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The Miracle of Cochlear Implant Surgery

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  Folks, I got to do something today that I have always wanted to do and have never done before.  I was permitted to watch surgery.  I have always wanted to be in an OR.  I've been fascinated, and always wanted to do it.  Today I had a chance.  I saw a doctor perform cochlear implant surgery on a patient from Winter Haven, Florida. 

It's about an hour and a half, the prep work and all. We got there at 7:30 and walked out about 9:15.  It was the most amazing thing. You know, I have a cochlear implant, and so I was curious to see it. I'd been told what the procedure involved by my doctor, whenever this was, eight years ago that I did this.  I don't even remember now. 

Some days it seems like yesterday; other days it seems could have been eight years ago.  I don't remember the exact year. (interruption) It was 2001?  Ten years ago I did this? (interruption) Thirteen years! You're telling me I've had this implant for 13 years.? (interruption)  How do you remember that it was...? (interruption)  That's right! September 11th did happen right before.

I still had like 20% of my hearing on September 11th, that's right.  Ho! Thirteen years!  Well, anyway.  So I got to see this done. For you surgeons, of course, and everybody who has seen it, it's probably no big deal. But I was just in awe the whole time, especially since I've had this and I've had it described for me by my doctors 13 years ago what it was gonna be.

But I was misinformed or I misunderstood a lot of what I was told because when I was told didn't actually happen.  Like, I thought that you lost all the inner ear in order to make room for the implant.  Apparently that's not the case now and never has been.  Not that it's a big deal, but it could be if they ever find a cure for whatever brought on my deafness.  But it was just fascinating, and this is one of the highest-rated surgeons in this procedure ever. So I got to see it done really, really well.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Julie in Rochester, New York, as we start on the phones.  Great to have you.  Thank you for calling and the EIB Network.  Hi.

CALLER:  Thank you, Rush.  I'm honored to talk to you.  I listen to you all the time, and I think the world of you.

RUSH:  Thank you.  I appreciate that very much.

CALLER:  I was calling today because my daughter actually lost her hearing around the same time that you lost yours, and she is now a recipient of two cochlear implants. I've heard you talking about that over the past couple of weeks, and I just want to give you reassurance that it was one of the best decisions we ever made.  She can hear.

RUSH:  Well, now, I appreciate that.  How old was your daughter when she lost her hearing?

CALLER:  She was 3-1/2, and believe it or not or not, she had had perfect speech. She had heard all of the speech tones, so she sounds very much like you.  You would never know that she was deaf.

RUSH:  Yeah.  Well, it's miraculous.  There were a lot of people in the OR today. There were a couple of reps from the actual manufacturer of the implant, and then a rep from one of the drills being used by the surgeon on the skull.  It was actually sculpture of the skull taking place to make room for the implant.  It was just stunning. 

CALLER: Mmm-hmm.

RUSH: I was telling these people things, because obviously they could see that I have an implant, and it's fascinating to talk with people about the experience.  They say, "Are you gonna get an implant on your right ear?"  When I got mine 13 years ago, I was told the medical thing at the time.  "Just do one.  You don't need two.  Two will not help. Just get the one. 

"Besides, if there is a cure for what happened to you, you need to have one ear untouched and unavailable to apply the cure."  And then after that I'd ask, "How long is the cure gonna be?" The said, "We're hoping 10 years."  Well, 10 years came and went and there was no cure.  So now they're urging me to do what you just said.

CALLER: Yep.

RUSH: Go bilateral. Get an implant on my right side.  So I'm gonna do it. I have made the decision to do it. I'm gonna get an implant on the right side. One of the reasons I wanted to see the surgery today was to find out what's going on when it does happen.

CALLER:  Well, I strongly recommend it.  I know everybody's case is a little bit different. But she went from having an interpreter in school for backup when she had just the left side. And when we did the right side -- which actually now is her favorite ear -- she prefers the right over the left.  The interpreter has gone. She just went from having an IEP at school, to she's now down to a 504 plan, and she doesn't need an interpreter.  She doesn't use the FM system, and she can hear surround sound and locate sounds.

RUSH:  Well, I gotta tell you, that is miraculous.  I told some of the people in the OR today, "To show you, in my case, the genuine miraculous nature of this, if you draw the entire timeline of humanity from the time humans first trod until today, let's just assume that's 10 feet on a timeline."

CALLER:  Yep.

RUSH:  That's something we can easily imagine.  My time on that timeline is so small that you couldn't point it out.  Let's say it's smaller than a grain of sand, in that whole 10-foot timeline of humanity. And when I lost my hearing, it happened to coincide with human technology advancing to the point that the cochlear implant existed.  If I had lost my hearing five years earlier, I would have had to quit my job. I would have lost my career. I've always been kind of in awe of that reality.

CALLER:  You sound like my husband and I.  I think that every day we wake up and think, "My gosh, if she was born," like you just said, "earlier, she wouldn't have had the technology to be fully hearing," and, you know, be enjoying all the things that our daughter does, 'cause we're a hearing family.

RUSH:  Yeah.

CALLER:  You know, we don't have... You know, she wasn't born deaf. So for her to be able to participate and do all the things that everybody else can, she needed help.

RUSH:  That's really good about the second implant making that big a positive difference for her.  I hope the same thing happens to me.

CALLER:  Me, too. 'Cause you have to continue. And, you know, the more you can hear, the better quality of life, the more you can bring into your head.  (laughing)

RUSH:  (laughing)  Well, see, in my case, that's not been the case.  My hearing has actually deteriorated in the 13 years, not improved. It's strange.  I don't want to spend too much time on this. It bores people. But what a cochlear implant is is essentially 22 (depending on the brand you get, 18 to 22) bionic, man-made electrodes that are attached to the cochlea that replace 35,000 hair cells. 

Well, there's no way 21 or 18 man-made sensors can replace the sensitivity of 35,000 hair cells.  Well, I have had to disconnect over half of the electrodes because they cause a facial tic in me at normal volume. So I'm working on six electrodes, and so my speech comprehension has actually gotten worse.  So with that... Now, maybe the right side it'll be a vast, vast improvement over this. Obviously it will be to start, and I just gotta hope that I don't have the same facial tick.

CALLER:  Yeah.  Yep.  Well, I wish you all the best of luck.

RUSH:  I appreciate it.

CALLER:  I'm so excited for you, and I pray that you have the same results that our daughter did.

RUSH:  Thank you very much.  I hope the same thing.  This is a backstop.  If it does not provide any improvement, it doesn't matter. I still have the one that I have now that I know is perfectly functional and usable. So the only thing it can be is a bonus.  There's no way it can be a drawback, 'cause if it doesn't work, if it's worse, I don't have to use it.  There's no downside now to doing it, so I've decided I'm gonna do that.  I appreciate the call.  Thanks much.  

END TRANSCRIPT

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