In Guest Articles

Here we’re excited to share the story of Mary Beth Napoli, who received her MED-EL cochlear implant after she had repeated ear surgeries and cochlear ossification.

Otosclerosis, Stapendectomies, Labyrinthectomies, and More

My hearing loss has a long and complex history.

It all started when I was diagnosed with otosclerosis—an abnormal bone growth in my middle ear—at age 13. This caused a hearing loss which progressed in both ears. When I was 21 I underwent a stapendectomy surgery in my right ear which tried to reverse the conductive hearing loss caused by otosclerosis. Due to a fistula, which meant that there was effectively a hole between my middle and inner ear, I had it repaired and a second stapendectomy surgery was necessary one month later. Then another fistula developed and some of the bone in my middle ear was removed in a surgery three months later. That was when I began wearing bilateral hearing aids and my hearing loss continued to worsen, then level off, then progress again.

For the first time in my life, my hearing is about discoveries and having “WOW” moments!

Eventually my sensorineural hearing loss became even more severe than the conductive hearing loss. I developed Meniere’s disease in my right ear and at age 27 underwent a right transcanal labyrinthectomy surgery to help reduce my vertigo, but as a result I became profoundly deaf in my right ear. I used a bicross hearing aid for a while and then switched to using only a hearing aid in my left ear. I adjusted to having a completely deaf side.

The hearing loss in my left ear progressed to the point that, even with a hearing aid, my world was shrinking quickly. I was only able to have one-on-one conversations due to the need to lip read. By the time the hearing aid amplified speech loud enough for me to hear it, I was left with only a 15 dB dynamic range: that meant speech was either too quiet or too loud for me with even the slightest volume change on part of the speaker.

The Next Step: Cochlear Implants

I knew about cochlear implants from my work as a Teacher of the Deaf, and began to explore whether it was time for me to consider a cochlear implant for myself. I went to the New York Eye and Ear Center and was given the choice of all three cochlear implant brands.

During the process of being evaluated as a candidate, I learned that there was significant ossification in my right cochlea. This presented challenges to implantation and decreased the prognosis for open set speech comprehension with a cochlear implant. Due to this, we needed options for electrode arrays during surgery.

MED-EL has the widest assortment of electrode arrays, including three that were possible options for me: Medium, Compressed or Split. It was reassuring to know that a test electrode array would be used during surgery in order to choose the appropriate array for my ossified cochlea. Thankfully my surgeon was able to insert the array and I am now a proud recipient of MED-EL’s medium electrode array.

Back to Hearing

I was activated four weeks later and immediately started listening to everything I could to train my new ear. The initial beeps and static sounds turned into speech during the first week. This process was so exciting. My world had opened up.

My deaf ear has now been activated for 4 months. Already I can understand open-set speech, converse on the telephone, enjoy audiobooks, listen to music and hear while swimming in the pool. During these 51 years I have heard with fully functioning ears, with hearing aids and now with a cochlear implant.

I love my MED-EL cochlear implant and I am thankful every day for the hearing that MED-EL has made possible. For the first time in my life, my hearing is about discoveries and having “WOW” moments!

Thanks, Mary Beth!


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