Monday, October 10, 2016

The Waiting Game

This process moves so slowly. I am convinced the Lord is teaching me patience. I had an appointment set up on September 12 for the necessary 3 hours of audiology tests to determine the extent of my hearing loss and document it all for diagnosis and insurance purposes. The week before that appointment, the office called me and said I needed to meet with the physician first. So we cancelled the audiology appointment and set a physician appointment - for 2 weeks later.
I attended the appointment with the doctor on September 24 and was pleased with what he had to say. The doctor that did my first implant is no longer with the practice and I was worried that I might have to go outside of Toledo for my surgery. However, the doctor that I saw on September 24 comes to the office a few times a month and does the surgeries at St. Luke's Hospital, which is where I had my last one done. That was a huge relief that it will still be an outpatient surgery close to home. Dr. D was very nice and friendly and I liked him immediately.
I finally got that audiology appointment set with my audiologist, Dr. Jessica (same one who works with me on my right ear). She told me that instead of the usual 3 hours of testing, it would probably be only 2 because there would be things we wouldn't have to talk about and do because this is my second implant. (yay!!) I had my appointment on Friday, October 7. We got all the hearing tests done, filled out all necessary paperwork, and even remapped my right implant. It had been almost 2 years exactly since I'd been there for a mapping. She was still extremely happy with the results of my right implant. Friday's tests showed my speech understanding at 99% correct in quiet and 87% correct in noise. In real life, it's not always that amazing, but still that's pretty awesome! She told me she calls me her "rockstar" patient because of my fantastic results with the implant. She also warned me that the left ear might not have such great results. Every ear is different in how it accepts the implant and adjusts to hearing. I am completely ok with that because right now, I have NO hearing in my left ear. So something has got to be better than nothing.
Now, we just have to wait for insurance approval. This can take 6-8 weeks. Last time there were a few glitches that took several days of phone calls between me, the insurance and the physicians office to iron out the approval. Thank goodness for snow days to get that done last time! I am hoping that this approval will be smoother.
Once approved, we can schedule the surgery. Right now, Dr. D is booked up into December, so surgery will be late December or early January at the very earliest. If approval takes a long time, the surgery date could be pushed back even later.
So, I am waiting impatiently for approval and the next steps of this process. Stay tuned, I'll keep you posted!
God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!

Monday, September 12, 2016

On Hold...

I was supposed to have a 3 hour hearing evaluation today to determine whether my left ear is a candidate for a cochlear implant. Last week the office called me and cancelled that appointment in order to make an appointment for me with a physician first. My new appointment is now on September 24. After seeing the physician, we will schedule the hearing evaluation with the audiologist. This timeline just moves so slowly. This is not surprising to me. It took nearly 6 months from my first appointment to my CI activation last time. Then there were numerous mapping appointments following activation to perfect the settings on my device. If this experience has taught me anything, it is patience. But patience is hard and sometimes I get whiny!
So far, "deaf life" is going ok. Some experiences are harder than others to hear. I feel more upbeat about persevering through the tough times because I carry a hope that the outcome will be a positive one. I do pray for healing sometimes, but more often I pray for the doctors, nurses and audiologists that will help me along the way. I know God could heal me if that were His will, but I believe He has other plans for my hearing journey. I hope my heart is listening when He whispers.
The big difference between this journey and the last one is hope. Last time I was filled with desperation and no vision of what the future may hold. This time I am anchored in hope. I know what is possible. I trust in God's perfect timing.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:19

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Here We Go Again...

It's been almost 2 years since my last post. I have had a few comments asking me to post and update on how my life with a cochlear implant is going. Really, I didn't feel the need to post because the implant is great. I love it! Life without it would be difficult and depressing.

When evaluated for my CI, the ENT told me that although I have significant loss in my left ear, a hearing aid is sufficient for the time being. He also told me that because I had unexplained sudden loss in my right ear that led to my CI, the left ear would probably eventually need a CI also.

In the last month the hearing in my left ear has changed significantly. First the sound quality changed. It became more tinny, I often felt like I was in a tin can or had water in my ears. Then I noticed a considerable decrease in volume each day when I put my hearing aid on in the morning. In about a week, almost all hearing was gone in the left ear. After a visit to my audiologist for a hearing evaluation, she confirmed that I was almost completely deaf in the left ear and my hearing aid was not going to assist me no matter how high we turned it up.

While this would seem to be depressing news, (and it is!) I am terribly thankful for the wonderful hearing in my right ear due to my CI. When I take off my CI processor at the end of the day, I truly am completely deaf. That is taking some getting used to. With my CI processor on, I feel lopsided in hearing and I struggle in noisy situations. But I have experienced this in the past and was blessed at the end of the journey with a cochlear implant that has changed my life.

After the visit to my audiologist, she has sent my audiogram and a referral for a CI evaluation to the office where I received my implant to begin the process of (hopefully!) getting a second CI. So we are back on the crazy train for another ride. If the final destination is a cochlear implant, I will be thankful for the miracle technology and will gladly suffer the tests and hoops that we must jump through to get there.

The last time I lost complete hearing in an ear, I was scared and depressed. This time I am able to be positive and patient because I know the process and have seen the outcome. God is good and I must trust in his perfect timing.

So, as we head down this road again, I will continue to update this blog and share the good, the bad and the ugly. Here we go again...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Can You Hear The People Sing?

It has been almost 10 months since my last post. Life has been happening! At my last CI Mapping in August, my audiologist said I was doing great and we could go to every six months for my mapping appointments. Yay! I still love this little miracle in my ear!

Several awesome things have happened since we last chatted. I got an upgrade to the Nucleus 6 processor, I got the Aqua+ accessory and used it on our vacation to Walt Disney World, the telecoil setting is actually working for me, and I have started singing in the choir again!

I will post for each of those little bits of joy, but today I want to share my excitement about singing!
I love to sing! That was one of my biggest heartbreaks when I lost my hearing almost 2 years ago. I really struggled with hearing the higher frequencies and being able to sing along, learn new tunes, and pick out the harmony parts.

This fall, when our church choir started back up, I decided I really wanted to try it again. It is still hard sometimes, but it is getting easier each week at practice. I have really had to play around with the settings on my processor to find which provides me with the best hearing for music situations. Listening to music requires different settings than singing. I really have no problems any longer singing a cappella, but singing with accompaniment is more challenging. The more layers of sound that are added makes it harder for me to sort through the sound and make sense of it all, while trying to sing along. So I have not attempted to get back into the groove with the praise band. I think five or six "plugged in" instruments and in-ear monitors are too much at this point. Baby steps!

My CI ear really hears in music situations fairly well, but the hearing aid ear struggles. Sometimes I have to take it out and sometimes I have to turn up the volume and sometimes I just don't know what to do with it. The CI sound is just so superior to the hearing aid that it is frustrating. I have had the settings tweaked in my hearing aid several times this fall and the sound has improved, but in noisy situations (music included) I am still not happy with it.

One little truth that I have learned from this whole experience is that the only way my hearing sounds better is when I keep putting myself into tough situations and "practice" listening. I've got two different gadgets that work in different ways. It's amazing how the brain can adapt and learn. It's often frustrating, but it does get better. I have to just jump in and keep listening!

Keep listening, because I'm going to try my best to make a joyful noise!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Got Lost...

Did you think I got lost? I did. In life. The summer flew by and the fall came and went. Here it is December and it's COLD! It's been over a year since I lost the hearing in my right ear and so much has happened in that time. Let me catch you up!

I had one more mapping in August before I went back to school. More testing and mapping. The awesome results from June were even more incredible! The test where I had 93% correct in June jumped to 98% in August. Wow! That is in the sound booth. Real life isn't always that amazing, but I still love the results and feel so much better about my hearing.

The school year has gone really well. I feel so much more together and confident this year. With all the new mandates, Common Core, Student Learning Objectives, and teacher evaluations, I really have to stay on my game. If I had to face all this craziness that is education these days without my hearing, I'd be done real fast.

We have a really cool program in Northwest Ohio called Kids on the Block. This organization comes around to classes and groups and uses full body puppets to teach kids about disabilities and how to interact with someone with a disability. They have come to our school for years, but just last year they added cochlear implants to the list of disabilities that they address. Knowing this, I shared with my kids that I wear a hearing aid in one ear and have a cochlear implant in the other. Most did not know this about me and they found it fascinating! They thought they were pretty special to know someone with a cochlear implant when the Kids on the Block were sharing about them.

This fall I decided to get a new hearing aid for my left ear. My hearing has been deteriorating slightly (old age!) and my hearing aid was five years old. That is about the usual lifetime of a hearing aid and my old one had been bumped up to maximum volume for that model. Plus, technology has changed so much since I bought my last hearing aids, that my audiologist had lots of cool new hearing aid advances she wanted to share with me. We have been saving money all year with the idea to buy 2 new ones in the near future. Now that I have a CI on the right, I only need to purchase one hearing aid. In case you are wondering, an average hearing aid runs about $2,000. Like all technology, the more bells and whistles, the higher the cost. I got a Phonak Naida Q70. I really like the Phonak hearing aids. I switched to this brand with the last hearing aids I got. I have been very pleased with the devices and the service, which I cannot say about some of the hearing aids I have had in the past! I got my new hearing aid about 2 weeks ago, just before Thanksgiving. Things are louder which I like, but sound quality is not what I would like it to be. First of all, my internal sounds (my voice, chewing, etc.) sound very "tin can - like". I do not like this at all. I was hoping this would eventually go away as I got used to the new hearing aid, but it is still there. Also background sounds are so loud, I have trouble hearing conversation - especially on the phone. I have worn hearing aids long enough that I know the settings are never ideal the first time around. It takes constant tweaking with honest communication between patient and audiologist. I will have lots of requested changes when I go back in a week for my follow-up.

Well, you're about up to speed now. I have a hearing aid follow up on Dec. 20 and a 6 month mapping appointment for my CI on Jan. 2. I will update after those appointments. Until then, I wish you a blessed holiday with all the wonderful sounds of the season! Merry Christmas!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I LOVE my cochlear implant!

Well, I apologize for the delay in posts. Life has been just crazy since school let out at the end of May. Here it is the end of June and the chaos hasn't stopped! I had my third mapping on June 13 and immediately left for camping for 4 days. No internet connection to update the blog. Upon returning home we had vacation bible school, swim team practice and a meet, technology training at school, horse camp, and getting the girls packed for 4-H camp. Then drive kids to camp, scrapbook evening, whirlwind surprise bedroom makeover for my oldest girl while she was away at camp, and then put things back together and pick kids up from camp. <breathe> Then, continue with swim team practice, horse camp, and drive kids to musical rehearsal every day. Recover from bedroom makeover. We're still working on the pile mountain of junk "stuff" in the living room from Maddie's room. And... we're out of town again this weekend.

BUT... I am doing all this running around with renewed vigor because I can hear! I REALLY LOVE IT! At my last appointment, my audiologist did more mapping, and after setting my new programs, put me in the booth for some hearing tests. She and I were so excited to see the results! One of the tests I did was sentence testing. Sentences were spoken by many different kinds of voices and I had to repeat the sentences back. In January, wearing the high-powered hearing aid I had to try for a month prior to my CI, my score was 32% correct in a quiet environment. In June, wearing my CI processor, my score was 93% correct! The same test with background noise was given. My audiologist didn't even do the background noise with me in January because my score was so low. In June, I had 84% correct in noise. Incredible! I thought I would share my audiograms from January and June also to show you the improvement. These are for the ear with the implant. Sorry they are a bit blurry!

Before CI surgery, I could not hear the high frequencies. See the big drop?

With the CI, I can now hear those higher frequencies!

Life is good right now. I really feel like I can hear important things that I was missing before. Life is more enjoyable also. The sound with the CI is not yet perfect. I still hear robotic voices a bit. But if I don't concentrate on that, I can block it out and things feel mostly normal. I have 4 different settings now on my processor - everyday, noise, quiet, music. My "homework" is to practice using each of these settings. Right now I mostly use the everyday setting. It's the one that sounds the best. I have switched to the noise setting when I am at gatherings with lots of people, restaurants, and so forth. It seems to help a little with conversation. Music comes and goes. The music setting doesn't seem to improve it much. Acoustic music sounds the best. Electronic music such as electric guitars, radio, etc. often still sound a lot like static. But it will get better. I am confident in that.

Want to know some of the times I have been utterly grateful for this opportunity and just thank God I have a cochlear implant? Well, it's my blog so I am going to share anyway! There are no longer burned meals in our house due to that high pitched oven timer. I can hear it from several rooms away! I drove to a party at a friend's Michigan cottage and was able to have a conversation with my girlfriend in the car without having to look at her and read her lips! I can hear my kids when they talk to me from the back seat of the car. Right now I can hear the TV two rooms away. Those things would never happen before. I am so thankful.

I have to leave you with this humorous photo my dad found in an ad in the paper. Sometimes I feel like this!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

More new sounds and reasons to dance for joy!

Well, I passed the restaurant test. I am so excited! This afternoon I went to a restaurant with a large group and I could hear 95% of the conversation around me! I could participate because I could hear!! I could even hear people talking that were a couple people down the table. It was awesome. If I hadn't been in a public place, I may have done a happy dance. (It was a mexican restaurant with fantastic margaritas, so maybe it is not unusual to see someone do a happy dance in the restaurant. But I refrained.)

Before my surgery, and even before the sudden hearing loss in November, restaurants were not a favorite place. Large groups were even worse. It was just too much noise, and no matter how hard I tried, I struggled to be a part of the conversation. I usually ended up feeling left out. Not today. I really enjoyed myself like I haven't in years. Yay! More HOPE.

I had my one week appointment yesterday. My audiologist did more testing and mapped out a new program for me. When she turned the new program on, it was LOUD! She had to back it off quite a bit, but it is still even louder than the programs I had last week. I am hearing even more new things. Again, I have homework before my one month appointment. I have four programs and, again, I have to work my way up to program four by June 13.

This little miracle inside my head just keeps getting better. I still have the munchkin voices, but I don't care. I'm hearing things I haven't heard since I was a kid. Last night, I heard an incredibly annoying bird outside the window. Today I heard the kitchen timer I use in my classroom - from across the room! I can hear the morning and dismissal bell again at school. (The kids will tell you, it's loud! But I couldn't hear it after November.) A friend came into my classroom to talk to me while my kids were watching a video and she spoke very quietly and there was background noise from the video, and I had no problem hearing her. She even said she was speaking much softer than she normally would when talking to me. All of these little things are miracles to me! I am overjoyed by the sounds I am hearing. Each different situation provides another opportunity to test out my new hearing. One thing I have not done since activation is watch TV. I just haven't had time with the craziness of the last few weeks of school. Maybe come June 4, I can sit down with some of my favorite shows and do some more "testing".