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I’m Getting Cochlear Implants: What Should I Ask My Surgeon?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

You or your family member is a candidate for cochlear implants. It’s an exciting time, and it may come with some confusion or worries. Having a productive conversation with your surgeon is an important way to clarify any uncertainty and address any concerns. The best way to do that is to come to your appointment with your surgeon with your questions written down. 

“But, What Should I Ask My Surgeon?"

The answer to this question depends partially on your own circumstances. For example, if you have an uncommon cause of hearing loss that includes unique anatomical characteristics of the cochlea, you may have  questions about your specific condition and how your surgeon will approach implantation accordingly. But, the vast majority of children and adults who get cochlear implants do not have to navigate those circumstances.

Cross-sectional view of the middle ear

Cochlear Implant Options

As a consumer, it is important for you to have options regarding the brand of cochlear implant you choose.  So, ask your surgeon if they offer multiple options. The vast majority of cochlear implant clinics offer technologies from all three of the major cochlear implant manufacturers. If the surgeon states that the clinic offers fewer than three, ask why. 

The New Standard of Care

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is a widely utilized and important tool that is used to take images of all parts of the body so doctors can diagnose different conditions. Chances are, your doctor will request that you have an MRI at least once in your lifetime. Being able to get one easily when necessary is therefore very important.

Since cochlear implants contain a magnet, this introduces a potential problem for MRI scans.

– Doug Lynch, hears with an AB cochlear implant
A child with a cochlear implant gets an MRI scan

Since cochlear implants contain a magnet, this introduces a potential problem for MRI scans. As you can imagine, a magnet gets pulled when placed in a strong magnetic field, such as in and around an MRI machine. That pull, or torque, can cause the magnet to move inside your head, which can cause pain and even potential damage.

Look for the completely pain-free, hassle-free implant that is fully compatible with MRI scans, the HiRes™ Ultra 3D implant. The innovative multi-magnet assembly within this implant spins in place under torque, so the implant itself won’t be put under pressure. 

Full MRI compatibility without additional surgery is now the new standard of care. And, it is why you should ask your surgeon, “Do you offer a fully compatible, pain-free, MRI-safe implant?”

A Solution for Hearing With Both Ears

You should also know that your surgeon is not there to only address questions related to surgery. Come to that appointment knowing exactly what your technology “game plan” is for both of your ears.

If you have no usable hearing in either ear, ask your surgeon if getting MRI-safe implants for both ears is right for you. Hearing with both ears helps you understand speech better in noisy situations and localize where sounds are coming from. 

If you have little to no hearing in one ear, but some in the other ear, ask your surgeon about having a hearing aid/cochlear implant combination, or a “bimodal” solution, which is designed for the two modalities to work together. Using a bimodal solution is usually better than just having the cochlear implant or hearing aid alone. A hearing aid and a cochlear implant that use the same sound processing schemes and streaming technology, such as the Naída CI and Naída Link hearing aid, can yield a much better hearing performance. You can enjoy improved speech understanding in noisy situations, a consistent sound impression between ears, and the ability to adjust both devices with a single control.

More and more people with some usable hearing are getting cochlear implants. And with that, there are more discussions about whether or not an implant candidate may maintain the hearing in the ear post-implantation. There is never a guarantee, and only your surgeon can set that expectation.

Even if you lose some of the hearing you have left, you now have your cochlear implant to bring you the rich and full sound that you’re currently missing.

– Doug Lynch, hears with an AB cochlear implant

As a cochlear implant wearer, and a professional who works with many others every day, I look at this question a bit differently. The goal of a cochlear implant is to replace bad hearing. If you can keep your residual hearing after surgery, that’s great. Your audiologist will help you take advantage of it. But even if you lose some of the hearing you have left, you now have your cochlear implant to bring you the rich and full sound that you’re currently missing.

Getting a cochlear implant is a life-changing decision. So, take the time to do your research, and ask all the questions you have. Beyond speaking with your surgeon and audiologist, and representatives from the cochlear implant manufacturers, it also helps to speak with individuals who have gone through the process. Hearing Journey is the largest online community for individuals and families to network and support each other on topics related to cochlear implants and hearing loss. You can join for free to chat, be informed of online and in-person events, and connect with a mentor who can tell you about their personal experiences with the surgery and cochlear implant.

Doug Lynch
Written by Doug Lynch

Doug Lynch

Doug Lynch has been involved with Advanced Bionics in many capacities since 1995, when he was implanted with the CLARION 1.0 as part of the company’s first clinical trial.  He joined Advanced Bionics in 1996 and has served in many capacities, including Director, Marketing Communications, and Director, Corporate Communications. After leaving the company in 2006, Doug returned in 2015 as Cochlear Implant Consumer Specialist in the Mid-Atlantic region. He holds seventeen U.S. and international patents in cochlear implant technology, and has passionately educated families about technology and life with cochlear implants for over twenty years.

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