It’s Happening – My Cochlear Implant Journey!

imageOk it is done. I have finally managed to get someone from the Cochlear Implant Clinic on the line. It was a case of fifth time lucky. I called, got the answering machine and as I was leaving my details someone picked up. One can imagine some poor overworked receptionist just working away as the phone rang.  The receptionist was probably just hoping that I would leave a message so that she could finish her wedding invitations. Guilt seems to have gotten the better of her and she decided to pick up. The rest, as they say, is history. I really should not be such a cynic.

In the end getting a referral was easy. I made a doctors appointment about something completely unrelated. As it turned out the unrelated issue was not an issue of any kind, but it was a relief to know that. Unrelated issue dealt with I popped the question about a written referral to the Cochlear Implant clinic. “Sure”, said the Doc, who had just met me for the first time. She got on the computer and started writing. She asked me to confirm when I had lost my hearing and that was it. Referral was printed and I was out the door. Unrelated issue dealt with and referral received, all in under ten minutes. The Doctor did not even look at my ears. Cost – $71.00. I sure wish I could earn that much for ten minutes work.

Assessment turn around at the clinic is apparently 4 to 6 weeks. I scanned the Doctors letter and I emailed it to the clinic. They have acknowledged that it had been received. They asked me to send them an audiogram. They did not seem to fussed that I did not have one. After all I was calling through the National Relay Service. That was probably evidence enough that I was very deaf.

I mean what crackpot would want to have a cochlear implant even though they are not deaf. I guess there might be some devious and not well people who have a fetish about having surgery, even when it is not needed. Years ago there were some students of sign language who used to tell us, “I wish I was Deaf”. Wannabes we called them. Even they would not go as far as impersonating a deaf person so that they could have a cochlear implant. And anyway they would need to have a bilateral implant to become deaf.  Nah it wouldn’t happen, they would get found out eventually. That said, there are some strange people out there so I would not discount the possibility entirely.

In the mean time I wait and continue to gather as much information as possible. I read an interesting account from a parent whose 18 month old baby had just received the implant. Apparently when the implant was switched on it scared the Bejaysus out of the poor kid. The kids discomfort with the cochlear implant is such that the parents cannot get the kid to wear it. When they try to put the implant on the kid throws an almighty tantrum and pulls the implant off. In desperation they sought advice from other parents whose children have had the implant.

The responses were interesting. It is clear that there are other kids who refuse to wear the implant when switched on. A lot of parents encouraged the use of bribery. Give lollies for prolonged wearing of the implant they would say. One can imagine parents with a bag of lollies in one hand implant in the other, a bit like Pavlov’s dog and the bell. After five minutes they throw a lolly. After ten minutes throw two and so on until the kid associates the implant with nice things and wears it without issue.

Some parents were horrified at this approach. The baby is not a dog they would say. Some thought it was better to just take a slow approach. When the child wears the implant or allows it to be put on just encourage them with affection and praise. Let the child get used to the implant at their own pace they encouraged. Eventually, they advised, the child will accept and learn to love the implant.

I found this interesting because these are the stories you very rarely hear in the public domain. Instead you see parents crying with joy and little kids eyes lighting up as they are switched on. Clearly this is only part of the story and one wishes that the media could provide a more balanced coverage of what happens when a child is switched on. The media should be highlighting the benefits and also the challenges.

This is also true of some of the other issues in relation to having an implant. There are clearly pros, cons and the possible risks. All of this information is important so that people can make informed choices. It is certainly true that media coverage and promotion of the implant glosses over these issues. The media do not really gloss over these issues; they do not discuss them at all.

Two weeks ago a friend visited our home. He had been implanted six years ago. He decided to get implanted because he felt that it would increase his job prospects as a teacher. He was explaining that six years on he still had vertigo and that for a while he had lost his sense of taste. He said that while he did not regret having the implant some of the side affects he was experiencing actually made him feel more disabled than before.

My friend is from Britain. I asked him whether the Doctors gave him detailed information about possible side affects of the implant. He thought about this for a while. He concluded that they had not given him a lot of information about possible side affects. His view was that they focused more on the benefits. They told him that he would get great benefit from the implant many times. He wishes that he had received more balanced information.

I guess I am in a fortunate position of having worked in the disability sector for 25 years. I am quite cluey about a lot of issues and know the questions to ask. Not everyone is in the same boat. Interestingly another friend with the implant suggested that my focus on the cons to date suggests that at this point I am not ready for the implant. This is probably true. Time will tell. Stay tuned for the next update when I have my initial assessment interview in the coming weeks.

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