have always told our children that if they don't try something, they'll always wonder and have regrets. So, it is my turn to follow our own advice. I know it will take a while but I'm not in a big hurry this time. I also surprised him by telling him that I would be interested in being an "experiment" if something new came up. He told me that I should write to Cochlear myself and let them know that. I wish I had done better with my HINT at 42% but the therapist was hard for me to understand and talked too fast. I KNOW I would have done better with my own therapist but this is a test I need to fail to still qualify. I don't think they like to test their patients very hard. But, I'm up 42% from 0%, which is better than what I had before. I might have Susie redo the HINT test just for my own benefit to see if my score is better with her. I know I am understanding more than 42%. I'm still finding it hard to understand speech without lipreading sometimes because I'm learning like a baby, from scratch. But, by relaxing and taking one day at a time, it will only get better. I just need to keep working at it and be patient.

I have several reasons for wanting another CI. My thinking is that if I can do well with one, two would be better. I'd like to have "surround sound" and better sound localization . It is also a safety issue with me. It would be helpful to be able to figure out which direction a siren or traffic is coming from, for example. Right now, when I hear a sound or person and don't know where it is, I have to take a few seconds to find it. By the time I locate it, I've missed something. That would not be a problem with a second CI. Also, when the batteries in my CI die (there is little warning), I wouldn't have to stop what I'm doing to change the batteries while I'm driving, having a normal conversation, talking on the phone, giving a speech or presentation, or something like that. In addition, when on the phone, it would be nice to be able to hear my voice and and still know what is going on around me with the other ear or be able to block it out, whichever meets my needs at the time. Another reason would be for improved speech perception. Having two CI's would give that extra "oomph" that I need and may even sound more like "normal" hearing. I think two CI's would improve my hearing, especially in difficult listening environments. Besides, the right ear is for music and the left ear is for voices. The brain puts these two together and processes them.

Should my other ear be saved for future developments? At my age, life is too short to wait. My right ear will never get better or improve on its own. It would be great to get rid of the hearing aid and not have to worry about ear molds or feedback anymore, either. Sounds like a lame excuse but feedback makes me self conscious. I have to be careful when I smile because the ear changes its shape when my jawbone and facial muscles move and the sound leaks through the ear mold. I've had several embarrassing moments and feedback can be annoying to other people, especially me, now that I can hear it with my CI. I have realized that life is not going to come to me. I just have to meet the challenges as they come, take a deep breath, step out in faith, and say, "Here I am, all of me."

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