Cochlear implants: handle with care

Last week was the two-month milestone since my implant was activated. There is an enormous amount of information to take in so the audiologist usually waits until the two-month mark to impart some advice on trouble-shooting and some medical do’s and don’ts. A word of warning – there will be at least one potentially squeamish moment in this post so if you are at all sensitive, you might want to give this one a pass.

Aside from the usual ‘keep the external processor clean and dry’ there are all kinds of precautions for sports, security systems and medical procedures. I should perhaps explain a couple of things here for those who are not familiar with cochlear implants.

The implant itself is inside my head but very close to the skin. I can feel it protruding slightly just behind my right ear.

I have a magnet in my head! It is attached to the upper part of the implant and allows the external processor, which also has a magnet, to stay put on my head. Early on I put a few of those thin bangles on my wrist then proceeded to place the processor on my head, but the bangles got in the way. The internal magnet attracted them and here I was with my wrist attached to my head! It is quite a powerful magnet.

So, sports. If I ever have the urge to try martial arts or contact sports such as rugby I will need to resist. Any blows to the head could damage the implant. I will also no longer be able to participate in amusement park rides that involve high speeds as the forces could potentially dislodge the internal parts of the implant. I am personally not saddened by this news but I can well imagine a child with a cochlear implant would be. This is no walk in the park.

Airport and store security systems are sometimes activated by the implant so I need to carry a little card with me that explains what I have in my head. And static electricity can cause havoc with the external processor, resulting in the program in the processor going a bit haywire which would result in my hearing going haywire too.

Where it gets a bit hairy is in the medical section. MRI’s are a real challenge and require consultation with the cochlear implant specialist as well as the manufacturer of the implant. Why? Well, the M in MRI stands for MAGNETIC. The whole thing is one powerful magnet. And magnets attract. There is potential for the magnet in my head to be blown right out! Yikes! Clearly this is nothing to laugh at. But it does create yet another topic for my blog!

On a much lighter note, while many of my friends have seen my external processer, a few have not seen the turquoise cover that is just above my right ear and really stands out. I was showing it to a friend of mine the other day. He looked at it, paused for a second and said that it looks just like a mini fascinator. His wife suggested that I could attach a tiny feather. So I am right in fashion!

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2 responses to “Cochlear implants: handle with care

  1. I am learning so much from these blogs, Rosemary!! I can certainly appreciate why you need to be in the know as to potential magnets in the environment. That must have been a bit scary when your bangle got stuck to your head!!!

  2. Hi Rosemary –

    I had no idea of the hazards of cochlear implants. Did anyone warn you about all that before?

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