Cochlear Implants

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Questions that people often ask when they are considering an implant!!

  • Are there side effects from the implant surgery?
    First, remember all surgery and anaesthetic procedures have possible side effects. In CI surgery, there is a chance that your balance may be affected immediately after surgery and for a few people this can last a bit longer, but long term balance problems directly related to the surgery are rare.
    Other possible but uncommon and usually temporary side effects can be to a facial nerve or to taste.
  • Will I hear straight away?
    After the implant surgery there will be a period of 2-3 weeks recovery to allow the wound to heal and the swelling to settle. You will not hear until you attend your “switch-on” appointment when the audiologist issues the external sound processor and programs it specifically for you
  • Will I hear normal sound?
    At first when you are switched on, be prepared for the unexpected as it often doesn’t sound very good, especially if you have been deaf for some time. It may sound like people are speaking underwater or they sound very much like robots...However, this can change very quickly so don’t let first impressions fool you. If you wear your processor every day, all day, you will find that things start to sound clearer and you will slowly recognise more words without trying too hard.

    Auditory rehabilitation helps, like listening to audio books, music or the radio
  • Will I hear music?
    You will hear music though again it may not sound very good at first. it takes time to learn to hear music and some music is not reproduced very well through a sound processor. Simple music sounds better, such as folk music or solo instruments, but you can develop a better sense and appreciation of music with practice. There is much research currently being undertaken on music and cochlear implants. Programming of sound processors is also constantly developing to try and improve the quality of music as well as better speech recognition
  • Will I be able to use the phone?
    This comes with practice. Once you start to get used to listening and hearing more clearly with your implant, it is good to try using the phone with someone you know. You may have to fill in the gaps using the context of what you DO hear. You will need to be patient and just keep on trying. You can try different ways of using the phone, such as using speakerphone or trying the T-switch, which will give you a clearer signal and cut out some background noise so that you have a better chance of hearing the conversation.

    Major advances in recent years have been the availability of “phone-clip” Bluetooth accessories that connect sound processors to mobile phones and some landlines and from 2018 sound processors that link directly to mobile phones.
  • Can I swim with a cochlear implant?
    The internal part of the implant is completely sealed under the skin. However, the external sound processor which sends the signal through from the outside is not waterproof, though it may be water-resistant with regard to a shower of rain or such like. There is an accessory which is something like a snap-lock cover which you can wear over your sound processor if you want to swim with it on. This accessory only works with rechargeable batteries. You will need to secure it with a cap or something over the top so it does not float away!!
  • Should I wait for newer technology before I have my implant??
    There are new developments all the time, but the main thing is that the longer your brain is missing out on sound, the longer it will take you to adapt to the sound of an implant. Implants are designed with future developments in mind and implant companies would expect that most people would not want to have surgery every time there is a new model on the market. So the implant that you have today will be powered by a sound processor that is a current model. A better model sound processor may be developed within about 5 years, possibly it will be smaller, will give you more speech information and perhaps better battery life. You will need to consider putting money aside to pay for an upgrade sound processor if you don’t have private health insurance which will cover the cost of upgrading
  • Will my activities be restricted with an implant??
    There is not much you cannot do with an implant. Though MRI scans are restricted to some degree.

    Implant recipients can participate in all normal activities and I believe even skydiving and scuba-diving are fine as long as the right precautions are taken. You will need to check any extreme sports with the company that manufactures your implant.
  • Can I sleep with my processor on?
    There are some recipients that wear the sound processor in bed and this is really a personal choice. However it is beneficial for your processor to put it in a drying kit at night with fresh desiccant crystals which absorb moisture. This will help to keep it working better. It may also be good to give your head a rest from the pressure of the magnetic coil. Your processor may come off from rolling around in bed.
  • Should I get insurance for my processor??
    Sound processors can be easily lost so it is certainly wise to insure it, either under your home contents policy or a stand-alone sound processor policy. You will need to cover it for loss or damage, and please check the wording of the policy carefully. Some health funds will cover repairs and maintenance and upgrades, so check with your fund first to see what is included.
  • Is it expensive to maintain my device?
    Most processors are fairly robust if treated correctly and outside of batteries, require a few replacement parts occasionally. Your start-up kit should contain some spare parts and you should read the warranty terms carefully to see what the warranty is on each item. If a fault occurs within a warranty period, you should contact the implant company or your clinic as soon as possible to have the part replaced. You should also make sure you have a price list for replacement parts so you can be prepared for costs that might arise. You can discuss these issues with your audiologist.
  • Maintenance, Medical, and Miscellaneous FAQs
    There is a range of articles for each section that have come from issues of CICADA and HEARING HQ magazines (no longer published) that go back several years. Technology developments mean some bits and pieces may be out of date, but they remain a useful guide for readers to do their own research or talk to their GP, ENT specialist or audiologist.


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