Thursday, February 25, 2016


Today is International Cochlear Implant Awareness Day. It's an obscure little recognition of a very big thing for people who have a cochlear implant. Most people are only aware of it because they happen to know someone who has one, or they are deaf/hard of hearing.

It's nice to try to spread the word about them. They can change lives, for sure.

So here are some facts for your awareness --

It's really pronounced "COCK-lee-er", not "COKE-lee-er" like most people have heard it pronounced. That was a surprise to me. Americans seem to be the only ones who mispronounce it. In the rest of the world, they say it right.

I found out that I was saying 'tinnitus' wrong, too. It's "TIN-it-us", not "tin-NIGHT-us" as I had thought. Though both pronunciations are acceptable by laymen, the first is considered "most correct" by medical professionals.

The idea of cochlear implants was first proposed by a man named Adam M. Kissiah in 1974. He was granted a patent on the first cochlear implant three years later in 1977. It basically delivered sound to a deaf person. A man named Graeme Clark is credited with the development of the modern multi-channel electrode and speech processor -- which turns those sounds into speech.

The first cochlear implants had body-worn processors. The familiar behind-the-ear processor came later as technology miniaturized. My processor is considered the smallest and lightest one on the market today. I'm interested in seeing where this technology will lead us in the future. I expect that, like hearing aids, the cochlear implant speech processor will continue to get smaller and less visible as the technology advances.

As of 2012, approximately 324,000 people have been implanted with a cochlear implant worldwide. I'd suspect that number is much higher now that the FDA criteria has been expanded to include those who are one-sided deaf, like me. The numbers can be expected to increase even more as the impact of hearing loss rises in our modern society. Hearing loss is reaching epidemic proportions.

Until I lost my hearing, I was completely unaware of cochlear implants. When I was diagnosed, my ENT said I would need a cochlear implant. I had to go home and Google it. I cried when I looked at the images of people wearing their processors. I didn't want to wear that monstrosity on the side of my head.

I changed my mind. Being able to hear was more important than my vanity.

Happy International Cochlear Implant Awareness Day.

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