Callum Fox: Crunch meeting with my audiologist. Will I get a new CI?

Posted on January 31, 2013



It’s that time of the year again. I’ll be making my way to Stanley Primary Care Centre in County Durham for my annual appointment with an audiologist.

It’s something I go through every year, ever since I was implanted. The purpose of the visit is to make sure that there are no problems and to tune the sound processor so that it’s in good shape.

To be honest, the visits have never really thrown anything up apart from the occasional upgrading of my sound processor. But this visit is different.

At the moment I’ve just graduated from university and about to enter work. And I’m conscious of the fact that my cochlear implant is living on borrowed time.

Back when I was implanted in 1995, audiologists predicted that the implant would last five to ten years. When I was starting my GCSEs, they revised that prediction to ten to fifteen years. So I went through the last six years, going through GCSEs, A Levels, and two degrees, wondering when my time would be up.

A Cochlear Implant. This is currently under my skin, next to my skull.

A Cochlear Implant. This is currently under my skin, next to my skull.

It’s now been seventeen years. I’d always hoped that the implant wouldn’t fail during exam periods and that it would conveniently fail during the summer, where I could easily get it replaced with little disruption to my education.

I don’t have that luxury anymore. Once I get a job, that’s it. No more summer breaks or half terms. Having to undergo an operation and a three-month rehabilitation could be really disruptive in the early years of my job. What if I get a job somewhere, get a few months in and it conks out?

That could really harm my employability, as I’d have to mention the possibility to any potential employer. No one wants to take on a journalist who could be out of action for up to three months at any time, even with the Discrimination Act.

So I’m now faced with a dilemma. Do I wait for the implant to fail or do I go to my audiologist and ask for an operation ahead of time? Is such a thing possible? I’m determined to find out if it is.

And that’s not the only thing to discuss either. It’s been four years since my sound processor was last upgraded. I’m clueless as to when my next upgrade is due. I’ve heard that it’s compulsory for CI users to be upgraded every three years. If that’s true, then I’m overdue one.

Are the upgrades linked to the cochlear implant inside my head? I suspect, although I’m not sure, that my implant is vastly out of date with current technology, what with it being seventeen years old. That dates to back before the internet took off in 2000.

By today’s standards, it’s positively ancient.

Looking at the latest in cochlear implant technology, it seems you can do pretty amazing things with them now. You can connect to your phone via bluetooth, automatically connect to loop systems, wirelessly connect to music players and more.

This is a sound processor. In need of an upgrade.

This is a sound processor. In need of an upgrade.

That’s not even mention the vital upgrades to performance and battery life. Battery life is woeful at the minute. I get one day out of my batteries at best.

As for the performance, putting it simply, I could hear much better than I do now. There’s no guarantees, I’m very much aware of that, but the possibility is tempting.

But there’s an issue with compatibility. Is this new fangled technology even compatible with my old timer of a cochlear implant? That’s a question for the experts.

If my concerns prove to be right and I do need to replace my cochlear implant sooner or later, then I’d rather do it now.

For all those benefits, I’d be willing to go under the knife. I can’t afford to wait until the inevitable happens. I don’t have much to lose right now, I work from home writing for two publications as well as writing this blog. I don’t need to be able to hear to do that.

Really, there’s no better time. I’ll certainly be grilling my audiologist over the possibilities next week.

This article was first published on Callum’s blog here: http://walkthedivide.wordpress.com/

Callum Fox is walking the divide between the hearing and deaf worlds. Profoundly deaf since birth and CI user. In his spare time he balances being 22 years old, being a football fanatic and trying to make it as a writer, journalist and human being. Follow him on Twitter as @WalkTheDivide

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