After a being diagnosed with hearing loss, one is left with finding treatment options. Many turn to hearing aids or personal hearing devices while some opt for surgery, choosing a hearing booster or cochlear implant. Deciding which medical device is best requires a complete hearing exam along with some thinking about your personal preferences and lifestyle needs. A qualified audiologist can guide your choice. The best audiologists work with a variety of hearing options and aid manufacturers. Those seeking surgical solutions must find a surgeon and audiologist specializing in implants.

Forty years ago I was diagnosed with hearing loss and chose to wear hearing aids because that was the recommended treatment for me. I bought devices that amplified sound because that’s all that was available. Over the years, I’ve upgraded to digital aids and then to Bluetooth enabled aids. Now, I’m taking advantage of the latest in hearing technology, aids equipped with artificial intelligence. Peripheral devices such as television adapters, mini microphones, and FM systems are helpful for people with severe and profound hearing loses.

Many suffering from severe and profound hearing losses find that aids do not serve their hearing needs and they turn to cochlear implants. All private insurers and Medicare and Medicaid require that one qualify for an implant. The qualification process begins with a visit to an implant surgeon and audiologist. The surgeon gathers a thorough medical history. He or she may order an MRI of the middle ear and perhaps other diagnostic exams. Given your age and overall health, the physician may require that you receive injections to prevent meningitis and pneumonia prior to surgery. An audiologist will perform an extensive hearing analysis that includes tonal and word recognition tests in quiet and noise.

Most private insurance carriers pay for implants, but often patients are left with large co-pays. Medicare and Medicaid both pay for implants without copays, but both have stringent rules and qualifying factors. An audiologist astute in dealing with these matters can help you through the process.

Once a patient is qualified, a surgical date is set. Cochlear implants are performed on an outpatient basis. The surgery to implant the internal device takes two to four hours. Once awake, the patient is sent home for two to four weeks to let the incision site heal. When healed, the patient returns to have their C.I. activated. Thus begins a rehabilitation program that lasts for six months. Most patients receiving a C.I. experience an increase in their ability to hear in quiet environments while there are mixed reports of the benefits of hearing with cochlear implants in noise. As with hearing aids, many C.I. wearers use peripheral devices such as mini mics and FM devices to boost their ability to hear when background noise is present.

How one corrects their hearing loss is a highly individual matter. I was told that I would benefit from a cochlear implant and went for a pre-surgical evaluation. In the end, I decided against surgery, because I would not see a significant improvement in my ability to hear in noise.

As we meander through the hearing world, those of us suffering from hearing loss should consider that untreated or undertreated hearing loss leads to many health issues, including impaired mental function, under employability, slips in cognitive functions as well as balance issues. Given, it is better to treat hearing issues early and effectively. Hearing loss should never be ignored.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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