At long last, I now have a way to "hear" from my deaf side, and will gradually gain back my "radar". In April 2004, I got a notice from House Ear Institute that they were having a seminar to talk about BAHA, which had been approved by the FDA a year before as a solution for single sided deafness (SSD). BAHA has been available longer than that for other hearing problems, but not SSD.
At the seminar, I was able to try on a test unit, that was on a headband. Since it conducted though the skin, the sound wasn't to be expected to be great, but enough to get a feel for it. Well, it was great to me. So much so, that we saved enough to buy (Aug 2004) the external unit and headband for periodic use. I couldn't wear it for long periods, though, because it tended to make a burning sensation on the skin.
Then I started the process to see what I could have done via insurance. First problem was that House was not in my insurance's "network" and it took a few months to find another doctor who did the implants. He did his best in trying to get the insurance to pay for it, but no luck. I went through several appeals, ending up with the State's Independant Medical Review, and the final denial still said that it was an "excluded" benefit. (That's stupid, as they will pay for an internal cochlear implant, and this is basically an external cocklear device, but oh well.
In July 2005, after having exausted that final appeal, I was telling someone about the denial. I asked the person if they would please keep an ear out for foundations that would pay for this sort of thing, for people who couldn't afford it (buying the external unit tapped us out), because it was estimated to be about $9,000 to $10,000 without insurance. A few hours later, that wonderful person became my benefactor, offering to pay for the surgery. A true angel sent in answer to prayer.
Note: The first set of graphics below are drawings, so you needn't be afraid of something gory. The realistic ones are really not bad - not any worse than what you would see if you saw me in person. But I've made them in small thumbnails so you can choose whether or not to see a larger version.
So, before I go into my "diary" portion, I'm sure you are wondering what this process is all about. The company which makes it has been called Entific (http://entific.com/) and was just bought by Cochlear Corporation (http://cochlear.com). From their website, I present the following synopsis of what took place on 3 Aug 2005.
|Next is three months of healing time while the titanium screw "osseointegrates" (bonds to the living bone).|
When the three months is up, I will be able to wear the external cochlear stimulator.
On to the diary of events. My husband had to have me to St Vincent's Hospital at 6:30 am. (It's across the street from House in Los Angeles, and they do all their surgeries there). My "prep" work consisted of shaving the area behind my ear, and setting up my IV. The surgery is done with local anesthesia, so I was able to keep up a running conversation with Dr House and the nurses. After surgery, I had to show that I could drink water, and eliminate water (keeping this G rated). Then they took my blood pressure (for the millionth time) and my temperature. All in all, less than half hour after leaving the surgery room, we were on our way by 11 am. We stopped at IHop for breakfast and after we got home, I went grocery shopping. I'd been a little nervous about not being knocked out, but that had the benefit of not having to "sleep it off".
As mentioned, the rest of the pictures are deliberatley small, but you can click to see the big version. The first two aren't a problem at all, as they just show the big cap covering to keep the bandaging in place for the first 24 hours. Surprisingly it was very easy to sleep on (I sleep on my side and toss from one side to the other during the night). The next two show what I will look like for awhile while the healing takes place. After one week, I'll go in and the little white "cap" taken off the abutment.
What is this going to do, you ask? Once the three month healing time is up, and I can wear the BAHA unit, the sound will come into the unit, which transfers the vibrations to my entire skull, using it like a sounding board, and the sound will go over to the cochlea on my "good" side.
Entific's website animates this but I decided not to put the animated version here.
The sound I hear coming from through the stimulator unit has a slight "PA" sound, like it's coming through a public address system. As time passes, my brain will start to recognize that if it sounds like a PA, then the sound is coming from my right, and normal is coming from my left. As my brain learns this, I will have my sense of "radar" back. When someone calls my name at a meeting, I'll be able to tell where they called me from. This radar is probably the most exciting part to me.
10 Aug 2003 - Doctor took off the little cap that was holding a foam "bandage" in place.
I thought he was taking out the stitches too, but it turns out they are the kind that will dissolve and come out themselves. Next appointment 14 Sep 2005.
14 Sep 2005 - The stitches didn't dissolve and come out, as you see by the first picture (that part at top is doctor's hand - these two pictures taken through his microscope). The second picture is after the stitches removed, and the rest of the scabbing debrided. Nice healthy tissue now. Everything is going well. Next appointment 26 Oct 2005 - that's when I finally get to wear my BAHA!
26 Oct 2005 - Yeah, today was the day! Dr John House took a look and gave the thumbs up for wearing my device, so the next step was to see the audiologist, Rebecca Cihocki, to put it on and get my hearing test. I passed with flying colors. She's going to send me the figures and I'll update this page to show the percentage of improvement. The last picture in this series has "Dr J" and Rebecca with me.