How I Learned to Love My Cochlear Implant.

In 2013 in my first book, “Shouting Won’t Help,” I wrote about the difficult experience I had adjusting to a cochlear implant I received in 2009. That section was excerpted in Bloomberg View and it is still easily available online.shoutingwonthelp

I often get letters from people who have seen the article and are worried by the information in it. They write to ask if they should get a cochlear implant. (Needless to say, this is a question only they and their medical professionals can answer.) Part of the concern stems from the Bloomberg title, “Cochlear Implants Are Miraculous and Maddening.” If you read the article carefully, as I just did, you won’t see me damning cochlear implants. But you will see me raising some caveats.

I am 100 percent in favor of getting a cochlear implant if you qualify for one, and if your hearing aid no longer works for you. I am also 100 percent in favor of aural rehabilitation after the implant. If your implant center doesn’t offer aural training, look for it elsewhere. A speech language-pathologist is one possible provider. There are many online training programs, the best known of which is L.A.C.E. This is a graduated program that starts with speech at a decibel level you can hear (this is determined before you start the program) and gradually increases the noise level in the background. I have written about aural rehabilitation previously on this blog, and you can find other suggestions there.

So how did I come to love my cochlear implant after my initial tepid embrace?

The first answer is practice. I have taken formal and online aural rehabilitation courses. I’ve worked one on one with a speech language pathologist. I listen to recorded books and then read the text to make sure I’ve gotten it right.

The second answer is consistent use. I wear the implant all day every day.

The third answer is technology. The cochlear implant I got in 2009 was not nearly as sophisticated as the replacement implant I got in 2014. (Most implant companies upgrade the external processor every five years.)

The fourth answer is support. I am active member of the Hearing Loss Association of America. We meet regularly and we share tips and experiences. I am always learning new things about hearing.

The fifth is to have reasonable expectations. Is my hearing perfect? Far from it. I need assistive listening devices and captions to hear in a group. I use captions to watch TV. I use captions at movie theaters. I say “What?” a lot. But I live an active daily life in the hearing world, and rarely feel disabled.

But without my cochlear implant I would hear almost nothing. My hearing loss is progressive and the hearing in my hearing-aid ear continues to drop. I am already planning for a second cochlear implant. I qualify now (many times over) but my hearing aid is adequate and this is one area where I follow my own advice: If you can still hear with a hearing aid, hold off on a cochlear implant.

If your hearing aid is no longer adequate, start your research. I have written a great deal about cochlear implants and with every writing my optimism grows. The paperback version of “Shouting Won’t Help” is more upbeat on cochlear implants than the hardcover was. My 2015 book “Living Better with Hearing Loss” offers more updated information than the earlier books, and also reflects my comfort and satisfaction – and gratitude! – for having a cochlear implant.


For more information on living with hearing loss, see my books on

12 thoughts on “How I Learned to Love My Cochlear Implant.

  1. Agree with all you’ve said 100%. I have a bone anchored hearing aid, a BAHA by Cochlear, and love it – now. It took time to adjust and I did online training on my own. Now on year 3 and a little bit and barely realize I’m wearing it. Even with one hearing ear, the world is a much quieter place without it. Took me a while to get directional hearing but worth the effort. Research before your decision is vital!


  2. I’ve watched you progress through your years with the CI. You get a huge amount of credit for all the work you have done and continue to do to retrain your brain and
    learn to communicate. You also get a lot of credit for continuing to share your
    story. Anyone who reads your blogs knows it is possible to live well with a CI, as you do. Thank you for helping make that possible.


  3. Katherine I’m dealing with sudden and severe hearing loss in my one “good” ear and doing research on where to get a consult for a cochlear implant. I’d like to link up with the best surgeon and audiologist possible. I live in northern NJ. Hopkins and NYU have been highly recommended by my local ear dr. Where would you recommend? Is there an authoritative and objective list of the best medical centers or surgeons? Thanks. God bless you for the great work you do!


    • Dennis, I think I replied to this last week, but it’s showing up as not answered. First, I’m so sorry about the sudden loss. It’s a very difficult thing to go through. I’ve been there myself. As for the cochlear implant, New York has several excellent centers. Hopkins is also excellent. You have a lot to choose from. Good luck!


  4. Katherine many thanks for your response and your encouragement regarding the centers in NY and at Hopkins! A member of my church recommended your first book to me, which I really appreciated, and I just ordered your most recent one. All the best to you in your own journey and as you continue to inspire others.


  5. Oh how I wish I had read your blog before having my CI. I have had severe to profound hearing loss in my one “good” ear (completely deaf in the other) for about 15 years. Last year I began exploring the option of CI and having the evaluations done to see if I even qualified. (20 yrs ago…I heard too well…). Hearing aids seemed to work ok but there were certain situations where it just wasn’t cutting it. Reentering the workforce sort of cemented my decision to explore this option. Last week I had my Cochlear Implant procedure so I am still non-hearing for the moment…and very nervous about the outcome. I have never heard of this aural rehabilitation that you talk about. I am wondering if it would be something to discuss with my ear specialist when I have my surgery follow up or is it best to discuss it with the audiologist who programs my CI processor? Thank you for the work you do. I am sure thankful for the information it has provided. Blessings and Hugs.


    • The period between surgery and activation is always an anxious one, but try to keep calm and keep an open mind. For most people, the cochlear implant is tremendously helpful. You may not think so the minute it’s turned on (or even the next day or week) but wear it all the time and focus on what you’re hearing. Someone once advised me to search out any sound I didn’t recognize, so that I’d know what it was next time. That was really helpful. All the c.i. companies offer online-rehab you can do at home. If you have the opportunity to work with a speech-language pathologist that would be extra help. But you might do quite well on your own. Congratulations on taking such a big step. You can talk to the surgeon about rehab but the audiologist may have more information. I hope you’ll check in and let me and my readers know how it’s going.


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