Catherine Cooper: My first cochlear implant assessment

Posted on July 11, 2012



Dan dropped the boys off early at breakfast club, and then we drove the 2 hours to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for my first assessment. We arrived just in time for the first 10am appointment, followed shortly after by a BSL interpreter, who I’d booked in advance – lovely as I knew I’d be able to relax and not have to rely upon lip reading the whole time.

And so began a long series of tests and questions, as well as a handful of answers along the way. The objective of the day was clear – to check my suitability for a cochlear implant, perhaps ending with the eventual offer of surgery and rehabilitation over the next few years.

First, I had a standard hearing test (headphones on ears without hearing aids) and then a bone conduction hearing test (against my head). Then I had a speech comprehension test, listening to five spoken phrases and trying to pick out what was being said. I could only manage to pick out a single word, “The”. The results were poorer than those recorded at my recent visit to the advanced hearing clinic.

And then we moved into another room to discuss cochlear implants in more depth. The benefits, the technology, the risks, the expectations, the reality, suitability and so forth. I was gently reminded again that not everyone is suitable, and even those that are experience different levels of change. It’s not a cure for deafness, but in some cases, not all, a Cochlear Implant has the potential to make a remarkable difference. Could it really help me?During the meeting, the audiologist talked about the new sounds I might be able to hear – birds singing (now that would be amazing), gentle rain drops, flies buzzing, the letters S or Z as well as a whole wide range of sounds that many hearing people take for granted – perhaps even voices without lip reading.

But again, my expectations were very carefully managed. Everyone is different, and will have a different experience. The research indicates that adults who have been hearing and then gone deaf, tend to have a better hearing ability (they call it “outcomes”) compared to those who have always been profoundly deaf, like me.
After this discussion, I was asked to read out some text and describe some pictures while being filmed. The quality of my speech and use of language is apparently one factor in deciding suitability.At around half 12, Dan and I had a rather quick lunch break and then went to see a nurse to weigh me, check my blood pressure and get a full run-down on my personal and family medical history. This was a surprisingly quick session lasting just a few minutes.

The next appointment was an auditory processing test to check the health of my auditory nerves – essential for a Cochlear Implant. I had 3 electrodes stuck to my head, and then had to lay down on a bed for 20 minutes. During this time, my auditory nerves were stimulated with electrical impulses (it sounded like a hissing), with my brain activity recorded.

The final test of the day was a CAT scan, partly used to gather information about the shape of my cochlears, which could determine the choice of implant, if we get that far.

And so the day was complete, all tests done. From here, the team will review their findings and decide whether or not to offer me a cochlear implant, probably within a few weeks.  The waiting game begins…

This article was first published on Catherine’s own blog, which you can find here: http://sounds-different.blogspot.co.uk/

Catherine lives in Norfolk and has a young family. Born profoundly deaf in 1978, she leads a busy life using a combination of hearing aids, lip reading and sign language. Following a deterioration in hearing in recent years, she is now in the early stages of getting a Cochlear Implant, and currently awaits feedback on her suitability. This is her story, told as it happens.

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