What’s it like to have a Cochlear Implant?

me with CII got my first cochlear implant (CI) in July of 2011, and my second in September of 2013.  When I was going through that time I wrote some about it but I’ve never talked about what it’s like to live with my cochlear implants (CIs).  A friend of mine asked me a few questions about it recently.  I’m here today to answer some of those questions.

What exactly is a Cochlear Implant? – To put it simply, a Cochlear Implant is an electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to someone who is deaf or severely hard of hearing.  Let me see if I can explain this in my own words.  There is a part that is on the outside of the head that consist of a microphone a processor and a transmitter.  There is part that is on the inside that is the stimulator and the electrode array.  Sound comes into the microphone and goes through the speech processor to the transmitter  (the microphone and processor are the parts around the ear, the transmitter is the part that is on the outside of the head – it is held on by a magnet connecting it to the receiver/stimulator).  The stimulator is in my head, between the skin and the skull.  When the sound comes in to the stimulator it is then sent to the electrode array it then send impulses to the auditory nerves.  For a better explanation please go here.   (you can see the microphone, processor and transmitter on me in the photo at the top of the post – yes mine are orange -, and in the second photo below)

Cochlear Implant
This is a photo of the receiver/stimulator and the array. The array is the wire it is what goes in the cochlea of the ear and sends impulses to the auditory nerves. The stimulator is right on the inside of my head.  The transmitter connects to the stimulator by a magnet.
cochlear implant 2
This is a photo of a microphone, processor, and transmitter. You can readily see the microphone that hooks around the ear but there is one at the top you can’t really see. Many processors have microphones that are not readily seen.

Why did you get cochlear implants? – I lost my hearing due to Meniere’s Disease.  My hearing loss happened fairly quickly.  I was diagnosed bilateral in November of 2009.  In 2010 I got hearing aids, within 3 months of having my hearing aids I couldn’t understand anything out of my left ear.  That sent me on the tract to getting my first CI. (July 2011) By the time I received my first CI, the hearing in my right ear deteriorated to the point that my hearing aid no longer worked.  It took a little while, but I soon got my second CI.(September 2013)  Why did I get cochlear implants?  because that was the only way I would be able to “hear” anything.

How does a cochlear implant work? – I’m going to quote this straight from the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders site.  “A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.”

Do you hear the same with a cochlear implant as a you do with normal hearing? – No.  Some people can understand words and sounds immediately, other people can only hear clicks and whistles.  It is a completely different way of hearing and your brain has to be retrained.  When I was first activated I could understand a lot of words from the start, but everyone sounded like they had been sucking on helium.  A lot of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse voices were around.  Soon my brain started to remember what certain sounds sound like and I started hearing things the way I used to, for the most part.  When I hear something I’ve never heard before things can sound very odd.  Sometimes when I meet a new person their voice will get that cartoon sound until I get used to them.  The longer you use your CIs the better you hear with them, so 10 years from now I should hear better than I do now.

Do you now hear like everyone else? or is it odd?  What is your hearing like now? – This is the big question isn’t it? What is my hearing like now?   First I’ll tell you about challenges I have that a lot of people with CIs have, then I’ll tell you about my personal challenges.

I often can’t hear when someone speaks behind me.  If there is noise in the room I have a very hard time hearing.  (the newer CI’s are better for this, even though I have a newer CI I still have a hard time)  In groups it is very hard to keep up with what everyone is saying.  I am much better at conversing one on one.  I find I it is much easier for me if the person is facing me so I can read their lips while they are talking to me.  Between the two of those I do pretty well, but put me in a crowded room, and I’m lost.  Heck, put me in a room with more than one person and I can get pretty lost.

I think I might be able to hear better if I had more practice, I’m not sure.  Most of the time I only talk with Stuart.  I talk to my doctors.  I talk with our roommate, but I have a very hard time understanding him.  His voice is deep and I simply cannot understand most of what he says.  It makes things difficult, and sad.  But for the most part I don’t see anyone else.  Since we moved I haven’t met many new people, it’s hard to get used to groups and hearing other people when I don’t have the opportunity.  However, it’s also really hard to put myself out there in those situations because I get so lost and confused.  It does make meeting new people even more challenging.

Unlike most people with cochlear implants my hearing fluctuates.  Some people with Meniere’s who get CI’s end up still having fluctuating hearing.  Normally this happens when we have vertigo, our hearing will change and we need to get our CI’s adjusted.  My hearing doesn’t fluctuate just when I have a vertigo attack it happens every day.

Let me tell you what an average day for me is like.  I’ll get up and put on my cochlear implants, at first it takes me a little bit to get used to suddenly hearing sound.  Everything sounds a bit loud.  Then things will normally calm down and my hearing is stable for a few hours, but every evening my hearing will change.  It’s hard to explain what it sounds like, it gets hollow sounding and can sound way too loud.  I’m always telling Stuart to please be quieter.    Sometimes my hearing will change throughout the day.  I will often say, “I’m having a bad hearing day.”  I’m thrilled when I can say I’m having a good hearing day.

When I take my CI’s off the world changes.  Suddenly the only thing I can hear is my tinnitus.  (When I have my CI’s on the sound of the outside world helps me to not notice my tinnitus as much.)

I don’t know sign language.  I am working on learning some, but I haven’t been able to take a class.  At times Stuart and I can only communicate by me reading his lips and the little bit of sign language we know.

What is a challenge you wouldn’t normally think about? – This one is easy, having the headpiece suddenly fly off  because I got too close to something metal.  I have a bracelet that I wear sometimes and if I put my arm up around my head the CI headpiece (the transmitter) will jump off and stick to it.  It’s kind of funny, kind of annoying.   Other times when I want to lie down the headpiece won’t stay on.  This is annoying, especially when I’m sick.  I deal with vertigo better when I can hear what is going on around me since I can’t focus on anything, but during an attack I need to lie down, this often knocks my CI off and I can’t hear anything out of one ear.

Does it hurt? – Well the surgery hurt, but it wasn’t so bad.  It is actually an out-patient surgery.  Does it hurt on a day-to-day basis?  Not really.  If the magnets that are holding the headpiece to my head are too strong it hurts, but then I can change that.  I have screws that are very close to the surface right behind my ears.  One ear is worse than the other.  Most people don’t have this problem, normally when it heals fat and cartilage form around the screws and you don’t notice them, for me the screw is right up against the skin.  Sometimes this hurts.  Sometimes my processor and glasses will rub on them.  My sun glass arms are thicker than my daily glasses and they will cause that area to hurt.  If I can lie down on it, it hurts a bit.  Other than that, no it doesn’t hurt.  If I didn’t have the screw issue I really wouldn’t even notice I have them on.

Now I just have to share the funniest thing I’ve misheard due to my hearing loss–  Once I asked Stuart what Jesus was other than seen as a prophet and son of God.  The answer I heard was, “Jesus was Jimmy Buffett”  I busted out laughing.  “Whaaat?  Jesus was Jimmy Buffett??”  What Stuart actually said was, “Jesus was a Jewish Carpenter.”  I still get the giggles when I think about Jesus being Jimmy Buffett!

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Update On My treatment

dandilion flower

My treatment for vertigo as laid out by the doctor at John Hopkins was to continue working with my migraine doctor to get my migraines and migraine associated vertigo (MAV) under control, go to vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and to have gentimiacin injections (a medication intended to purposefully damage the inner ear to stop dizzy spells in Meniere’s disease).

As you might recall I wasn’t thrilled with the doctor I saw in our city, and was not going to allow him to do the gentimiacin injections.  However, he did send me to vestibular rehab.

I’m still seeing my migraine doctor (a neurologist who specializes in headache pain), we are working on getting the migraines under control.  I can’t say I’m having fewer migraines but they do seem to be less intense.  It’s hard for me to tell if my vertigo is caused my MAV or if it’s a Meniere’s attack.  (If the vertigo is caused by MAV then  gentimiacin will not help.)  You may recall that I had seizures in February that caused me to be hospitalized.  My neurologist told me that one of my medications, Topamax, which is actually used to control seizures, can sometimes cause seizures.  It appears this may have been my problem.  I’ve since stopped taking Topamax and the seizures have subsided.

The vestibular rehab is going well.  I haven’t been to a lot of sessions yet, but so far so good.  When he did the initial intake exam he found I have still been having symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), and he treated it with the Epley maneuver.  This is something that the doctors I have seen ignored, the nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eye) is very slight, and the doctors didn’t see it, however, I felt like they didn’t believe me.  (I can’t remember if I mentioned these symptoms to the doctor at John Hopkins so I can’t say he ignored them.)  After this treatment I have had very little BPPV symptoms.  On the way home from the first visit I had a bad vertigo attack that last hours.  Since then my treatments haven’t caused an increase in my symptoms after leaving. During the treatments I often get a bit overwhelmed and wonky, but Ryan watches out for this and makes me take a time out.  I still have a few sessions to go before being reevaluated.

Now, about the doctor situation.  I will be seeing a new doctor on the 22nd, next Tuesday.  It’s kind of amazing how I found this doctor.  Advanced Bionics (AB), the company who makes my cochlear implants (CI), are going to have an event talking about new products just right down the street from me on Friday.  When I was sent a notice about it I decided to email to the AB representative for our area and discuss some of my issues.  I told her about how difficult it is for me to hear on the phone and wanted to know if they had a new product to help better with that.  They don’t, but I we both think most of my troubles there is lack of practice, since she has been a speech therapist for years she gave me good exercises to try to get me used to the phone.

I decided to tell her my predicament with not being able to get my CI’s program updated (called mapping) here when I have problems, even though there is an office that provides this service.  (they will only map CI patients who were implanted by their office)  As luck would have it, her husband works for this medical group.  He is an otolaryngologist.  He is new to the office and is working to get things better there.  He gave me suggestions about things and I decided to tell them about my problems with the doctor I’ve been seeing.  He told me he would be happy to take me on as a patient, or he recommended another doctor in the group.  He just wanted me to have a good experience there.  Wow.  I decided to go to see him.  He is very willing to confer with the doctor at John Hopkins.  He is also going to work to get my CI’s mapped at that office. Their rule is so people won’t go to a hospital just a few hours away and then expect them to do the follow up work.  I think it’s more complicated than that, but that’s a big part of it.    The big issue with me is that I wasn’t living here when I was implanted so I should be able to be seen there.  Is that just a lucky thing or what?  I’m so happy I reached out to her, you never know who may be able to help.

How am I feeling about my treatment?  Good, so far.  I’ll discuss it with my new doctor, but right now I think I’m going to put off the gentimiacin injections.  I’m doing much better right now and I just don’t want to take any chances that the vertigo is coming from my migraines.  I have been thinking we may as will have the injections in the ear that registered a 4 on the caloric testing. (the normal reading is a 21).  Since it’s that far down I want to know if it could help to go ahead and do the gentimiacin. We’ll see what he says on Tuesday.

So, that’s where I’m at right now.  Very grateful everything is going so well.

dandilion puff

photos by W. Holcombe 2016 all rights reserved.

The Crud

sick cartoon

The chronically ill get sick, just like everyone else.

I have the crud.  A sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so I can’t rest cold, and unfortunately NyQuil doen’t help.

When you have Meniere’s disease you can get really sick when there is too much fluid in your head.  I haven’t talked to anyone who has Meniere’s Disease who doesn’t have more symptoms when they have a stuffy head.  No one knows what causes the symptoms of Meniere’s one main theory is that they result from increased pressure of an abnormally large amount of endolymph (fluid) in the inner ear.  Doctor’s usually put us on a low sodium diet and often diuretics to reduce the fluid in our ears.  When anyone has a cold they have a lot of fluid building up in their head; their nose gets all stuffy, and their ears can feel full: put that in a person with Meniere’s and you have one wonky person.  Right now, I’m one of those people.

Nothing I can take can make all that fluid go away. Yes, I can take a few things to help “dry things up”. but I’m sure all of you have had a cold, and you know that no matter what you take you will feel a bit stuffy and all full in the head.

My symptoms are exacerbated.

  • My tinnitus is going crazy, as I’ve said to Stuart: “Really? You Can’t Hear That??” The noise will be so loud at times I could swear my body is vibrating with it.  Other times, the pitch is so high I will suddenly buckle over from the pain.
  • The fullness in my ears feels like there is wet cotton in there and it just keeps absorbing more and more fluid, soon it will be dripping out my ears I’m sure.  (this won’t happen unless I get a bad ear infection, it just feels like it.)
  • I feel much more dizzy and lightheaded than normal.
  • My hearing is just wrong.  I have cochlear implants, I don’t hear like other people. “Cochlear implants (CI’s) bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.” NIH Publication No. 11-4798  You wouldn’t think that I would have the same problems as other people with Meniere’s concerning hearing fluctuation and sound sensitivity, but I do.  It is much worse when I have the cold, but it happens pretty much every evening, I’ll suddenly have my hearing so all funky; I can’t understand Stuart and often things sound so loud that I have to remove my CI’s.  Thankfully, I can take them off and just hear nothing, except the tinnitus that doesn’t go way, but hearing nothing can cause other problems.  When I take off my CI’s and stop hearing anything, I can get dizzier, and feel really confused.  I don’t mean I’m confused because I can’t hear, I have severe brain fog.  If I’m reading, I often can’t comprehend what I just read.  I think this is because I notice the tinnitus so much more and it is bombarding my system.  When I’m not sick, sometimes taking my CI’s off is often a pleasant sensation, to just relax in total quiet (as long as my tinnitus is being good and staying low).  I do this every day when I meditate.
  • My oscillopcia is worse. (Oscillopsica is a visual disturbance in which objects in the visual field appear to oscillate. The severity of the effect may range from a mild blurring to rapid and periodic jumping.) It can be incapacitating, luckily mine just causes me to see things weird sometimes.  I often see things as if there is this funky shadow surrounding them, like they are slightly vibrating but I can’t really see the vibration I can only see the after image after.  It’s hard to explain.  On a good day, I don’t have this, or barely have it.  Today, I’ve had to stop writing this post many times because I am having a hard time focusing. (note, not everyone with Meniere’s has oscillopcia)
  • I think everyone has a headache when they have a cold, I don’t know if mine is worse than it used be before I got Meniere’s or not, that was a long time ago.  I know it’s worse than my persistent daily headache.  I’m at a 6 or 7 on the 0 – 10 scale all the time right now.

So far I haven’t had a full blown vertigo attack.  I keep feeling like it’s coming, but it hasn’t.  I’ve been having so many good days recently maybe this cold won’t set it off.  I do constantly feel like I’m on a boat and a bit car sick, but the full rotational vertigo has not come around.

Having a cold and Meniere’s at the same time can be challenging.

If you have Meniere’s and you feel cruddy because you have the crud, you aren’t alone.  Know that it gets better.

If you don’t have Meniere’s, now you know a bit about what people with Meniere’s go through when we have a cold. Some people have more symptoms than I listed, some people have less, but normally people with Meniere’s have their symptoms increase when they have a cold.

Today I have the crud….it just is.

Don’t Let My Situation with Meniere’s Disease Depress You!!

I haven’t written in a long time because, I had someone with Meniere’s tell me they read my blog and found it very depressing.  This is something I have feared for a long time.  I’ve seriously considered stopping this blog because of this very reason.  I do not want people to read about me and think that this is their fate.

I wrote a lot about having Meniere’s Disease and what it was doing to me before I knew I had “MORE THAN MENIERE’S”.    Even then we knew my case was very atypical.  If you have Meniere’s Disease do not take the progression of my disease as a road map of what your life will look like.

This blog is a journal of my experiences.  I am far from a textbook case.  As my doctor has said…..I am different from any case he has seen.  (he works with a LOT of people with many Vestibular issues at Duke, especially Meniere’s…he is the head of the Vestibular Clinic)  He has told me that there is nothing else he can do for me.  It is recommended that I go to John Hopkins Vestibular Clinic.  They do a lot more research in vestibular disorders than Duke does.  Frankly, I haven’t found any other place that does more research in vestibular disorders than John Hopkins.

Most people with Meniere’s never go bilateral.  Those who do, most never lose their hearing.  For those who do, it normally takes a very long time.   And the very, few who get to that point normally have very little to no vertigo after that.  If they ever do it is very mild.

I’m very different.  When I went bilateral, I completely lost my hearing within 3 years, I now have cochlear implants.  I still have vertigo often.  Even with Cochlear Implants my hearing fluctuates a lot.  (by a lot, I mean many times a day…this is far from normal.  Some people with Meniere’s who have CI’s do have their hearing fluctuate if they have a vertigo attack, but not like I do.)  I will have times where I can go without severe bouts of vertigo for a while then I’ll have a month or so with attacks every day.  That is not normal for Meniere’s.  This is very atypical for this disease.  As my doctor said, I have more than Meniere’s.

I have tried to steer this blog to cover more of my chronic illnesses as a whole, and not focus on Meniere’s Disease.  It doesn’t seem to be working out that way.  My vertigo and hearing issues are a HUGE part of my life.  How do I not talk about them?

I do not want my blog to depress anyone…..I don’t want it to cause people to have less hope.  Meniere’s can be a very scary disease….I do not need to add to it.  I’ve always wanted to give people hope.  To let them know there is life beyond the disease.  That the disease is only a part of the patient’s life, it is not all of your life…it is not who you are.  Things are just different now.

Right now I really don’t know what I’m going to do with this blog.

If I change the focus, people will still see the past post and can see it as depressing, and disheartening.

I am thinking about making a static post that you have to see first when you come to my blog before going to other post, and then starting a new blog, that is much more positive, and not mention Meniere’s Disease as much.  I am afraid I may lose a lot of you.  I’ve changed blogs before, and I lost a lot of people.

Maybe I’ll just give it a try.  Or have 2 blogs for a while?

I just don’t know.

Right now.  This has really been on my mind and has me stuck.

Love and Peace to all of you!

wendy

Finally I understand….they really aren’t bad people.

I wrote this a few days ago, but did hit enter.  I wanted to read over it and make adjustments….but I had a vertigo attack..and another, and another.  I’ve been having many vertigo attacks since November 1st.  They come on fast and the spinning is very fast.  They last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.  Yesterday I had 6 of them.  I can’t be on the computer very often the rare occasions when I can.  I can’t read much.  I don’t know if this is Meniere’s or Migraine Associated Vertigo, or a combination.  My guess is a combination.  We have calls in to both my doctor at Duke and the doctor here….yes the doctor here….I’m desperate…and read below you will understand why I’m giving him another chance.

So I don’t know when I’ll be back.  and I didn’t read this over.  thank you all for supporting and hanging in there with me.  You are the best!

So the people at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat are not so very horrible.  Stuart talked to the head of the Audiology department today.  She said that the doctor I saw has spoken to her twice about making an exception to see me.  Shockers!  Also there seems to be a pretty good reason for them to not see people from different clinics.  They don’t get paid for it.  Yep, it’s in their contract that they don’t get paid for MAPping cochlear implants that they didn’t implant.  Sad.  (for those of you scratching your head right now thinking, what on earth is MAPping? It mainly means when the audiologist adjust the CI’s so you can hear better…but here’s a link to nice explanation with more detail, if you are interested.  It is in easy to understand terms to don’t worry. Mapping a Cochlear Implant).

The audiologist then told Stuart that they made an exception in 2 cases, if it was a hardship for someone to go back to the place they had their CI surgery done, or if they couldn’t travel that far because of a physical problem.  She said, in my case it is both.  Because of the Meniere’s it is a hardship because I can’t drive and I have to depend on getting someone else to drive me.  I am also physically unable to ride that far because of the herniated disc, and because of the vertigo.  So, they are going to see me at this office!

I really wish they had told me this before.  I do understand they they don’t want everyone to know there are exceptions because then people would be trying to bend the rules.  However, if they had just told me they didn’t get paid, I would have understood.  That would have made me very understanding.  I feel horrible that they don’t get paid.  I do not feel right taking advantage of them.  If I only have to see them once a year or so, we will just pay them for the visit.  If I have to go numerous times, I will try to go back to Duke.  Right now, I really need to have this done, and I can’t afford to pay for the visit.  I am so very thankful that they are willing to help me.

My suggestion to them in the future…explain to the patient that they don’t get paid.  I sure wouldn’t have thought they had awful business practices if they had told me that.

On a not so good note.  Well, first a good thing…I woke up on Halloween…No vertigo.  Yay!   By late that night I had a little.  It decided to come back faster than before.  I fell like its toying with me.  Oh my goodness it has not been fun, if I move my head I get sick to my stomach.  I have a headache all the time because I have to concentrate so hard to focus.  Then night before last….major attack!  Dang!  I didn’t handle this well.  Mindfulness…yeah I’m not doing well.  My brain is not staying in this moment.  I keep thinking, what if it doesn’t stop.  After all this slow stuff has been going on for a while now.  I can’t stop my brain from saying building up these stories.  It’s harsh.  And it is making it worse.  Last night I had a little bit more than a mini attack but not a major attack.  I handled it better, and got it to slow down.  I’m just so sad about it.

I’m working on a lot of self care.  Eating well, pampering myself a bit, reading things that make me happy, watching good things on TV, reaching out to people I know give me good advice or just make me feel good, getting good sleep, and enough rest.  Making sure I take my medication on schedule.  Keeping a routine as much as possible.  This is very important.  If I don’t do these things I know I could slip into a deep depression.  I know this because I’m biploar.  But this is important for anyone.  Especially those of us with chronic illnesses.  We can get sick easily when we are under stress, we have to take care of ourselves, and when life hands us some extra challenges we have to be diligent about taking care of ourselves.

I also have to rest more…that may mean taking a nap, or just resting more.  I need to meditate more….now during these times I won’t be able to quiet my mind.  I know that.  and that is ok.  I will just sit quietly, and breathe.  As a thought comes up I will acknowledge it and tell it to move along…I will probably be doing that the whole time…and that is ok.  It will still do me some good, and I’m sure I will feel better.  I need to not give in to my impulse to eat more, especially junk.  Yes, when I get upset, I want junk.  I can’t do that to myself.  Just as I can’t drink or do drugs.  I have to stay as healthy as I can to keep my depression at bay.

So I’m off to do some reading that makes me laugh.

Just wanted to share this great news!

Hubby decided we needed to celebrate.    Dinner tonight…Steak with roasted green beans and new potatoes.  And for desert….a parfait made with bananas, berries, Greek yogurt, walnuts and a touch of maple syrup.  Double yum!   (Ok, so I have that desert often.  It’s really good and good for me!  I feel good knowing I’m taking care of me.)

You can’t help me hear better why??

wendy charcoal CI
Me. Image by Me.

I broke down and sobbed at the ear doctor’s office yesterday.  I actually left there sobbing…in the elevator, out the door, in the parking lot…had to stop in the parking lot and catch my breath because of the sobs…then into the car…….

I could not believe what I had just heard!

Not from the doctor, that hurt but I wasn’t surprised.  He mainly said, I had to live with it.  I didn’t realize I was hoping for more until he said it.  but I was crushed.  I was about to cry then.  But I held it together, I knew I would cry later, but just a little…a little mourning once again.  Knowing that I may live with this constant vertigo forever.  The fact that my worst feat was coming true….well just a little.  It isn’t fast vertigo, that is my worst fear.  I will not build up that fear.  After all I may not live with this forever.  I do not know the future!   but the wound was open, and it was raw….I was acknowledging these feelings…it hurt.

Then we went to set up an appointment with the Cochlear Implant audiologist.  Thank goodness, I really need my CI’s adjusted.  When ever I have a Meniere’s attack my hearing goes wonky.  They refused to see me!!!!!  What The *%&^??

First the doctor had said that they didn’t see people who went from Charlotte to Duke to have their Cochlear Implant surgery because they do the surgery there.  OK? well that makes sense I guess….still that is not right.  So you choose to have your surgery somewhere else, then we will not help you after your surgery.  They want to people to have their surgery there that badly?

But he said, since I lived there and moved here, maybe it would be OK.  So they went to set it up….NOPE.

Then they came back saying it is their policy not to take transfers from anywhere in NC.  What?  Charlotte is on the far side of NC.  NC is a VERY long state.  If someone moved here from the far side of NC they couldn’t get their CI’s adjusted here?  That is like 10 hours away.  What?  That is just messed up.  What if my surgery had been done poorly and I needed help?  Oh I’m sure they would help me then, that would be surgery.  This is just seeing the cochlear implant audiologist. I still don’t understand.  They get paid for this.  It’s not like it is free.  The appointment last for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It’s expensive.  Frankly it feels like discrimination.   You are one of those people from Duke, we don’t like your kind here.  I am just floored.

So, they say I will have to ride 3 hours to Duke to get my CI’s adjusted.  Yes, that is just torture for someone with vertigo!!  Then to have the CI adjustment is very hard on me.  It always makes me sick and I get a migraine.  Then I will have to endure the ride home…another 3 hours.  (of course if I have vertigo really bad it will take us much longer, we may even have to stay the night somewhere.)  Ugh!

I am at a loss.

There is no other CI clinic in this city.

Right now we are making an appointment at Duke.  I can’t see me actually going to this place after this anyway.  How could I trust my care to them?

I’m complaining to the manufacturer who makes my CI’s because I was told by them I could get my adjustments done there.  I’m sure they have no idea that this place is refusing patients who have Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implants.  (or any other implant from another clinic)

I am really beside myself and this is starting me to spiral out of control.
I am going down…down…down…

I am working hard not to let it.

I am tired of feeling that everything is out of my control.
I can’t even make calls about this.

I want to call that audiology department and find out why this is a policy and see if they understand my situation.  I feel this is malpractice, but according to the Audiology society where I could file a complaint it isn’t.  It is their business practice rules and that isn’t considered something I can lodge a complaint against.  It is discrimination!  I am being discriminated against because of where I had my surgery.

I just can’t believe this.
Normally I would never think of going there after this.

I would want to make them pay, but I wouldn’t let them touch me.

but I don’t want to go so far away every time I need to be seen.

*sigh*

I don’t have a choice.
I can’t do anything, and let’s face it, Stuart is not good at these things….and this stupid office had no way for a deaf person to get in touch with them!!!!

I can’t email them!

I’m not good on a computerized caption phone.  There is always such a delay, and there is always words that are translated so wrong.  I gave up.

I want to scream. guess I could since our neighbor moved this past weekend.  LOL

OK….

I’ve vented enough.

That’s my predicament
on which I will lament.

Wanting to take care of me
but have to depend on he.

How do I reconcile myself to this half-life?
or do I continue to wrestle with this internal strife?

Many of life’s offerings I willingly accept,
but loss of all control, I’m not so adept.

This is today, I can’t predict tomorrow.
let me, wipe away these tears, let go of the sorrow.

Learning how to hear….again.

I know, I got my processors on Halloween, and I’m just now writing.  What took me so long???  I wanted a picture.  But I still don’t have one.  Sorry.  I promise I will soon.

Here’s a link to a page all about my new processors if you are interested. http://www.advancedbionics.com/com/en/naida_ci_q70.html

Here's a photo from the Advanced Bionics site. My Naida processor is orange, not white.
Here’s a photo from the Advanced Bionics site. My Naida processor is orange, not white.

So far I’m pleased with these, but I have a long way to go with the right ear.  Presently everything sounds a bit high-pitched, or underwater.  When she first turned it on people sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, but I could understand some of the words.  I also find that most people sound like they have a very southern accent.  People whom I know do not have one, people who may not have ever been in the south!

I haven’t really started auditory therapy yet, mostly I’ve just been wearing the new processor every day, trying to get used to how it works, and simply hearing something on the right side. I’ve  been VERY tired lately.  I know it’s to be expected with the new CI, but exhaustion is a bit much.  I’m also having headaches, my headaches have been reduced so much since I’ve been getting the Botox shots for migraines, it’s difficult when I have one every day to the extreme I’ve been having.

photo from medicinenet.com balance disorders slide show.
photo from medicinenet.com balance disorders slide show.

The vertigo has been pretty predictable lately, every evening I normally have at least a small attack, and often more than one different times in the day.  I’m handling the vertigo well, but it’s so dang annoying, and frankly it’s starting to get a bit boring.  When it’s going on all I can do is focus on one spot, often with one eye closed, and tell myself it’s not real, all while keeping my breathing deep and steady….after a while it gets boring.  Never thought I’d say that about a vertigo attack, but the attacks I’ve been having recently are not the horrible fast spinning kind that last for hours.  Sometimes I do wonder if they would be if I didn’t get the meds in me fast and start this meditation type routine that I’ve come up with.  One day last week I had very fast vertigo I couldn’t focus at all, still I calmed myself down.  It has helped so much to tell myself, “This is not real. You are not moving, This is not real.”  But everyone has different ways to cope, and some may not be able to do this.  I know I would not have been able to just a year or so ago.

I realized something the other day….I gave up.  My husband was talking to me about things that have been going on with me lately and how we needed to talk to the doctor about it and how he wanted me to feel better.  He qualified that he knows it will never go away, but it used to be better.  I shut down.  I actually bothered me to hear he wanted me better.  Then I realized it was because I didn’t believe I would get better.  Ever.  I’ve gotten tired of asking doctors about things and hearing, “I wish there was more we could do”.  I didn’t want to hear that again, so I gave up.  This sounds odd after hearing how I handle my vertigo so much better, but I don’t believe the vertigo will get better.  I used to.

Now I’m in this realization mode, and fighting with myself.  I know I can’t give up!  I have a life.  I do want to get better.  Some of my illnesses may not get better, but I know some things can.  I KNOW this. But with the loss of income, and everything else, I have put myself last….and feel guilty every time we have to spend money on me….so I gave up.  I didn’t want my illnesses to sap all of our funds and energy.  It could get better, but it may not, and I got to the point where I just didn’t want to have my hopes shattered again, especially if it was going to take more of money, simply to be told it won’t get better.  As I write this and think more and more about it, perhaps I never gave up, perhaps I felt I needed to put me on hold.  The situation we are in right now is very stressful and taking much out of both of us.  I do not feel comfortable concentrating on me, I need to concentrate on us.  (this does not mean I’m being negligent about my health, if there is something I really need to see the doctor for, I will go.)

A realtor just left the house.  Yes, it’s time to sell.  I’m afraid we’re going to lose money on the house.  The market has come back a lot in this area, but some houses in our neighborhood sold for so little, it is going to cause our selling price to be greatly reduced.  No matter where Stuart gets a job we want to downsize, hopefully, we won’t have to wonder about our future much longer.  Another phone interview for my hubby in the morning…for a job in Las Vegas.  I cannot imagine living in Las Vegas. I wonder if they have decent doctors.  : )

I realize now that I’m rambling.  Yes, I do that when I’m nervous.  I’m still grateful for so much….our life may hold many questions right now, but it’s a mystery…soon to be an adventure, and I’m sure we’ll be happy with how things turn out.  We’ll be together, and that’s all that counts.

Cochlear Implant #2…a short update

I haven’t been on the computer much since my surgery.  I simply do not feel well shortly after I get on, I get all hot and dizzy…so no computer for me.  (please note, I didn’t read this after I wrote it, I am just too tired, please forgive any strangeness, grammatical errors, or anything that is just wrong.)

However, I did want to update all as to my recovery.

Incision  the Day after surgery,
Day after surgery,  Sorry it’s not cleaned up more, but I hubby just took this picture to show me, and then we forgot to take another one.

Had the Cochlear Implant surgery on the 25th.  The incision looks great.  It still hurts a bit, not terribly bad, but annoying (mostly it’s just itching now!).  The tinnitus has been going Crazy!!  As I mentioned in an earlier post prescription pain relievers have been making me itch, so I’ve had to try different things.

I tried Arnica Montana (most just call it Arnica) in the oral form.  I’ve used the topical gel many times with much success, but I’ve never tried the tablets.  Before surgery we checked to make sure it wouldn’t be adverse to my medications, but didn’t see where it said not to take it if you are allergic to ragweed.  (guess what my number one allergen is?  Ragweed!) So I took it for a day and my muscles seized up.  I couldn’t even sit up without help.  So no more Arnica for me.  It took about 2 days for me to not hurt all over.  Kind of ironic, I used it to help with the pain and ended up in more pain.  But, hey, it took my mind off of my ear!

I am able to take an NSAID by injection.  I can’t take them orally because they have caused me a lot of stomach troubles.  So I have Toradol injections.  Unfortunately, I can only have 2 a week.  But they do help, a lot!  I use this for my most intense migraines too.  We decided to try 1/2 a shot to see if it helped, and it did!  Yay!  So I was able to have more shots just at a lower dose.  This helped a lot, especially when I couldn’t sleep.  But really, over all, I haven’t been in much pain, just uncomfortable with my glasses.

The vertigo started about 3 days ago.  I don’t know what’s going on really, I’m sure it has to do with the fluid from swelling and it going down…or something.  It’s not the normal Meniere’s vertigo.  It’s often positional, so if I lie very still I don’t spin.  I’ve also been having this strange sensation as if I’m having vertigo, but I’m visually spinning.  I feel my body/head moving, but I’m not moving, nor do I see anything moving.  It makes me just as sick as vertigo does.  Strange huh?  I’m still so grateful I was able to get Phenergan injections that hubby can give me.  I think it has saved me many times.

I was supposed to be activated and get my processors on the 8th, but the vertigo would not let me.  I thought I probably could have made it through the doctor’s visit, he is just checking the incision site, but going through the audiologist appointment would have had me on the floor!  That is a LONG visit.  Not only does she actually turn things on, she has to adjust things as I tell her how the beeps sound.(called MAPping for those with CI’s, or those who are just interested).  Then I have to have a hearing test, not just a regular hearing test, but a very long and detailed test.  I get so tired and worn out every time we do this I often have an attack that evening, so going there with me already feeling wonky in the head, would not have been wise.

Unfortunately, that means that I may have to wait until the first week of November.  We/They are trying to work it out so I can get in sooner, but the way I’ve been feeling I wouldn’t say it will be too soon anyway.  The office is looking to set up the appointment with my doctor on one day and then the audiologist on a different day instead of trying to do both in one day.  This should be easier to schedule.  Plus, it should also be easier on me.  At Duke they normally try to schedule as much on the same day as possible because so many people come from far away to be seen.  We often have to remind them we just live about 10 minutes from there.

So that’s my news for now.  I’m tired a lot, sleeping a lot…..guess I’m healing.  (oh who am I kidding, I was sleeping a lot before the surgery!)  Catching up on some reading, and watching TV.  The new season of Rupaul’s Drag Race just started!  (actually, they are showing season 1 again, it’s a hoot!)  If you asked me last year if I watched any reality shows I would have said no, but I love Rupaul’s show! after all……

“If you can’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love anyone else?…..can I get an Amen?” – Rupaul signs off each show with this quote!

Round and Round I go…where or when I’ll stop nobody knows…

I feel like I haven’t been here in ages, and I probably haven’t.

I have to make this short, but wanted to give a little explanation as to why I’ve disappeared…when I have so much to say!  And give a tiny update.

On a Carousel at the NC State Fair
On a Carousel at the NC State Fair – I’m on the left, Jenn in on the right, and Stuart is in the mirror.  As you can tell, this photo was taken before I started having Meniere’s symptoms so often.  Taken Fall of 2005….I think.

I’m having a LOT of VERTIGO!  Luckily it’s not the severe- losing control of all bodily functions for hours -kind of vertigo.  It is much slower, and less horrific.  But it’s happening almost every day, often more than once a day.  I’m getting to the point where I’m terrified my worst fear may be realized…..at some point it won’t stop.

I am so happy I am handling it so much better than I used to.  I used to freak out even if it was a mini attack.  These attacks are more than a mini (one that happens for just a few minutes), but not a full blown severe attack.  Hard to explain, but I have a routine now that really helps.  When it starts, I take my meds, I get ice and put it on my chest or wrap it around so it hits my back and chest (I always get very hot and if I can cool down fast it helps).  {I keep these things close when I’m alone, when Stuart is home he helps, but I am always prepared.}Then I put something close I can focus on, usually a cup.  I hold it with my hand…and close one eye, that seems to help a lot….I tell myself….actually I think it is important to say this out loud if you can.., “This is not real, you know your hand is not really moving, so nothing is moving, This is not real…this is not real….”  I also try to control my breathing.  Normally, I start breathing short and fast, now I try to take deeper breaths and tell myself to calm…remember, it’s not real!  At times I chant, Stuart will chant with me…it’s very soothing, even when my body is telling me that nothing is as it should be.  I’m also very lucky that I now have Phenergan shots at home.  My otologist (for those who may not know, an ENT is an otolaryngologist – study of Ears, Nose, and Throat….my doctor just specializes in Ears…the oto- part.) couldn’t give me a prescription for injections, but my Migraine doctor can because she is a pain specialist.  The Phenergan shots help stop the vomiting, and that’s more than all right with me!!!  (I do need them when I have migraines too)  I do still get nauseous but I’m pretty sure that’s mostly because the acid in my tummy gets all churned up due to the stress.

OK…so that’s why I haven’t been around.

Now….why I might not be around…but I might….

My Cochlear Implant surgery for the right ear is next Wednesday, the 25th!  I’m not sure how recovery will go, we know that I can have the same surgery many times and each recovery is different.  I’m really hoping that this one is easy because I’ve developed an intolerance to narcotics.  So, no pain pills for me to come home with.  My husband has a call in to my migraine doc to see if there is any options.  I do have some meds from her for migraines but I don’t want to use those without her telling me exactly what to use and how often.

Depending on my recovery, I may be on here a lot, or I might not be able to be on here much at all.  Hopefully, I can post again before then.

My senior quote in high school: “By the time you figure out what makes the world go around, you’re too dizzy to care”   hmmmmm, prophetic?

Things on my mind….

Got Ewe On My Mind by LoopyDave on DeviantArt.com

Please note, this post is just random thoughts I’m having and want to get out of my head for a bit.

I’ve had a lot of time to think recently.  I haven’t been able to type a lot because I hurt my shoulder.  I fell, again.  This time I was going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I was not balancing very well, but that’s normal.  I started to fall right at the toilet and fell into the wall.  My shoulder took most of the weight.  So I’ve tried to just do less with it, but it got worse.  So I had to do much, much less.  Now it seems to be getting better.

So if I haven’t been commenting on your blogs, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading, I just haven’t been typing much.  I read them in my email on my phone, it’s hard to comment on my phone, and that would hurt my arm just as much, I think.  So in the wee hours of the morning when I’m up coughing, I’m probably reading your blog, and thinking of You.

Stuart has started school.  I’m proud of him.  I’m also scared and stressed out.  I don’t want to live poor again.  Not that we are rich by any means, but I used to live paycheck to paycheck and often ran out of money.  I remember many times living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for weeks to get by, I’d also accept dates from guys I knew I didn’t want to date just so I would get a good meal.  Stuart has never wanted for anything really.  So I’m much more stressed about it than he is.  In my heart I know things will work out.  But, in my gut, I’m nervous.

I will be going to Duke’s Asthma, Allergy, and Airway clinic on Friday.  Please everyone think about me and send good thoughts that they will be able to stop this dang cough.  I’ve been coughing every day since mid October…yes that’s last year!

On September 3rd, my hubby and I will be celebrating our 9th anniversary.  We can’t really do anything but we’ll be celebrating that we’ve been through so much in our 9 years of marriage and are still madly in love.

The second week of September I go in for Pre-Op for my second cochlear implant surgery.

The surgery is on September 25th.  I don’t know why, but I’m more nervous this time than I was the last time.  Before I was more excited, now, I’m a bit scared.  I shouldn’t have, but I expected a lot from the first CI, so this time I’m not expecting anything.  Which is silly, that’s what I have now.  No hearing in that ear.  Things have to be better when I can hear out of two ears.

Well, I have much more on my mind but I don’t have the energy to write more right now.  And you are probably tired of reading my tirade.

What’s on your mind today?