Ablate the what now?!

Hi, Andreas here. Time for another nerd post.

Last week was activation. It was as uneventful LOOKING as Caroline described. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t significant. There are four dates Caroline says define her life: her birthday, our wedding, implant surgery, and activation day. Frankly, I’m just happy to be in the top 3. But activation day was about hearing, not putting on a show.

From my perspective activation was a lot of waiting. I took a video camera and started it, but I shut it off after a minute. You can’t even tell when ShaSha (the audiologist) turned on the microphones for the first time. It doesn’t look like anything. It was as focused and businesslike as you could imagine. It was the opposite of every YouTube video you’ve ever seen. The audio is much better and I’m putting together a collage of the sounds of Caroline’s activation. Audio only is more appropriate for a podcast about hearing anyway.

Last week while ShaSha was briefing us on how activation would unfold, she said something I didn’t expect to hear. What she said was so unexpected it actually bounced off my skull and ricocheted off the wall and knocked over a picture on the desk. I was so surprised that I just kind of sat there. Normally I’d ask a million questions but I just had no way to process what I was being told.

What I was told is that Caroline’s implant’s electrode array had a slight biofilm on it. Sure, that makes sense. The body is trying to protect itself. No biggie right? Apparently it’s not a huge biggie, but it is a bit of a biggie. It seems that biofilm (just body slime and cell growth) impedes the electrical signals from reaching the nerves of the cochlea. The solution: ablate the electrode. You read that right: they want to burn off the biofilm on the electrode. Everyone goes through it.

“Ablate,” “cochlea” and “electrode” are all fine words. It’s just a bit disconcerting when they’re used together.

Caroline and I have had one mantra throughout her cochlear implant experience: we only things do things contribute to the best outcome. Considering the astonishing speed at which Caroline has re-learned to hear, it seems like we made good choices. Thank goodness.

We’re adapting to the world of sound. WE are. I can hear, but WE have always been hearing impaired, and now WE have a cochlear implant. I need to be as competent with Caroline’s equipment as she is so I can support her. I need to understand her new behaviors so I can get a heads up when things may go off the technological rails. I need to understand a new set of hearing issues. Now that Caroline has access to most sound, it’s not if she hears something, but if she recognizes what she hears.

Hearing impairment is invasive. That includes electrode ablation. As bad as it sounds, it’s nothing. If they didn’t tell us we’d never know. That’s because hearing impairment imposes itself on every moment of your life and especially relationships. If ablating the electrode is something that helps Caroline hear, so be it. I’ll give the final word to Caroline, who something that will inform how I think about every aspect of Caroline’s experience for the rest of our life: “I’ve been healed. I can hear. I can’t go back. Ever.”

That’s all she has to say about that.