Continued from The Decision
The CIC arranged a series of appointments over a five week period so they could assess my eligibility for a cochlear implant. What impressed me was that they chose to book 2x appointments together over 2 hours so an interpreter could be booked, rather than having to make 4 separate bookings — saving costs!
At my next appointment, I met with Dr Simone Boardman, an ear, nose and throat surgeon who arranged CT and MRI scans at St Vincent’s. I was expecting to have a balance test done, as I had heard that it was the norm for cochlear implant eligibility assessments, but Dr Boardman said she felt I didn’t need one done — however, she would wait for results from the MRI scan to see if a balance test was needed. That was a huge relief. I haven’t had any balance issues whilst growing up, but I wondered if it would be affected after the surgery.
Next up was my audiology appointment. The audiology testing was similar to what I was used to at Australian Hearing, if not a lot more intensive. They also tested to see if my current hearing aid was of any benefit for my left ear. The audiologist said that they would prefer to leave my left ear aided, as it had enough residual hearing to benefit from my hearing aid. They also confirmed that my right ear wasn’t suitable for a hearing aid, hence the suggestion for it to be implanted.
We then proceeded to the speech perception testing stage. I had no idea what would transpire, but it was quite stressful. The first part was that I had to face the computer speaker and listen to it speak out the alphabet. THIS WAS BLOODY DIFFICULT. I could not make any sense of what it was saying, as the voice was robotic.
Me: I need a human voice. I’m not used to computer generated voices.
Audiologist: I know. I’m sorry, I have to follow the procedure.
Audiologist: Just try your best.
We then moved to the lipreading part — that was less stressful! The audiologist had to speak from a list of words at three different noise levels: 20dB; 40dB; 60dB. This was challenging, to be honest.
I couldn’t hear anything the audiologist said at 20dB. Nope. Nein. Zilch. Zero.
At 40dB, I was able to catch a few words, but there were some words I couldn’t hear.
However, I did much better at 60dB — apparently I got about 40%, which is pretty good.
We had a chat afterwards, and they said they feel a cochlear implant would be beneficial because I rely on sounds while lipreading. Of course.
Lipreading without wearing a hearing aid is rather challenging, especially that there are words that look the same, but would sound different. Sounds give me more context.
Approximately two weeks later, I had CT and MRI scans done at St Vincent’s Private Hospital. The CT scan was very uneventful, but prior to the MRI scan, the nurse couldn’t find a vein in both of my arms, as she had to insert a needle thing so they could inject dye to get the images they needed of my head. She then got a doctor to try. No go. He went and got another doctor, who succeeded! The MRI scan was an interesting experience, yet a bit relaxing. It ~almost~ felt like I was in a massage chair.
My final round of appointments was at the end of March. It was when I would find out if I was given the green light for a cochlear implant. I met with Dr Boardman first, who told me that I was definitely eligible according to the results from the scans. She said that my cochlea was perfectly formed in the right place, which meant the surgery would be easy. She also confirmed that I did not need a balance test. She recommended for my right ear to be implanted, as it’s my worst ear. We signed some paperwork to confirm that I would go ahead with the surgery.
I then met with the audiologist who further confirmed that I could get a cochlear implant. We talked about the cochlear implant I would be getting — an order form was filled in to be sent to Cochlear Australia. I will be getting a Nucleus 6 — an incredibly powerful cochlear implant. I’ve read a lot of raving reviews about it, and my friends who have it haven’t said anything negative about it.
I was put on the waiting list, as my surgery costs and the cost of the cochlear implant would be covered by Medicare. Otherwise it would have cost me up to $30,000 for everything. Ouch.
The audiologist also told me that I was eligible to get a cochlear implant in my left ear, so if I wanted to get a second one later on through Medicare, it would be a 10 year wait. They suggested that I get private health insurance so my cochlear implant would be covered for upgrades every 3 years, and that the costs would be covered if I was to get a second cochlear implant. I chose to go with Medibank, as they have a great reputation with cochlear implantees despite being a bit expensive (nearly $60 per fortnight!).
The waiting game begins…