Catherine Cooper: Researching the risks of getting a CI

Posted on July 16, 2012

Over the last few days, I’ve had time to sit down and do some research. My main aim was to find out what the risks and disadvantages of having a Cochlear Implant might be. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, some biased, some balanced. The difficulty is identifying which is which.

Here’s some of what I’ve found so far:

  • Not everyone is a good candidate for a Cochlear Implant – I’m still waiting to find out…
  • Implant procedure is invasive and could destroy any existing “conventional” hearing (i.e. picked up by my ear drum, small bones and cochlear) on the side they operate on – only a problem if the operation doesn’t work? – this is because the insertion of the implant into the cochlear can damage the few remaining hair cells that actually work
  • Risk of serious infection to the surface lining of the brain and meningitis – they vaccinate against meningitis to reduce the risk
  • Risk of fluid leakage from the brain or cochlear into the area created for the implant
  • Risk of implant rejection, if the body rejects the implant
  • Risk of increased tinnitus – I get this already…
  • Risk of dizziness and vertigo
  • Risk of permanent paralysis to the facial nerve – I don’t like the sound of this one
  • Risk of changes in taste sensation – could be useful for chocolate and wine
  • Risk of Cochlear Implant manufacturer going bust – means no support, or software upgrades, surely not very likely in the current climate…??
  • Pain and numbness around the ear for a few days or weeks – I expected this
  • Must avoid contact sports forever, to reduce risk of damaging implant, more surgery would be needed if it was dislodged or damaged – I’m not really one for them anyway
  • Must avoid CAT / MRI scans forever and anything with a strong magnetic field, like metal detectors – what happens if I need a scan in the future?
  • You only get one Cochlear Implant due to limited funding, although children can get two – one is better than none though?
  • Cost and hassle – leading up to, and after the operation, weekly visits to Cambridge, arranging childcare, disruption to my family, rehabilitation over a year, not to mention the non-stop effort of learning all the new sounds I’ve never heard before – not sure this last one is a disadvantage…

So… suddenly the no-brainer doesn’t seem quite so straight-forward. Perhaps my hearing isn’t so bad after all?

This article was first published on Catherine’s own blog, which you can find here:

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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