|Most recent audiogram. Red circles is the residual hearing following CI surgery. Blue c's left ear CI, red c's right ear CI.|
I recently returned to my audiologist for my six month programming session for my second cochlear implant. This, by far, was the most comfortable I felt with my current audiologist.
I had the first appointment of the day on the audiologist's calendar. 7am! Typically the appointments have lasted less than 2 hours. This one lasted 3.
I could tell something was different right away. She was more willing to chat before getting to work on the programming. And during it as well. We were able to cover a lot of ground in how I was hearing and what my concerns were for her to attempt to work on. It is vitally important that a person with Cochlear implants has a good relationship with their audiologist. After all, they are your ears. If you aren't able to communicate with the audiologist about how things sound, they don't know how to program the processor to get to a desirable outcome. The device in my head, and the processor on my ear, is only as good as the program installed on it. That is just a simple fact. A bad relationship leads to a bad hearing outcome. Many of my CI friends have made the statement that the person isn't just their audiologist, but a full fledged member of their family.
This audiologist is the third one I have worked with since my first implant in 2013. I haven't had 3 because I didn't like them, I have had three due to situations beyond my control. The first audiologist retired (although she is back to work part time). She had so much experience and knowledge. She was in the operating room in 1984 when my clinic performed their very first implant surgery. It is hard to lose that kind of knowledge. The second audiologist happened due to the retirement of the first. We immediately hit it off. And she was brilliant. Some of the ideas she came up with helped me in so many ways on my journey with the first implant. She worked with me right up to the point of ordering the equipment for my second implant. Then she needed to take a leave, maternity leave. I can't blame her for that. She was having twins! So this led me to my third audiologist. She would be the one responsible for activating my second implant, and she has been the one I have worked with exclusively for my CI's since then.
It was a bit tentative at the start, but after this session I have full confidence from her ability.
The session started in the typical fashion of going through all the necessary steps to get the correct program. Then we headed to the sound booth.
It's interesting that when you are losing your hearing you dread the "booth". You know you are going to fail the testing. It is only a question of how bad you are going to fail. When you get a cochlear implant the opposite happens. You look forward to the booth!
I couldn't wait to get in there and see how much better I was from the testing 3 months ago.
She also wanted to see how much, if any, of the residual hearing had been preserved through the surgery. Technique has improved so much that it is quite common that some of the natural hearing will be saved after implant.
So, how did I do?
The improvement has been nothing short of remarkable.
Three months ago (at 3 month's post activation of my second implant) we tried a new test for sentences. A test called AzBio. These are more difficult sentences spoken by different voices. Some were men, some were women, and they were random in who would speak.We used the same AzBio tests this time.
My results at 6 months are 54% of single words correct. the words are CNC words. Examples are dig, big, dug, bug, rug, such, much, etc. On the same test, I got 74% of the sounds correct (phonemes), meaning if the word was goat and I said boat.
On the AzBio sentence tests I scored 88% of the sentences correct in quiet. 88%!
They also do the AzBio test with background noise. The voice of the speaker is only 5 dB louder than the noise. Think talking to someone in a noisy bar/restaurant, but with no visual cues or context for the sentence.
Three months ago I scored 0% on this test. I could not distinguish the voice of the speaker from the background.
This time I scored 56%! In three months a 56% improvement! I was actually thinking that it couldn't possibly be the same test as last time. The voices were so clear. The only trouble I had was on the sentence where the speaker spoke very rapidly or mumbled.
When my audiologist came in the room she had a huge grin on her face. You could see the excitement she had for me and my improvement. She may have been more excited than I was.
This journey has been nothing short of amazing and I know I have more room to improve, and I will. It has definitely been worth the risks involved for me. And I know that I have a very competent and caring audiologist to work with to get me to where I need to go.
'Til next time
Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness