Cochlear Implant Failure Experiences

Rachel Chaikof’s account of her first cochlear implant failure experience:

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Two months later.

While I was continuing to adjust to the new sounds surrounding me, I was able to continue to succeed in school and in my life. In my process of adjusting to hearing with my new cochlear implant, I am nearly all the way back to normal. At first, I was hearing too much background noise, especially in the halls at school, where I had a very difficult time socializing with my friends because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. So then, I went back to my audiologist, asking her to lower the background noise, and she turned on noise suppression. It was a lot better, but something was still not right, my distance hearing. I was still not hearing well at greater distances. I still couldn’t understand what my parents were saying when they were downstairs while I was upstairs. One month later, I again returned to my audiologist for a mapping to to fix my distance hearing, but I was worried that fixing this would increase background noise again. My audiologist was able to adjust my implant for both of my needs by turning up the internal microphone sensitivity with the noise suppression still in place. Later that day I heard, “Rachel! We’re leaving!” It was my younger brother, who was all the way downstairs while I was all the way upstairs in my room. I was able to hear him clearly. At that moment, I realized that my distance hearing was back, not just with my new implant but also better than it had been with my old one for awhile. With the Esprit 22, it had dropped off some, and we also think my Nucleus 22 might have been losing some power because my distance hearing had dropped even more in the few months before it failed.

While I was still continuing to adjust to new sounds surrounding me, I was able to finish the school year with many great successes. I was even able to finish a film, “A Life with a Cochlear Implant,” that I had been working on since before my implant failed. At my school’s film festival, not only did I win for “Best Documentary Film”, but I also won for “Best Overall Film,” which shocked me a lot. Even if I hadn’t won, I would have still been very proud for finishing it before the festival while I had no hearing.

Despite my ordeal with my implant, I was able to make straight A’s, even in French, which involved a great amount of communication skills. My last accomplishment of the school year came when I walked across the stage to receive an honor from the administrators for academic excellence! Keeping my grades up during my implant failure and reimplantation experience was not easy, but I was determined and motivated to do it, and, thanks to support from my family and school, I did it.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
I can hear again!

This afternoon, today, I was sitting in the audiology room, waiting eagerly for my hook up so I could hear again. My audiologist handed me the Sprint processor, the body worn one, to start out with for mapping. I put the microphone and the magnet on my head. My audiologist started to press the keys on the keyboard to map me. I heard some beeps. She asked me if I could hear them or not. I would either say, “Yes, I can” or “No, I don’t hear anything.” My audiologist turned the processor on and I heard some sounds, but not too well. All I heard was mumbling sounds and it sounded soft. My audiologist raised it a little and it sounded better but still mumbling and hard to understand. Then, I switched to the ESPrit 3G processor, the behind the ear one, and I heard the same thing except it sounded softer. So then my audiologist made it louder. When she turned it on, it sounded a little too loud, so she turned it down, and the volume was right, but again, it sounded mumbling and hard to understand, which is what I had expected at first.

On the way home, I asked my mom to test me by saying one word to see if I could understand what she was saying. She said some words and at most of the time I was able to understand without any problem. My brother even tried saying “hamburger” while he was in the back of the car, and I was able to get it.

I will be continuing to go to the audiologist several times in the next couple of months. I will be going again on Tuesday for my next mapping. Let’s see how soon I can get back to my normal hearing! At least I may have broken the record from failure to hook up in two weeks and one day!

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
My surgery was a success…

On Tuesday morning, I went to the hospital. The first thing I did was to register. While I was being registered, I was asked some questions such as “Are you nervous?” Then I went into a room where I waited for my surgeon to come in. While I was in the room, I changed into a hospital gown. The nurse also gave me some medicine to help relax me. I climbed into bed, and the surgeon came in and said, “Are you ready?” Of course, I said, “Yes!” My parents gave me a hug and wished me good luck. I fell asleep.

About five hours later, “My head hurts!” the first thing I said when I woke up. All I saw was some blur of a person standing next to me. I literally went back to sleep right away. I woke again, “My hand hurts!” It turned out that I had an IV in my hand. I also mentioned again that my head hurt where I had my surgery. Again, I went back to sleep. In another hour or so, I woke up again and saw my parents and then shut my eyes again. I woke up again with the pain of migraine headache. I was finally up for awhile.

I talked to my parents and they told me what happened during my surgery. “Your surgery was five hours,” said my mom.
“Why?,” I asked.
“It took awhile because there was more bone growth than he expected, and it had to be drilled out in order to remove your old implant.”
“Oh. Did I get Nucleus 24 Contour?”
“Yes, you did!”

That’s what I needed to know. I now officially have a Nucleus 24 Contour!

For the rest of the day, I continued to suffer some terrible migraine headaches. It was the worst part of the surgery. I did have some pain in my head on the surgical site, but that was very normal. I also had a very difficult time sleeping at night, due to the migraine headache.

The next morning, I got up and the surgeon came in to check on me and to take off the white bandage that I had wrapped around my head. Then the nurse came in and washed my hair. My head was sure very sore. My grandparents came in to get my mom, who had stayed overnight at the hospital, and me. They drove us home.

The first thing I did was when I got home was to get into my own bed, and then I slept for the rest of the day. I was very tired since I didn’t sleep too well on the night of my surgery because of my migraine headache. I got up that afternoon and I was able to finally eat. I pulled up my laptop computer and checked my e-mails in my bed. I continued to rest for the rest of the day.

My little sister came into my room sometime during that afternoon. The first thing she did was to lift my hair up to see my incision . She tried to say something, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. So she had to write it down for me. All she said was, “Your scar has to heal.” Then my mom came in, and she asked my mom to show her where her own scar was. Jessica did not remember her surgery because she was only 15 months old when she got her implant.

I continued to suffer migraine headaches until the next morning. I slept for part of the morning and I was able to finally get out of bed by that afternoon and move around. I was actually pretty energetic that afternoon. My throat started to hurt really badly during that afternoon. I had no idea what it was. My mom called my surgeon and said it was normal because they put a tube in my throat to allow me to breathe.

On Friday morning, my mom had to go to a meeting at my school to discuss getting C.A.R.T. reporting, real time closed captioning, for me for the rest of the school year since I will have a difficult time hearing during the next couple of weeks, and this device will hopefully help me understand what the teachers and students are saying. We are fortunate that my mom was able to get the school to get it for me without any problems.

During that morning, I woke up with my throat hurting really badly. After the meeting, my mom took me to the doctor just to make sure that I didn’t have strep. It turned out that I didn’t have strep. It was just a virus that has since turned into a cold. So, I went hope and continued to relax.

For the weekend, I relaxed as usual. I finally got around to starting on my make-up work for school. On Monday, I was feeling much better. I went to my mom’s work since I didn’t feel comfortable staying home with my younger siblings without my hearing while my mom was working downtown. We ran errands afterwards. That day, I was already able to get around easily and be back where I was.

Today, I am just relaxing and continuing to work on my make-up work from school. Tomorrow, I go to the doctor to check on my incision and implant site. He will also hopefully let me know if I can get hooked up on Thursday. If I can, then I could possibly end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest reimplantation – from failure to hook-up in two weeks and one day.

Monday, March 31, 2003

One Night Before Surgery…

I just want to let everyone know how I’m doing before the surgery since the surgery is tomorrow morning. “Will I be okay or not?” “Will I be able to hear again?” “How different will the sounds be?” All these questions that I have in my mind which lead me to the very mixed feelings that I have now. It will very much feel like a first experience since I was only two and half years old at my first surgery. So I don’t have too much memory of it. Of course, I know that I will do well since I did very well at my first one. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who sent me wonderful e-mails and “good luck” wishes. I will write here later this week about my surgery. If you want to send me an e-mail, please feel free to…. click here.

Friday, March 28, 2003

My Cochlear Implant has failed after over thirteen years of hearing.

Last Wednesday morning just before breakfast, I put on my processor and the first thing I heard was weird painful crackling noises, and I could barely hear the real sounds. I first tried to change the batteries, but I still heard the same sounds. I tried changing the cable, but I still heard the same thing. I went to my mom in tears and said, “I can barely hear anything. My processor is not working!” My mom tried changing the coil, but I was still hearing the same sounds. I even tried my spare processor and still heard the same thing. Had my internal implant failed? Was it time for a new one?
My mom immediately called my audiologist, and my dad drove me down to the audiologist. My audiologist tried to change some of the map, but I was still hearing the same weird sounds. I even tried my old body worn processor but still heard the same thing. My implant had officially failed after over thirteen years of my wonderful hearing.

My parents rushed everything to get my hearing back as soon as possible. My surgery to be reimplanted is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, but I won’t be able get hooked up until about two weeks after the surgery. I will be getting a Nucleus 24 Contour, which will be very good because I will hopefully be able to hear better than with my Nucleus 22.
“Did I have any warning before the day of the failure?” This is one of the common questions many people might ask. Maybe. During the past couple of months, I knew I probably wasn’t hearing as well as I used to. I was asking “What?” more when I didn’t hear or understand something. I wasn’t able to hear well my mom calling me from down in the kitchen when I was upstairs in my bedroom, while my younger sister was able to hear her perfectly.

“How am I managing without hearing for now?” Of course I am still moving on with my life and still going to school without hearing because I am too motivated to stay home. I just want to do my best. My teachers have been supportive of me so far. I have relied on lip reading, and I am able to understand much of the time, but it’s still a lot harder than with hearing. If I don’t understand what my teachers are saying to me, I hand them a piece of scrap paper, and they will write it down for me. I have even continued to participate in my club activities and socialize with my friends without my hearing. One of my teachers is still continuing to use my Lightspeed soundfield system without my hearing! The only difference right now is no hearing and it’s harder than ever! I will continue to update my story!