Cochlear implants have long been a contentious topic, especially when they first came out commercially in the 1980s. I remember the fierce debates over the use on children younger than 3 years old. At issue was the right of the child to wait until one was old enough to be explained the procedures and allowed to make the decision to be implanted. Also, there was the imposition of deafness as a disease, perceived as an affront to the Deaf Community.
I have outright concerns about cochlear implants. First, some background for those just starting to read Hearingaidblog.com (welcome!); I am profoundly deaf, bilaterally, and have been since I was a baby. I also STILL wear analog hearing aids, as I am a musician and also need clear communications on the job. Eight years ago, I started doing underground financial research, and the stress levels and pressures of revelations of white-collar crimes pushed me out of it a little over a year ago. The kind of knowledge that I had gained from this research, coupled with a hard childhood with very unpredictable life directions have led me to not do cochlear implantation for several reasons.
1) Medical. The thing that scares me the most is getting the implant and realizing that the entire world of sound I knew no longer exists. Would I make the adjustment, or would I fail and lose my music world entirely? Another aspect is medical dependency; if anything goes wrong, like the implant itself fails, it has to be replaced/repaired, and that involves surgery. Again. What if we have a very big solar flare capable of disrupting electronics – would it cause problems for the implant inside me? Another thing I have seen from the implants of a few years ago is the number of batteries these processors run through in a week, which apparently is more than what I’m used to paying for on my analog hearing aids.
2) Government/insurance. This is another form of dependence I’m not comfortable with. Everything associated with this procedure can cost upwards of $100,000, though it is covered by insurance companies and Medicare. This is why I mentioned my underground financial research background; what happens if funding sources dry up and you need to replace an aging/broken implant during extreme economic hardships? We are already experiencing this in America and see a substantial decline in the standard of living for Americans coming in the years ahead, in addition to very likely cuts in government benefits, job benefits, and access to jobs that can allow us to pay for things on a private basis. Though I hope that what I see doesn’t come to pass, it will be very frightening for those who are not prepared to weather the economic storm that is coming.
3) Where I am. I consider myself to be at my prime in terms of hearing ability with my residual hearing, having done very well in music performance, working in public environments, and just everyday interaction with the hearing world. I am afraid of trading all that for starting potentially “from scratch.” At my job, there is no “down time” for relearning to listen to customers. There is almost nothing else for me to do at my job, so I could be “down-sized” instead if I lose my ability to interact with customers, which is my primary responsibility on the job. I am comfortable in the world I am in.
4) Technology. Being where technology is, it is moving so fast, and yet, biotechnology in the form of Stem Cell Therapy is moving even faster, so I am holding out for the possibility that this will become a viable solution for me in the next 15-20 years. Computers being used in medical research keep getting upgraded with faster equipment and larger memory/storage capacity, and that accelerates data-crunching-dependent processes even faster. We often predict things “five years out,” or “fifteen years out,” and end up cutting the timeline even shorter because we don’t take in consideration effects of technology over research.
Cochlear implantation is not a bad choice for people, per se, but for me, it doesn’t reach the comfortable place I need to be in about it to decide to do it. I probably would do it if I wasn’t spooked about the world economy, didn’t mind the dependency on aid for such a procedure, and had lost the possibility of hearing music again (because of a relative lack of analog or music-appropriate hearing aids that has been growing for a few years). I’ll pass on it at this time.