First assessment

Today was my first assessment at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital.

The hospital is easy to find if you turn left not right out of King’s Cross – minor loss of bearings which makes a change – I usually walk miles in the wrong direction.

Once at the hospital I presented myself to Reception where a lady with a horrendous accent told me I was in the wrong place and directed me elsewhere, fortunately with hand gestures as I had no chance of working out what she was saying. Typical NHS hospital with lots of signs on the walls directing you hither and thither but none of them of where you want to go!  Eventually I found the Cochlear Implant office and was told to take a seat in the waiting room and they would let the lady know I was there.

First appointment was with an Audiological Scientist who turned out to be South African and therefore much easier for me to make out what she said (me being from Zimbabwe so it’s a familiar accent). She took the history and tested my hearing with and without hearing aids. She is going to arrange to reprogramme the Naida hearing aids to try and improve them (currently just too loud on the things I can hear and not loud enough on the things I can’t). It was not a surprise to hear that with my hearing it’s unlikely hearing aids would help much. I have lots of mid-range low-frequency hearing and practically no high-frequency hearing. She explained things and emphasised that this is very preliminary and from these early appointments they will decide if I am suitable for a cochlear implant. So far so good.

They don’t do bilateral implants in the UK on adults so there is an option to use a hearing aid in the non implanted ear. Which is why getting the aids just right is important. She will also advise on stethoscopes once the implant is chosen. [Edit: some implants cut off more lower frequencies than others. So this might be something to take into account when you are first choosing an implant. More information. Clare.]

Second appointment was with a hearing therapist. She was very nice and easy to lipread. But then the nasty stuff……… testing how much I can “hear” without lipreading. A man’s voice says a brief sentence and I had to repeat what he said. What did he say??????  No luxury of repetition and she didn’t say if I had it right or wrong when I guessed. I don’t think I got a whole sentence, just bits and odd words. It was horrible. It’s an assessment and also a baseline recording so they can assess progress after the implant IF they do it. She didn’t say I was a total failure and please go away, so there is still hope!  The longer you have been deaf the more post-op learning there will be. They will visit my workplace if I would like them to and explain to staff about cochlear implants etc. I can take a family member to appointments there if I want. There are support groups for family members.

The choice of which implant is further down the line and I think I would rather have something that is in current use than something very new that no-one knows anything about. She showed me a dummy implant and I am not bothered by size etc as I have lots of hair but I think chocolate brown not really my colour! Hopefully they offer skin tone or something pretty!!  The one she showed me has rechargeable batteries that last about a day.

Next week it’s a Consultant and he will order the MRI, CT etc. They need to know that my facial nerve is in a normal anatomical position. Apparently people most fear damage to the facial nerve but it’s a rare complication and one they carefully avoid by monitoring the facial nerve during surgery. They also need to know the state of my cochlear to know which ear to use. Other risks are the usual things like infection etc. My greatest fear is that they lose my glasses while I am in theatre. I don’t mind waking up with no hearing (used to that) but I really need my glasses to communicate.

At least I will know my way to the hospital – but that does not mean I will find where the consultant is!

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