Last night I attended Advanced Bionics’ online webinar that was all about the new Q90 processor. This was really important for me since I recently found out that I am eligible for an early upgrade to trade in my current Q70 processor for the new Q90.
The webinar was very informative. The Q90 looks almost identical to the Q70 but it is smaller and thinner. It also comes with a few new features to help you to adjust to different sound environments and to block out distracting background noise better. It comes with the option of using a smaller battery that is about half the size of the smallest battery used by the Q70, but all of the sizes used with the Q70 are still compatible with the Q90 as well. The battery life is the same in the Q90 as it was in the Q70. One of the biggest advantages with the smaller battery size option (other than the obvious comfort) is that it will fit inside the AquaCase better.
The three new programs offered in the Q90 are the AutoSound, SoundRelax and EchoBlock.
The Auto Sound feature adapts automatically to the environment you are in. It helps you to better manage noise for more comfortable listening. Sound Relax makes sudden sounds more comfortable to hear. Advanced Bionics gave the example of a golf club hitting the golf ball or dishes clanking together. These sounds can be a bit annoying for a cochlear implant user, so with the automatic Auto Sound feature, this noise is softened a bit to be more comfortable. It doesn’t affect alarms or safety sounds though, so you won’t have to worry about missing something important with this feature. Lastly, EchoBack is the one program that is not automatic. EchoBack allows users to hear better in noisy environments.
The Q90 makes me really excited about going bilateral in less than 10 days. I liked hearing about how there were some features that would be only available for bilateral cochlear implant recipients like the StereoZoom feature. There will be features that will allow users to stream sounds through both cochlear implants. They will work simultaneously together to support each other. This will help to create an overall better listening experience.
I asked one of the women doing the webinar if I would be receiving the new Q90 when I received my second implant on November 3oth (It’s not widely available yet, I’m just lucky to have been chosen to upgrade my Naida Q70 from my first implant for it ahead of time) and she said yes so I’m very excited about that.
Overall the webinar was very informative. I’m excited about the new Q90 processor. It doesn’t sound like it will be drastically different from the Q70, so it should be easy to adjust to.It sounds like it will help to give me clearer sound and an even better listening experience (if that’s even possible).
Today has been quite the day! I took off of work today (although I did check in, answer emails, and comment on tasks as much as possible), but the day has been just as busy if not more so than my usual work days.
At Around 10am, I left for the train station and then took the train into Philly. My first appointment was at Jefferson with Alyssa, an audiology student who was filling in for Louisa. I had met Alyssa once before during my last appointment when I had my 2nd cochlear implant evaluation and really liked her. She is not yet an audiologist as she is still in school, but she said she should be an audiologist in May and she still fills in and helps both Louisa and Paula out.
I was just meeting with Alyssa today to choose a color for my 2nd cochlear implant and to go over the options for the accessories and the package. It was a super quick appointment. I was originally trying to decide between the ruby red and the silver. After seeing it though I was pretty lukewarm to the red; it just looked too dark. I decided to go with the silver. It was pretty easy for me choosing the accessories. I didn’t want the palm pilot thing since I didn’t think it was worth it for me. I hear pretty well on the phone without having to use that tool to stream to both of my cochlears. It made more sense for me to opt for getting more batteries instead so I chose extra batteries with more of the small ones since at the moment I have more large than small. I also choose to get the Aquacase and I ordered it to be in a navy blue called Petrol with a white headpiece and cable.
I choose the Silver/Gray one for my 2nd implant and the Petrol one for the headpiece on my 2nd Aquacase.
I asked Alyssa which processor they will be giving me. The Naida Q90 isn’t available for public distribution yet, but I’m eligible to upgrade my Naida Q70 for it for my first implant, so there’s a chance they’ll be giving it to me for my second one as well. Alyssa will call and find out.
I also set up my activation appointment. I had a little bit of trouble scheduling it since both Louisa and Paula will be out for the holidays for awhile but I ended up scheduling it for…………..
DECEMBER 24TH! Yes, Christmas Eve! What an amazing Christmas gift it will be!
After my appointment with Alyssa I went over to Starbucks since I had about an hour of time left to kill. I was happy they had my seasonal favorite — Peppermint Mocha. I ordered it as a Venti Iced Frappachino. :).
Is there anything better than a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Frappachino? No, there is not.
My second appointment was at 1:30 for pre-testing. It was another very quick, easy appointment. The doctor just asked me some basic questions like if my allergies were still the same, if I had any other surgeries in the last year aside from my first cochlear implant, if I had any medical conditions, yada yada. Then he took my blood pressure which was fine, looked at my throat and gave me a short physical all of which were fine. The last step was having my blood drawn just so they could get my blood cell count or something basic. He said I was healthy and good to go with my surgery. He just reminded me to stop taking all of my medications which I have already begun.
When I got home one of my friends whom I met through the cochlear implant groups on Facebook and the Haddonfield area support groups sent me an email. Apparently the Hearing Association of America is looking for articles for a recent issue from people with cochlear implants. He gave me their contact information and I sent her an email so we’ll see what happens! It would definitely be awesome to collaborate with them on something!
Everything is starting to happen so fast with all of this; it’s so exciting! I think I have all of my appointments now. They are:
- November 30th: Date of Surgery
- December 2nd: Meet with Louisa and Advanced Bionics to upgrade first Naida Q70 Cochlear Implant to the Naida Q90
- December 10th: Stitches Come Out
- December 24th: Activation Day!
Tomorrow Advanced Bionics is hosting an online webinar on the Naida Q90 processor. I signed up to attend, so it should be interesting learning more about it especially since I know I’ll be upgrading early. I’ll be sure to blog about whatever I find out!
This weekend I realized something for the first time.
I will never again use a hearing aid.
I haven’t worn a hearing aid in more than 2 months since I broke the one for my right, unimplanted ear and every backup I had (the battery compartments snapped on them both awhile back, preventing me from closing them and causing them to whistle incessantly). But this realization still felt weird to me.
I have been wearing heads since I was 2, meaning I’ve had hearing aid audiologists since I was 2. It is weird to think I don’t need them anymore.
I’ve gained (and am in the process of gaining) far more with my cochlear implants that I ever had with my cochlear implants. I have my own audiologists for my cochlear implant. Still, I feel kind of bad about the fact that I won’t be seeing Sherri at Miracle Ear anymore.
If it wasn’t for Sherri, I never would’ve gotten my cochlear implant.
Sherri was the one hearing aid audiologist that was different from the rest. Whereas all of the others just wanted to sell me their hearing aids and didn’t really care about what was best for me, Sherri was the exception. Sherri was the only one that was honest and told me that no hearing aids, no matter how good they were, were ever going to give me the clarity I needed. The only thing that could give me that clarity was a cochlear implant.
Sherri told me that cochlear implants weren’t dangerous or anything to be afraid. She told me they weren’t the brain surgery that I thought they were. Sherri encouraged me to do more research and to seriously consider getting one or more.
If it weren’t for her, I never would’ve seen and learned of all of the benefits with cochlear implants and I certainly wouldn’t have ran out to get not only one, but 2.
My days of being a hearing aid patient of Sherri’s are over now. It’s kind of sad in a way. Breaking up with my hearing aid audiologist, Sherri, feels harder than breaking up with my boyfriend was. She doesn’t know yet that I’m getting my second cochlear implant, but I will have to call her soon to let her know. I know that she will be happy and excited for me, but I’m sure she will be sad to lose me as a patient, too.
But this isn’t goodbye, it’s just “I’ll see you later”.
Sherri may be a hearing aid audiologist, but she still does a lot of work with cochlear implants as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to see one of her presentations or attend an event with her one day.
If there’s anything I learned from all of this it’s that when God closes one door, he opens another.
He’s closing the door to my hearing aid journey and opening up the door to my cochlear implant journey. And what a journey it’s been so far!
It’s been a crazy, whirlwind of a week.
Whereas everything with my first cochlear implant seemed to happen in the blink of an eye and get approved overnight, things with my 2nd implant haven’t been quite as easy.
You may recall a few weeks ago I blogged about my evaluation for my second implant and how I scored a bit too high under the best aided conditions. We set up a tentative date of surgery of December 14th. This past week, my mom contacted Jefferson to check the status of the insurance, but they informed us that there were no updates; it was still processing. We didn’t expect to have any answers since Dr. Willcox lead us to believe a decision would be made at the last minute, (most likely not until December 11th…the Friday before the scheduled date of surgery).
However, God works in mysterious ways…
A woman in the pre-cert department decided to keep checking in on insurance and trying to put it through. I am unsure if it was a mistake or if it was done intentionally, but on Wednesday, November 11th, she told the insurance company we were scheduled for surgery on Monday, November 16th. We would need an answer by Friday. This put extra pressure on the insurance company to make a decision.
Needless to say, the next few days left me feeling a bit anxious. I couldn’t wait for Friday to come around to have my answer. I prayed faithfully every day, asking God to give me patience and understanding of whatever the verdict may be.
Patience is something I had difficulty with though once Friday came around. I wanted to know immediately!
I kept texting my mom throughout the day on Friday asking if she had any updates, but she never did. She called Jefferson and they said that there was an issue with the paperwork…they ended up not receiving them until that morning for some reason. I am unsure what happened with that as we were lead to believe all of the papers were sent several weeks ago after the evaluation. My usual audiologist wasn’t there though, I had a new one. I’m thinking maybe that’s where the issue arose — perhaps a lack of communication? Or it could’ve been something with the insurance company. It’s not clear who was at fault.
Regardless, the girl working in the pre-cert department told the insurance company that we needed an answer. We were scheduled to go into surgery on Monday…we had to know. So the insurance company said they’d have an answer for us by 5:30pm. This was a whole half hour later than the office at Jefferson was even open, but the woman in pre-cert said she’d stay late. She came in to work late anyway.
I stared at my phone like crazy. After work I had to go to the grocery store with my dad. It was about 5 when we went. I told my dad to make sure the sound was on on his phone in case my mom called him from work with news. But it never rang.
When we got back to the car it was 5:21. Still nothing. I began to get disappointed thinking we wouldn’t hear anything because even if the insurance company came up with an answer, Jefferson would be closed so we wouldn’t know until Monday.
I got home and continued to stare at the phone. 5:30 rolled around. Then 5:45. When the clock read 6 I was ready to give up and assume that either it wasn’t approved, we wouldn’t have an answer until Monday, or both.
Then the phone rang at 6:01. I picked up on the first ring, totally surprising my mom who is still not used to the fact that I can hear on the phone.
And the verdict was….
INSURANCE WAS APPROVED!
My surgery isn’t really going to take place on Monday, but soon. Everyone at Jefferson was gone by the time it was approved (except the poor pre-cert girl who called) so we will have to call on Monday to reschedule surgery (and first move up the pre-op appointment to go over anaesthesia and all of that stuff). I know that Dr. Willcox does surgery on Monday and Thursdays, so we’re looking at the earliest date being Thursday, November 19th. I will know for sure on Monday though. I want to get this done as soon as possible!
My other exciting news is that Advanced Bionics has a new processor out, the Naida Q90. My audiologist has already contacted me asking if I’d like to come in for an upgrade. I can just trade in my current model, the Naida Q70. The Naida Q90 is supposed to be pretty similar but offer better sound quality especially in regards to noisy environments. It’s also supposed to be a bit smaller.I am doing a webinar on Thursday (unless of course I am in surgery that day haha) where I should learn more about it. I’m not entirely sure if I want to go ahead and trade in my current processor for it since I have been doing so well with the one I have already, but regardless it is exciting and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.
I have more exciting news too about something else that is happening in my life, but I can’t talk about it openly yet. I just ask that everyone keeps me in their thoughts and prayers.
Yesterday was quite the day.
I had my evaluation at Jefferson for my second cochlear implant. The day started out pretty well. I was off of work so getting to sleep in a couple extra hours was definitely a perk for one. For two, before I even left for Jefferson, they called me to let me know my insurance was approved.
However, there was a slight catch…
I had to meet the criteria.
I’ll be honest I completely ignored the part about meeting the criteria. After all, Dr. Wilcox did say during my last appointment that it was just a manner of “Crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s”. I knew that I was deaf in my right ear every bit as much as I was in my left ear that I already had implanted. I knew that none of this has changed in the last year. I knew that I didn’t benefit at all from my hearing aid (before I broke it I mean). There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have been a candidate…
However, they left out the part about meeting the criteria being based off of how well you do in the best aided conditions and that for me that would mean how well I do with one cochlear already on…
I had a new audiologist for my appointment since my usual one, Louisa, was on vacation. The audiologist’s name was Paula and she was working with her extern, Alyssa. She was a lot different than Louisa, but seemed nice enough. She said there was no guarantee I’d qualify, but we’d test and see.
I had to do a series of hearing tests that were identical to the ones I did last year for my first cochlear implant evaluation. First they tested me for being able to hear the beep with my cochlear and a hearing aid on (they had a hearing aid for me to borrow). Next they tested me with my cochlear and hearing aid on for sentences without background noise. Then they did it with background noise. The last tests they did were without my cochlear on and for both beeps and sentences.
I did okay on the tests with my cochlear. The cochlear in my left ear certainly helped,but I still didn’t have “perfect” hearing. I noticed that I couldn’t hear from my right ear. Having the cochlear in my left ear helped me with word recognition a bit, but no so much for general sounds especially softer ones and high-frequency.
I got a 73% for the sound and 99% on my word recognition with my cochlear. However, once they took my cochlear off I scored a 0. I am deaf in my right ear. I can’t hear anything at all. Excuse my language, but the direct quote from my audiologist regarding my hearing (or actually lack thereof in my right ear) is that “You can’t hear shit”.
The blue lines show my left ear without my cochlear. The red circles are my right ear. The S’s are where I am with one cochlear implant. What a difference! I can only imagine how great I’ll do with 2 implants if I can get insurance to approve it!
Unfortunately, the FDA says that in order to qualify for this surgery, I have to score a 60% or below in the best aided conditions. Since I score 73% I did too well. That doesn’t mean though that I can’t get the surgery. I had to have Dr. Wilcox and my audiologist, Paula, submit a pre-cert. What this does is explains the test results and why they still believe I would benefit from getting my second cochlear implant and why they recommend it.
They also had me fill out a quality of life survey to submit to the insurance company. This tells the insurance company a little bit of information about how my hearing loss affects my daily life. It asked me about how I perform in social situations, what my dating life was like, how I viewed and felt about myself, etc. I explained how I sometimes skipped social events if I thought it would be too awkward or too loud and I wouldn’t hear well enough. My love life? Yeah my hearing has definitely mad an impact on that. I was in an abusive relationship in the past where my ex would yell at me and make me feel bad for my hearing all the time. My most recent ex was pretty good with my hearing (FYI, that guy I previously wrote about a lot? We just broke up. But that’s another story), but that’s not usually how it works.
Dr. Wilcox went ahead and scheduled my surgery. He said this would force the insurance company to act and make a decision about whether or not they’d cover my surgery. However, we had to schedule it out far in advance (not as soon as last time — last time we scheduled it exactly 1 week after my evaluation!) to give them enough time to make a decision.
So my (tentative) date of surgery is………………………………….
December 14th! If this date remains and insurance is approved I will have my implant just in time for Christmas and will have my stitches out (and be able to wash my hair — thank god lol) the day before Christmas Eve. The receptionists who scheduled it said if insurance approves my surgery before that date we can always move it up though which is what I plan on doing of course.
I also have to go back for pre-testing on December 2nd like I did last time. Exact same procedure.
I didn’t pick out a color for my cochlear or what accessories I want yet, but if it gets approved I will. I’m leaning towards silver. I definitely want a different color from the caribbean blue that I already have. I can never match or be normal of course lol.
I’m feeling a wide range of emotions in regards to my testing. On one side I’m disappointed because I thought for sure I’d be eligible with no questions asked and schedule my surgery right away. But on the other hand I feel blessed to have scored as well as I did on my test. To have 30% hearing is a miracle to me. 73% is something I never imagined I could possibly have. If this is the most I’ll ever have, that alone is a true blessing.
All that I can really do now is just pray and hope for the best. I put it all on God’s hands and trust that he’ll lead me down the right path. It’s as my pastor tells me, the Lord already has the answer and knows what is best for me and he will reveal all of his incredible plans for me over time.
Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers during this time. I do still have a good feeling about it because I know my surgeon is a strong advocate for it. He definitely supports me getting a 2nd cochlear implant and I know that he was making sure to carefully word his pre-cert for the insurance company. Also, my surgeon is a Christian that has called me on a Sunday before my first surgery in the past to pray with me. I know that prayer can make all of the difference in the world right now.
Since getting my cochlear implant last year I have had many people come to me and ask me questions about it. I love answering questions about my cochlear implant and I love that people want to ask about it. It’s important to ask a lot of questions especially if you are considering having the procedure done yourself. Getting a cochlear implant is the best thing I’ve ever done, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still surgery. You need to know the risks and what to expect to determine if it’s right for you (which I obviously decided it was for me). Your surgeon shouldn’t mind answering your questions, and if he does, then that right there should be a red flag for you that you need to find another surgeon.
The first time I met Dr. Wilcox a year ago I came to him with a grand total of 32 questions. He answered every single one of them without hesitation. He wasn’t annoyed at all by any of my questions; he was more than happy to answer them and asked if I had any more for him! Here are the 33 questions I asked my surgeon prior to my first cochlear implant surgery:
- What are the risks?
- Are cochlear implant patients more likely to get meningitis? Should I get a meningitis shot? (The answer to this was no by the way. I never did get a meningitis shot.)
- Can the surgery cause an increase in headaches or migraines? (Another no.)
- Is there any chance the magnets will react to metal or other materials? (No reactions but my external magnet does stick to things which I think is fun lol)
- After it heals will I be able to put things in my hair and/or wear hats? (Yes I can but some hats cause my magnet to fall off I’ve found).
- Will I lose my residual hearing? (This is usually a yes for most people. I am the exception. I still have the same amount of residual hearing. It depends on whether or not your surgeon hits the nerve. Mine was able to avoid it, but they usually can’t avoid hitting it).
- Do you just do one implant at a time? Which ear do you suggest doing first? Should I have them both done eventually? (This depends on your surgeon. Mine does one at a time and it didn’t matter which one I did first. They usually like to do the worst ear first but mine are the same. He recommended I do both but said it was always my choice.)
- How long have you been performing the surgery for? (I forget the answer, but it’s a long time lol)
- Will I be able to use headphones after everything is healed? (This was a yes but I have to avoid metal ones because they can stick to the magnet).
- What is the chance that I’ll be able to talk on the phone once implanted? (He couldn’t really give me an answer because everyone is different, but I am able to talk on the phone with ease now. It did take me about a month to get to that point though).
- How soon can I be activated after surgery? (I was activated exactly 1 month post surgery).
- How often should I go for a mapping? (This kind of depends on the person. I believe in the beginning it was once a month then it dropped down to once every 6 months and eventually once a year I think but if you’re not happy with the mapping you can request them sooner).
- Do they take batteries? Are they rechargeable? If not, where do you buy them? (I have three rechargeable batteries and one that is not. I don’t like the none-rechargeable one to be honest. I bought the batteries from the hospital since I have trouble finding them in stores but I’m told some people can find them at the drug store. Online too.)
- Are the implants water resistant? (No, they are not but there is an aquacase that makes it water proof! :))
- Do the implants come apart? (I can’t move the implant in my head of course but the external part comes off and I can detach everything).
- Can I wear my implant to the gym? (Yes but I learned to use the aquacase after having too much sweat cause the battery to shorten out and it not to work right.)
- How will the implant affect tinnitus if at all? (No different. If anything I think I hear it less now. I could feel the electrodes moving in my head before I was turned on though. That was pretty neat.)
- What are the parts of the cochlear implant? (I’m too lazy to answer this now. Basically internal, external with the battery and mic)
- Will I be put under anesthesia for the surgery? (Yes I was. I was knocked out in 2 minutes and didn’t feel a thing. I woke up unaware of where I was and what was happening and I was “weird” to put it lightly.)
- When would be the soonest date I could have the surgery done? (I had surgery performed exactly one month after meeting my surgeon, but it depends on the hospital, schedules, and how quickly you get testings/approvals)
- Is there currently a wait-list for this surgery? (No, there wasn’t. Again this depends on your hospital).
- How much more clarity and volume should I expect to get from the implant? (I’m not sure what he said but I ended up with about 93%!)
- Is there a chance that I’ll experience issues/soreness with my jaw and/or throat after surgery? (Yes from the breathing tube. I had a very sore throat and couldn’t eat solid food for about a week or 10 days).
- Will my face go numb after surgery? (This can happen if the surgeon hits a nerve. My surgeon was very well aware of the nerve and said he knew how to avoid it. He was true to his word!)
- Will I lose my taste buds after surgery? (See #24).
- I work on a computer all day. Can this cause issues such as static with my implant? (No.)
- Will the implant last for life? (Internally, yes. Externally it may be upgraded every few years as advanced in technology are made).
- How will my implant work with my hearing aid for the ear that does not receive an implant? (You can sync them together or something if you have Phonak hearing aids. Which I don’t. So it really didn’t make a difference).
- Will I be able to adjust the volume on my Cochlear Implant on my own or will it be computerized? (I can adjust it to an extent. If I ever need significant changes I can have my audiologist reprogram it on her computer).
- Will I feel electric jolts after being activated? (I did before they turned it on a bit).
- Can you give me more information on EAS implants? Would you recommend that for my type of hearing loss? (I honestly don’t remember what any of this means).
- Will the implant whistle like how my hearing aids do? (No they don’t and I’m quite thankful for that!)
This second time around I have far less questions, mainly because I’ve already been through it once and have most of my questions answered. But I still have a few including:
- Can I sync my two implants together (Not really. They are working to combine them but haven’t really done it successfully so far. However, I may be able to match the setting or something like that so they work together).
- Can I wear my first implant when recovering from surgery for my second one? (Yes).
- What kind of testing will I need to go through? (Since it’s only been a year since my first surgery, I don’t have to go through most of them again. I just need another evaluation for insurance purposes).
Those three questions are really all I have so far, but I’m sure I’ll think of more to come. I’m very excited for round 2 of this incredible, blessed journey!
Today was a lot of things…including:
- My maternal grandfather’s birthday
- My 2 year anniversary of working at WebiMax
- The 1 year anniversary of meeting my surgeon, Dr. Wilcox for the first time
- A 1-year follow up appointment with Dr. Wilcox.
Yes, I realize that it’s incredibly ironic to have my 1-year follow up appointment on the 1-year anniversary of meeting my surgeon. I’m going to assume that’s a positive sign though.
My appointment went very well. They were extremely busy at Jefferson today so I had to wait awhile but I didn’t mind. It was the first time ever I had to wait for my appointment in the past year I’ve been going there, so I definitely can’t complain.
When I saw Dr. Wilcox he just looked at my ears and my incision from my first cochlear implant and said that everything looked great. He asked me how everything was with it and I told him it was great and he said he knew it would be. I love that about Dr. Wilcox — he is extremely confident. I think that’s a great trait to look for in a surgeon.
I mentioned last week how I want to go bilateral. This is what the main point of my appointment really was today. It was a very quick appointment but Dr. Wilcox said he was excited for me and he didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t go bilateral. We talked about the next steps. Basically all I need to do is get another evaluation done with one of their audiologists and have my insurance approve it. That’s all.
This will be a much quicker process than it was when I got my first implant. And getting my first implant was easy! They already know I’m a candidate. The evaluation is just to have the documentation to send to the insurance company. I pretty much already know that my insurance provider, Aetna, will cover it. I already looked it up and it pretty much said they would.
My appointment for my evaluation is on October 27th. I also made an appointment to see Dr. Wilcox again that day. They will contact my insurance company once they finish the evaluation to find out of the surgery is approved. I will likely know that day and if approved, schedule my surgery.
Once I got the approval for my surgery the first time I was able to schedule it exactly a week later. There’s a chance I could have my second cochlear implant by the first week of November. It’s actually quite likely. It would be kinda cool if it was November 17th though — that’s the date I got implanted the first time. But of course I want to try to get it done as soon as possible.
I’m so excited. I’m really not nervous or scared at all this time around because I already know what to expect. I’m actually already planning out which color I want to get. I definitely want to get a different color so I can mix and match with the blue one I already have. Initially, I wanted the green but I don’t think they make it anymore. I hear there’s a new red called Ruby which I’d like. If that’s not available silver or gold sound good too. More than likely silver though. But we will see.
Please keep me in your prayers and pray that everything goes through smoothly and that I get approved! I have a great feeling about this!