In Guest article

After Ilan from the US experienced painful MRIs with his old cochlear implant, he decided to switch to a MED-EL CI. Read on to find out more about why MRIs are now much more comfortable for him, and how music sounds as good as ever.

My name is Ilan, I am 65 years old and have lived in the New York City area for my entire life.

I recently retired from careers in law and business.  For the past 22 years I’ve been CEO of companies in the life science and medical device fields. In my free time I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction, playing golf, and traveling.

 

Sudden Hearing Loss

In 2007 I developed tinnitus, but an MRI did not reveal any tumors.  In 2013 I learned that I had neurofibromatosis type II (NF2), which is a genetic disease characterized by multiple benign tumors in the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves throughout the body.

The hallmark of NF2 is bilateral schwannomas of the auditory nerves, which invariably lead to deafness in 95% of patients.  However, at the time we learned that I had NF2 the tumors in my auditory canals were small, and therefore the focus was dealing with spinal and peripheral tumors that were causing me physical problems.

In 2015, however, I awoke in the middle of the night and realized that I was suddenly deaf in my right ear.  I adjusted over time to living with single sided deafness, although it caused isolation in social situations since I could not hear half of what was being said in a group or restaurant setting, and hearing aids were useless in a noisy environment.

 

Getting My First CI

In 2017 I was advised that I could benefit from a cochlear implant because I still had some residual auditory nerve function.

I decided to have cochlear implant surgery primarily to be prepared for the inevitable time when I’d go deaf in my left ear: I simply did not want to confront total deafness without the help of a cochlear implant.  I did not go with MED-EL, but a different CI brand and got implanted in my right ear in early 2018.

 

Comfortable MRIs with MED-EL

In order to properly manage the numerous NF2 tumors all over my body I need frequent MRIs, sometimes as many as four a year.  The implant I received required a tight head bandage to ensure that the stationary magnet would not be displaced during an MRI session.

The first time I had an MRI with this bandage system it was incredibly painful and uncomfortable.  Two MRIs later and the cochlear implant magnet dislodged (it was pulled out of the retaining ring), which damaged the device.  I realized that rather than re-set the magnet I should have the CI device removed, since it didn’t make sense to remove the magnet each time I would need an MRI.  I chose to replace it with a MED-EL cochlear implant in mid-2018 because its magnet rotates during an MRI session and therefore cannot dislodge.

I was apprehensive before my first MRI with the new MED-EL cochlear implant, given the prior experiences.

But the difference was night and day: the MRI procedure was totally pain-free, and there was no need for a head bandage.

The MED-EL device does, however, click periodically during certain noisy MRI sequences, as the machine’s magnet rotates and the CI magnet twirls with it in response.

I’ve been using my MED-EL implant system for 16 months now, and I’ve had several MRIs with the new implant, all without any discomfort or other issues.

My advice to MED-EL CI users who need an MRI is not to worry.  You should, however, always carry your implant ID card since the MRI technicians will want to confirm which model CI you have and whether it is safe.

 

Enjoying Music Again

I love to listen to music, especially being able to pick out the various threads, e.g. piano, guitar, drums, horns, vocals, and appreciate the complexity of each, and how they interact with each other.  With the old CI, however, much of the complexity of music was lost; and the music sounded blurry and mushy.  It was very difficult to pick out anything more than part of the vocals and maybe one instrument.  I became frustrated with the old CI and gave up listening to music entirely.

As soon as I started to listen to music with the MED-EL CI, however, I was carried away with emotion and cried because it was the first time in several years that I could enjoy music to the same degree as before I went deaf in one ear! It was so beautiful: I could now hear specific instruments and notes, and over time I could once again appreciate the complexity and color of music.

The most challenging aspect with any CI is comprehending open-set speech or music, and in the case of someone with single-sided deafness it is hearing music with just the deaf ear. I’m quite pleased to once again be able to identify a song within the first 2-5 seconds. I also use the new AudioLink device for listening to audio books and music in just the right ear, so that I can continually train my brain for open-set recognition. It is easy to use and superior to a telecoil.

Thanks, Ilan!

Enid from Australia also switched to MED-EL cochlear implants. Read why she says it’s the best thing she ever did.


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