Ok, so why am I considering a Cochlear Implant (CI) at this point of my life?
CIs were not FDA approved for children when my parents found out I was deaf. Back then, the operation procedure was more intensive than they are today. Today, most patients go home the same day they had surgery and the incisions are smaller. Also, CIs were a new thing and people weren’t sure what the long-term effects would be. Taking into my consideration my personal situation and my personality, I am glad that I didn’t get a CI at a young age back in the 1980s. Knowing my track record with speech therapy and audio training with DASL II (Developmental Approach to Successful Listening) as a kid, lol. I don’t think I would have been one of those success CI kid stories.
Anyways, I did wear several hearing aids on and off growing up.
Hearing aid #1: Ages 2-5 (body aid)
Hearing aid #2: Ages 5-7 (plus FM system at school).
I couldn’t really hear much with these 2 aids. Since then I have only had frequency compression hearing aids. They’re totally different from hearing aids that just amplify sounds. Instead of amplifying sounds, the hearing aids actually moves sounds in the high frequency range into the low frequency range. Since I have a very small window of residual hearing in the low frequency range it really compresses all the sounds into low frequencies at the dB level that I can hear them at.
Hearing aid #3: Ages 8-11 (I was one of the first ones in America to have a frequency compression hearing aid). It was more of a body aid where it was a big box that I had to wear around my hip (similar to the old versions of CIs back then) and it used to make horrible feedback noises if I didn’t have it on my hips just right. Besides it just wasn’t cool to wear in middle and junior high school, so I took a break from hearing aids!
Hearing aid #4: Ages 15-20 (They finally came out with a behind the ear version, about the same time that CIs did too).
Hearing aid #5: Ages 21-current (digital version)
Basically, I was getting the same benefits from these type of hearing aids as I would have from a CI back then. I was more than satisfied with them. CIs have improved so much in the last few years though and might be able to provide me with more clarity than my current hearing aids do.
I’ve been exploring all different possible options besides CIs and was able to try 2 different types of hearing aids recently to see if they helped me any more than my current hearing aids do. There wasn’t that much difference to make me consider getting different hearing aids.
I started seriously considering a CI my junior year in college. It’s been 5 years now and I am still considering a CI. Why haven’t I gone through with a CI yet? It is a surgical process for something that is non-life threatening. I think also I felt like I had to be comfortable with being deaf before I even considered going through with a CI.
I grew up in 4 different towns and the attitude towards my deafness varied in each town. For the longest time I did view my deafness the same way that the hearing world viewed deafness in general. I had limited exposure to Deaf culture until high school. It was a negative experience at first. I didn’t want anything to with Deaf culture at all, but over time I have came to embrace and appreciate it. In college, I was still unsure as to what my roles were in both the hearing and deaf worlds. I felt like I had to choose one over the other and didn’t want to do that. Then in graduate school, I had to reevaluate my roles and I finally realized that I’ll always be stuck between the 2 worlds and to embrace it.
I used to ask myself this question growing up:
“If you could take a pill and become a hearing person overnight, would you?”
Elementary school, middle school, junior high school: I would always answer this question along the lines of, “Oh, of course! Who wouldn’t?! Where are those pills?!”
High school: “Oh, I don’t know. I might.”
College: “I don’t know. Depends on my mood when you ask me.”
Graduate school: That first year “Yes, please!” Second/Third year: “Nope. I would take them only if they wore off after 6 hours, I don’t think I could tolerate being able to hear and understand everything 24/7. I prefer to be deaf, because that is who I am.”
That’s the point I wanted to be at before further considering a CI. I feel like I needed to accept who I am as a deaf person and embrace that person. I don’t view getting a CI as something that will make me “hearing.” I view it as a tool that may help improve my communication abilities within the hearing world.
I know it’s a bit ironic that I waited until I was more accepting of my deafness before I considered getting something that will help me “hear” a bit. There has been some discussions about older deaf kids and adults undergoing psychology evaluations before getting implanted. Getting implanted will affect how a person is viewed by the Deaf community (they’re far more accepting than they were back in the 1980s/1990s) and how that person views himself/herself. Your perspectives of yourself as a deaf person and as a deaf person with a CI can affect how willing you are to work with a CI.
Plus, there’s always the chance (very small) that I may not like a CI and that I might be unable to wear a hearing aid in the implanted ear. So, I need to be comfortable with the idea of not benefiting from a hearing aid or a CI in one ear.