Assessment for Cochlear Implant - I'm a candidate!

Greetings all:

Yesterday was assessment day. We were up very early to make the drive to Toronto and arrived in plenty of time, which was a very good thing as there was a long line-up to enter the main entrance to the hospital that snaked well down the sidewalk. It was very intimidating to be standing in this line for a good 15 - 20 minutes with little social distancing when Toronto is at its peak with Covid cases. Needless to say, my stress levels were ramping up.

I found the audiology department which was an oasis of calm after running the gauntlet through the crowded hospital lobby. No wonder covid numbers are rising - but that’s another conversation. Because I could not bring my husband in to “hear” for me, I was assured that I could access WiFi in order to use my Live Transcribe on my phone. No luck connecting - and then I became aware that every staff member was wearing a normal mask, when I was also assured they would be wearing clear masks! Just then the audiologist came for me - in my angst I blurted out that I was completely unable to “hear” with everyone wearing regular masks, and I can’t hook up to their WiFi. I think I may have come on a little strongly, but she graciously reassured me that she would don a clear mask - it made all the difference. All this preamble is to reflect the times we are all living in while have to cope with our hearing loss.

We had a long chat ahead of the hearing tests where she asked a lot of questions about how my hearing loss was affecting my life. I imagine my earlier demeanor had spoken for itself, when she kindly inquired if I was seeking professional help for my stress. But I think we can all relate to the challenges of coping in a masked world on top of the challenges we already face as hearing impaired people.

On to the hearing tests. They were lengthy and took a lot of concentration. We always want to perform well - which is silly, becaused that is the reason we are there. I tried so hard to repeat words and sentences - often guessing. The results reflected my other two tests over the past year, with just minor variance. Speech on the right: 12%. On left 40%

Back to her office, where she confirmed that I was a candidate and continued on to explain how an implant works etc. All things I already knew thanks to the research I had done in advance. I cannot stress enough, how important it is to inform yourself. There is a wealth of information out there - as well as this wonderful forum and others. Health care systems may vary between countries, but the CI products and surgery is common to all.

I was surprised to learn though, that I had gotten ahead of myself in thinking it was up to me to choose which implant company to go with. That, under Ontario’s healthcare system, is in the hands of the Implant Team. She said, that while they use AB, Cochlear, and Med-El - the surgeons favour Med-El and said it was most likely the one I would be implanted with. Ironic, as I had already turned away from that company because of rechargeable battery life, and the fact that they don’t seem to be as up-to-date with streaming technology etc. What is in their favour, though, is the MRI compatility which is important to me. (I do see that Cochlear is now also promising 3T MRIs without magnet removal, but not AB) Anyway, all that is yet to be determined, so choosing the external processor will have to wait. The audiologist was really in favour of the off-the-ear processors as well - another thing that I had rejected because of fear of losing one. So I will likely have questions for the forum about the pros and cons before I make my decision.

Two hours have elapsed and now I had one more test - a cognitive test. Oh, easy peasyI thought - I have sat in on these several times with my elderly mother as her dementia worsened. Oh dear … they were much more involved, though they still included the classic drawing of a dial on a clock, remembering a group of words. However, by that time I was pretty drained and I hit an embarrassing wall when I was asked to start at 100, and go backwards subtracting 7 each time. Math is not my strong suit to begin with, but by the time I got to the 70’s my brain froze. She assured me I did fine and this exercise was for research purposes only, and they would test me again about a year after the implant. Finally I was finished the assessment. So, this morning I woke up with a splitting headache. As I laid there contemplating getting up, I tried the math exercise again - I did fine even with my head pounding! Whew, that’s reassuring.

I have another appointment April 30 for balance tests and possibly another CT scan - I did question if I needed another as I just got one in January - so they have to check on that with the surgeon.

One snag, as I proceed, is the timing of the meningitis vaccines which I understand have to be spaced at least 8 weeks apart. I have already received my first Covid shot, and was scheduled to recived my second one last week. However it got cancelled, and has yet to be rebooked, when Canada made the decision to space out the first and second shots to 16 weeks – a very big gamble and due entirely to a botched procurement strategy which left us with a very slow rollout. This means I won’t get my second shot until late June, then will have to wait a month before starting the meningitis vaccinations. Sigh. So it looks like surgery will have to wait until October. I just hope it is well before the snow flies - as it’s an 1 1/2 hour drive to the hospital!

Thanks to all who have answered my questions. You have all been a great help, and I hope to pay it forward. Cheers.

1 Like

I think you should be able to shorten your timeline. I believe you only need 2 weeks between COVID vaccine and other vaccines so you could get a meningitis vaccine now, COVID at 16 weeks and 2nd meningitis shot 2 weeks after 2nd COVID. I think that should put you sometime in Summer.

Thank you for that suggestion. I had thought it was a month between the covid shot and other vaccines. I was afraid to go ahead with the meningitis vaccines and mess up the timeline for my second Covid shot. My husband was just at the vaccine centre today for his first shot and made some inquiries while there. He was given a phone number to our local health unit, where he explained the situation, and they are going to try to work something out for me. I am grateful for his advocacy, but I do look forward to being able to advocate for myself more in the future.

I can’t say for sure what Canada is doing, but at the COVID injection clinics I’ve volunteered at, it was a 2 week gap that was required between COVID and other vaccines.

1 Like

Will you get an appointment with the surgeon before surgery? We do in the the USA. If you do, that’s a good time to discuss which CI manufacture you will be getting and it might also be a time for you to air your thoughts about which one you like and why.

Congratulations on getting approval for an implant or is it implants?
The process can be overwhelming but it really is not. I hope you can relax about it now that you know.

Keep us posted on your progress.

1 Like

Thanks @Raudrive! Yes it is exciting to get this thing started. I will just get one implant for now, although the surgeon did say that I will very likely need another in the future. It this point, I would like to hang on to my natural hearing with an HA as long as possible. It frightens me to contemplate being utterly and completely deaf if I go with a second implant. But, I am certainly open to the eventual need.

As for a chat with the surgeon - I am still not sure when I will see him in person. I certainly hope so! I think there will be a pre-op appointment - but it’s likely decided already by that time. Interestingly, and I mentioned this before, that in my research I discovered that the only other implant program in our province uses Med-El as their primary choice as well. I don’t know if they favour that brand because they’ve been using it the longest, or if they consider it to be the best product out there. At some point, as much as I like to be in control, I have to accept their decision. I asked to audiologist to stress MRI compatibility as being my biggest concern. So, at this point, if they choose Med-El for me, I will be satisfied. @Syncros - after you telling me Sunnybrook chose AB for you, this was a surprise to me. @Dani - I will likely be asking more questions of you, if you don’t mind! Cheers!

I won’t mind. Of course not. :slightly_smiling_face:
Just ask anything you want to know. But don’t be surprised, I am around 9 hrs ahead from you

1 Like