Knowing when you are ready is a difficult question – because the outcome can be so varied, it is really difficult to apply one methodology for selecting a candidate to all possible candidates.
The audiologists can give you hearing tests, but they are not the key indicators as to whether or not a person will benefit.
I have met people with positive and negative experiences of implants, but all of them seemed to agree that, mentally, you need to be prepared… because it is tough. It apparently seems to be better to have had some degree of hearing before…
And children implanted at a very young age seem to benefit the most! (from what I have read, and been told). Can you imagine a little baby going through what I am about to go through? I can’t imagine how parent’s must feel. Well, I guess I could imagine a little bit, actually! Fear for the pain your baby might have to endure with the operation, but then hope and happiness that they will be able to hear!
I am glad I am going through the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre (SCIC), because they have dealt with hundreds of people getting implants since the 80s. So they have really had the experience of seeing which implants worked with which people…The SCIC were the ones that initially said to me: “You are not deaf enough to benefit from the implant yet” , and then again, said it every year, even when other private clinics were saying “go for it” (those private clinics probably stood to benefit financially from me getting an implant).
The speech perception tests the audiologists do to tell if you are ready for an implant are always interesting – this is where you sit facing a big speaker in a sealed audiology room. You wear your hearing aids, and repeat back a list of sentences and words you hear.
I just get such a shock from these tests, every time, because it always reveals to me how deaf I am, and how much I rely on lip-reading in day to day life.
I mean, most of the time I, and others around me, forget I am deaf. To give you an example – I can usually hold a normal conversation with someone in a quiet room, ‘hearing’ everything that is said (unless they mutter a lot, have a teensy-tiny voice, or have an incredibly strong accent!). But if you told me to turn away from that person, or if they held a hand up in front of their mouths… I would be stumped.
Crazy, it amazes me every time I do the test. I sit there, staring at this black speaker in this quiet, quiet room. And try to repeat back what I hear. Usually I can pick up one or two words, and then that means I guess the sentences…this always gives me kind of a fake score – like “oh you can hear 40 per cent of sentences”, when I am actually only picking up 5 per cent, and guessing the rest!
This time the audiologist used the word test – where a list of words are said, in no particular order … so you have no context in which to put it – making it a lot harder than a sentence recognition test.
Picture this – the Audiologist says to me: “OK, just relax, and repeat back to me exactly what you hear.”
Me: “Ok…. ” [list reading starts through the speakers] “…um …. Mmpff …. rdmmpff, or could be mmmmpghhg…. um, mmmppph. Perhaps mooommm?”
Audiologist: “Hmmmm… sounds like your hearing might have dropped a bit since the last time you were here.”
And “ding ding ding!!!” I am finally a candidate for an implant!
Well of course it isn’t quite as simple as that – I had had a barrage of other tests when I was younger, but what we were really waiting for was for my hearing to get worse. As my friend Abigail says – it was one of those bizarre situations where you are actually happy to fail a test.
I guess, the moment I knew I needed to get an implant was when I realised that my boss Penny, having come back from a 5 week trip overseas, hadn’t just relaxed so much, that she was talking quieter. hahaha
So, yeah, I am ready. bring it on.