The Cochlear Implant Experience of Another Deafened Audiologist

I have a friend and colleague, Dr. Nashlea Brogan, with is also an audiologist with a profound hearing loss.  She received a Cochlear Implant on July 23rd of this year and was activated recently on August 23th.  We have been emailing back and forth a bit about how things were progressing for her.  I asked her if I could post these exchanges in my blog.  I think you will enjoy reading about her experience.  

A few background notes:

1. Nashlea received the Med-El Cochlear Implant. 

2. Nashlea was born with normal hearing.  She believes her hearing started to decrease in her teens.  She was tested at age 14 and by 18 years received her first set of hearing aids.  Since that time her hearing continued to progressively deteriorate such that she lost most of her hearing in her twenties and early thirties.  

2. Med-El, Cochlear, and Advanced Bionics all use different numbers of electrodes in their CI’s. So when Nashlea talks about the 13 electrodes, thats the number that Med-El uses.  My CI is from Cochlear Corporation and has 24 electrodes.  Note also that the length of the electrode arrays differ between the manufacturers.  There is on-going debate as to what the optimal length and optimal number of electrodes should be which I am not going to discuss here, but I just wanted you the reader to be aware of this.

June 17, 2012

Hello Peter,

Well, I have my big day for cochlear implant surgery on July 23 and activation on August 23rd in London. I was expecting the surgery to be in the 2013 winter but they called last week with an opening for this summer, eek!!!!

If you have any advice or recommendations I would truly appreciate it.  I have to continue managing my Hearing Centre’s during this time and do not know what to expect or how to even possibly plan. How long is recovery? Did you work between surgery and activation? After you were activated when did you return to work? Many people reported that they were exhausted in the first few months from sound? Did you travel during the initial months? What was work like when you returned? Sorry for all the questions, I am trying to leave the month after surgery and 2-3 months after activation as open as possible, but I am a planner. Is there anything you would have done differently?

Hi Nashlea.

I am very excited for you!

1. Recovery: varies greatly from person to person. I had my surgery on a Thursday. Went home next day Friday. Was back at work Monday. Others get really dizzy and need a week or two off.

2. Yes I worked between surgery and activation. I only took one day off.

3. I was not exhausted from sound. But I was impatient. You need to really chill out and wait. It takes months to get full benefit.

4. Read my blog!!!!

Aug. 10, 2012

Hello Peter,

Thanks for the reply and I really enjoyed your Blog both from the cochlear implant perspective and as an Audiologist.

I had my surgery and all went well, they made a full insertion through the entire cochlea with all 13 electrodes of the Med-El. I wasn’t really myself until 10 days after surgery, I had a lot of ear pain 5-6 days post surgery.   I am also living with my FM system, I never truly grasped how difficult having monaural hearing was.  My FM system, has made car trips, dining, work and any public situation manageable. I don’t know what I would have done without it. So, next the step is activation on August 23! Now I need to learn patience.

Thanks again

August 29, 2012

Hello Peter,

Activation a dream come true.

I had my cochlear implant activated last Thursday.  Now, I had prepared myself for a difficult time, I was scared from talking to other people and not being able to wear my hearing aid for three months in my other ear. I had advised my receptionist that I wouldn’t be able to see patients until I could understand some speech, I was terrified.

Today, I feel like I won the lottery of life!!!!! The audiologist first tested all 13 electrodes from 250Hz to 6000Hz and I could hear all of them. Once I was activated both the Audiologist and my husband sounded like daffy duck or mermaids!!! That sound lasted only a few hours, we went to a restaurant after my appointment and I could hear the waitress, the music, the other people talking. It has since gotten better hour by hour.

My biggest and most rewarding moment of all this was my children. For the first time, I heard all my 3 year old girls little words!!! She hasn’t stopped talking to me since. I can hear my nieces and friends children talking. When they say mommy to me from behind or another room I hear them. Not hearing children was the hardest part of having a hearing loss for me. I was happy going to work, I did public talks all over Sarnia, I travelled, went out, the hearing loss was more of an inconvenience for these things. But with children I felt isolated and dependent on other people to help me understand what my 3 year old niece was asking me, even my own daughter! I was nervous going to my sons mothers day’s tea in SK because of me not hearing him singing, or if his friend might ask me something with the other mothers looking on.

No sounds have been too loud, all the environmental sounds are exactly as a I remember them. A little history on me, I was born with normal hearing, they think it started to decrease in my teens, at age 14 I was tested but not enough loss for amplification and by 18 years I received my first hearing aids (I had normal hearing to 1500Hz at that time), I have lost most of my hearing in my twenties and early thirties.

I just never imagined this…..its so wonderful and to think its getting better!!! The one thing that i have never heard or read about CI’s is how separate every sound is. I always felt with hearing aids that all the sounds were meshed together, for example I could hear lots of noises in a car, it was loud and made speech hard to understand but the sounds were all blended in one big ball of background noise. Now, I can hear all the indicators, the sounds the buttons make when you press them, the tires hitting the road or cracks, and the acceleration of the motor every time the gas is pressed, and speech is separate not competing with the car sounds.

I haven’t felt any background noise since the moment of activation, in restaurants, cars, and the mall. I hear all the sounds of people walking, talking, machines, music but I wouldn’t describe them as background noise like a hearing aid!

I could type forever. I feel so happy, so full of energy, I don’t even want to take the implant off at night. What an amazing and incredible device!!! What sounds should I go listen to today, ha ha!!

Well Nashlea, thanks so much for allowing me to share your experiences.  I want the readers to know that everyone’s CI experience is unique.  I had no post-surgical ear pain or dizziness, yet Nashlea did.  On the other hand, I needed months to achieve the benefits from my CI that Nashlea received in only a few hours.  Patience is the key.

Details about Nashlea’s Audiology practice:

Bluewater Hearing Centre
316 George St.
Sarnia, ON
N7T 4P4 Canada
Phone: 519.344.8887

17 thoughts on “The Cochlear Implant Experience of Another Deafened Audiologist

  1. When Dr Brogan writes,

    The one thing that i have never heard or read about CI’s is how separate every sound is. I always felt with hearing aids that all the sounds were meshed together, for example I could hear lots of noises in a car, it was loud and made speech hard to understand but the sounds were all blended in one big ball of background noise. Now, I can hear all the indicators, the sounds the buttons make when you press them, the tires hitting the road or cracks, and the acceleration of the motor every time the gas is pressed, and speech is separate not competing with the car sounds.

    What is actually happening is that as her hearing deteriorated, she lost temporal resolution as she lost inner hair cell function. This was most likely exacerbated by improper hearing aid selection and programming with wide dynamic range compression (WDRC), which by nature with short AGC attack & release times “squashes” the speech envelope, for thse people who cannot resolve the fine structure of speech and instead use envelope detection as an adjunct to speechreading.

    The way to tell if temporal processing is impaired is to run gap detection tests across the speech range: Normal hearing people and those with no more than outer hair cell damage (up to maybe 60dB) can detect gaps in the 4-9 mSec range; while those with inner hair cell lesions, such as found with cochlear dead zones and in extreme cases ANSD can have gap detection times in the hundreds of milliseconds, as described by Spirakis.

    What it appears Dr Brogan is experiencing is the restoration of synchronous neural firing, restoring the temporal resolution that was gradually lost over the years.

    Two suggestions:

    1) Try a linear aid in the other ear: The ReSound Sparx can be switched out of WDRC mode and into linear mode; while the Starkey S series (like the S 11IQ) has an advanced setting in the Inspire 2013 compression adjustment window to lengthen the AGC attack & release times to 5000 mSec, which is more than adequate to track the slowly moving speech envelope.

    Dan Schwartz,
    Editor, The Hearing Blog

      • Hello Dan,

        I am having my other ear implanted next summer as a part of the UWO bilateral implant study!


    • Thanks for the suggestions Dan. It is interesting what you say about too much compression. Making my hearing aid in my left ear (the non-implanted ear) more linear has certainly helped me immensely for aiding my music perception. I added more lows, increased the gain for loud, decreased the gain for soft. Compression ratios less than 2:1.

      • Thanks Dan. I will indeed check out the article. I do know that compression ratios make a big difference for me exspecially for music perception. I feel I have a good handle CR’s, but when it comes to attack and release times, I need to learn more. For my music stuff, I do play with the attack and release times to make it sound “good” for me. For instance, I know a an attack time that is too fast is not good for my slow bass guitar frequencies. So I appreciate your information Dan! Cheers!

  2. Hi Peter,

    I have an appointment at Sunnybrook in two weeks time to see if I qualify for a cochlear implant. Exciting and scary but my biggest concern is that I’m troubled with occasional vertigo. Will this disqualify me as a candidate? I have so little hearing now, I very much want to find a workable solution.

    I’ve never been able to afford an FM system either so that also sounds like something that will be seriously missing in the recovery period, if I get that far.

    Btw, thanks for doing this blog, Peter, and thanks to Nashlea for sharing her experience!


    • Hi Maureen. Thanks for the comments.

      Remember I am an Audiologist with a Cochlear Implant, but I am not a Cochlear Implant Audiologist. So I cannot answer questions about your vertigo. But the folks at Sunnybrook will be happy to answer those questions for you. be sure to ask them.

      As for an FM system, I strongly recommend that you wait until you get fully adjusted to the CI. That may be 6 months to a year. Then at that point I strongly urge you to discuss FM’s with your audiologist. You will be surprised how affordable they can be. Moreover, as helpful as my CI has been for me, it is not a cure for deafness. I would not be able to do half the things I do without my FM. Communicating in restaurants, cars, trains and subways, bars and meetings would be very difficult without the FM.

      Good luck!!

  3. Great blog post, thank you Nashlea and Peter. My story is a lot like Nashlea’s in terms of age of onset for my hearing loss. After reading Nashlea’s story I wish I hadn’t waited so long to look into CIs. My assessment appointment at St.Paul’s here in Vancouver is not until November and I know there’s a waiting list even if accepted so I guess in the meantime, I’ll practice your advice Peter and begin chilling out. 😉 Thanks again, your blog is an immense help to me.

  4. Thanks Peter for the guest blogger. That was a wonderful story from Nashlea.

    Nashlea: Welcome to the world of hearing with a MedEl CI. I love mine, I just had my 5 year implantation anniversary the end of July. It’s a date that I celebrate every year and as become just as important to me as my birthday. Like you I received mine here in London. Lucky you, being able to get the clarity so quickly. It took be about 9 months to approach that level of clarity, though now everything sounds just like I remember. With me I found that once I had adjusted to my implant and sounds were finally starting to make sense my fatigue level dropped way down. Pre implant I was done at the end of the work day because I had to devote all my energy to listening and watching so hard. Congratulations!

  5. From another audiologist with a CI, I can share your excitement and wonder. I am delighted for you. Life is so much better for me too–even 6 years later I still can’t believe how much better.

  6. This just makes me want to get implanted so much sooner. It’s a shame that there is such a long waiting list of about 3 years in ottawa. Makes me wish I could win the lottery and just go to the states 😦 awesome story though so glad the users here have all said they Love their CI and there are no regrets:)

    • Yes, it is unfortunate that you must wait. But I still have no interest in moving to a country that has 50 million people that have no insurance. Did you know that the number one cause of personal bankruptcies in the US is due to health care costs? No thank you.

  7. Pingback: Best Ways to Hear Better in Noise | Deafened But Not Silent.

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