An interesting question was raised here on the blog earlier this week, and it’s one I felt important to answer. The question? What is a cochlear implant, is it for MS, and does it help?
Well, first off – a cochlear implant is a device implanted into the skull near the ear in order to replace a malfunctioning inner ear. I can’t speak much for the inner workings of the ear, and all the moving pieces natural hearing involves, so I won’t. But the cochlear implant takes the place of the cochlea, which is the auditory portion of the inner ear (Thanks Wikipedia). Basically, the cochlear implant restores hearing.
It’s not a terribly invasive surgery, and most people are able to go home the same afternoon. After one is healed from the surgery, the device is activated with the use of a processor that sits on the ear and is connected via cord and magnet to the implant. It’s kind of fascinating, if you ask me. When the magnet and processor is not attached, I hear nothing. Actually, that’s not accurate. It’s only when the magnet is unattached that I hear nothing. Complete and total silence. But when it’s connected, I’m back in business and hearing again. The processors that hang on my ears look like your typical hearing aid, but they work in a totally different way. Hearing aids amplify sound, but cochlear implants take sound and process it for you, communicating that sound to your brain.
Cochlear implants are only used with people who are permanently profoundly deaf, and who are not helped by hearing aids. It’s nothing like natural hearing, and everyone responds differently to the implants, but in general it’s been a very good thing for me and pretty much every cochlear implant recipient I’ve spoken with. I was a late-deafened adult, meaning I lost my hearing in adulthood. I didn’t grow up in the Deaf community, so it was a severe loss, losing my hearing. I had almost no way to communicate. I was profoundly deaf. I didn’t just lose some hearing, I lost it all. So the cochlear implants have been a huge help for me. I’m able to have conversations with my children, make phone calls (with the help of a captioned phone, usually), listen to music, follow along with church worship services, etc. It’s been a wonderful gift.
I do have MS, and while some people with MS experience hearing loss, my hearing loss was not caused by MS. When someone with MS loses hearing, it’s usually in only one ear, and is not always permanent. I think I saw a statistic that said only 6% of MS patients reported symptoms of hearing loss. My diagnosis was Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease, which affects less than 1% of people with hearing loss (including Rush Limbaugh, who is also a bilateral cochlear implant recipient). How’s that for odds? Maybe I ought to buy a lottery ticket.
I hope that answers your questions, MSersgettingfit! I’m sorry if I went more in depth than necessary, but it’s a big topic for me. Hard to scale it down. I still feel like I left so much out, so if I only raised more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Actually, this goes out to all my readers: I absolutely love answering questions, so please feel free to ask away. I am at your service!