It’s been a while since I have updated this blog; I can hear you all sobbing about it from here. I do apologise but there seemed little to report as things have settled back into normality and wedding planning has taken over.
So here is a (long) update for you all. I had my three month review last week; I cannot believe it has already been three months since I got switched on, but at the same time it feels like I have never been without it!
I had three appointments booked, one with the audiologist, the speech therapist and the surgeon who carried out the operation back in December. The appointment with the audiologist was pretty standard, a bit like the previous tuning sessions, discussing how my current maps are performing and if there were any issues such as the twitching – You may remember I mentioned I was experiencing high levels of twitching in my face which was becoming bothersome. I went back to the hospital in March and began the process of being remapped – apparently there are three out of twelve electrodes that make me twitch which isn’t ideal. So these electrodes were turned down and some others increased to get a more balanced sound.
At first I didn’t like it, it felt far too soft for my liking but I have gradually become used to it and now it feels like a normal level. And best of all, the twitching has dramatically reduced! Most days there is hardly any twitching, if at all. I notice that if I am really tired I am more susceptible to the twitching occurring and also if I put my processor on late in the day (i.e. in the afternoon rather than first thing in the morning) then I am more prone to the twitching occurring but on the whole it is much better than before. As there were no major issues arising from the remapping this appointment was relatively short and sweet.
The second appointment with the speech therapist was two days later and was a bit more in-depth; I had three speech perception tests and a variety of questionnaires to complete.
The first of the three speech perception tests was the lip-reading and speech test where you are facing a computer screen displaying a rather stern looking man who recites several sentences for you to relay. It not only tests your lip-reading skills, but also your hearing. Many cochlear implant users find that the implant helps with their lip-reading skills when in social environments which this test aims to identify. On this particular test I scored….100%!!
The second speech perception test was purely on speech alone so you are in front of a speaker, a metre away, and you have to listen to and relay the sentences that are spoken. This test aims to identify exactly how much you can hear with the implant without relying on lip-reading. The sentences are completely random it is not something you could guess…i.e “Baby likes jam” and there are about 30 sentences to listen to. My score on this one was 99% – the baby bit really got me, it didn’t make sense so I assumed it must be “Davy likes jam” – silly me!
Finally, the third and final test which happened to be the hardest one was again on speech alone but this time it was random words – “Hoof” anyone? – There were two parts to the test, firstly the word itself and secondly, the sounds picked up ie. In Cheese, the Ch, ee, ese parts. So there were potentially 90 sounds in the words that I could have picked up. Apparently I picked up 94% of these sounds which was brilliant, especially as the words were so random that I thought I was hearing things completely wrong. The speech therapist was really happy with all my results and asked if I would speak about my experiences at a future Cochlear Implant device choice meeting for potential implantees which I delightedly accepted.
I also had to go through some questionnaires, focusing on my health as a whole as some people who received an implant have experienced adverse effects on their health or have found that issues they had before were no longer evident. There was also a questionnaire based on the first one I had completed pre implant about my expectations and goals and whether these had been met or exceeded. I had deliberately set my expectations low as advised by the audiologists to minimise any disappointment in case it wasn’t as effective as hoped, so I was happy to report that my expectations had been exceeded in all aspects. I had also set three goals, to be able to communicate in social situations without relying on lip-reading, to be able to use the telephone again and to be able to listen to music again, all of which I have been able to achieve.
My third and final appointment was with the surgeon, you may remember me mentioning that my mother knew him so this was a very jolly and upbeat meeting catching up with him. He was thrilled with the results from the speech perception tests and said he had been following my progress since switch on – it is lovely to know that the staff involved all genuinely care about their patients and their progress following surgery.
He also checked inside my ear and my scar to check they were okay and healing nicely and also showed me a copy of my X-Ray which was fascinating. You can clearly see the implant itself as well as the electrode array which was inserted into the ear and was curled around the cochlea. You can also make out all 12 of the electrodes in the spiral; he was clearly a very skilled surgeon as he said there had been no trauma to the middle ear which can sometimes happen during surgery as it is a very delicate and small area to work on. He also said that this would bode well for any future surgery I may need (the implanted part only has a guaranteed life of about 10-15 years although it could remain fine for 20+) as the future surgeon would find the ear as he originally found it.
The only slightly gloomy news was that despite there already being an updated speech processor to the one I was given, I will probably have to wait between 8-10 years for a new one because of funding issues. Each processor is worth approximately £5,000 excluding all accessories, batteries, chargers etc and the hospital has a minimum of 1,000 patients so it is not possible for patients to be upgraded with new processors every time they are updated. The upside to this is by the time 10 years come around the technology will be vastly a superior to what is on the market today. The way I look at it is similar to mobile phone software updates – not all updates are actually better!
Next week I’ll have some tips and advice on flying with your Cochlear Implant and what you can expect.