ANTONIO DE LA CRUZ, M.D.
JENNIFER DEREBERY, M.D.
Q: Why didn?t the medication treatment work for Rush Limbaugh?
A: We don?t yet know why some patients with Auto-immune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) don?t respond to medication while others do very well.
Q: How do you know the cochlear implant treatment will work?
A: Physicians at the House Ear Clinic have performed many cochlear implant surgeries, and we have found that even with moderate results, patients with profound hearing loss benefit from hearing environmental sounds within four to six weeks of surgery. We can certainly expect this same benefit for Mr. Limbaugh.
Q: What if the cochlear implant treatment doesn?t work for Mr. Limbaugh?
A: It?s very difficult to predict how well Mr. Limbaugh will do with a cochlear implant. At the House Ear Clinic we have found that hearing is the sense that connects an individual to his environment, and we can reasonably expect Mr. Limbaugh?s cochlear implant to provide him with this benefit.
Q: What is the success rate for cochlear implant treatments/surgeries?
A: The success rate for cochlear implants that work very well is 99.6%. There is less than a 1% device failure rate for cochlear implants, and in these rare instances, there is always the possibility of re-implanting or implanting the other side.
Q: When will Mr. Limbaugh be able to hear again? How long is the recovery period? When will Mr. Limbaugh be back at work?
A: Dr. Derebery and I expect Mr. Limbaugh to be able to return to work in early January. He won?t be able to use his cochlear implant until his recovery period of 4-6 weeks is complete. After his recovery period, Mr. Limbaugh will return to the House Ear Clinic for his initial stimulation session, where he will hear sound for the first time since he lost his residual hearing several months ago.
Q: How much hearing will Mr. Limbaugh regain with the cochlear implant?
A: The benefits gained from a cochlear implant vary from individual to individual, but Mr. Limbaugh may regain as much as 30 ? 50% of his hearing in the implanted ear.
Q: How does the cochlear implant work? What is involved? How much training and rehabilitation will Mr. Limbaugh/the patient need?
A: During surgery, a series of electrodes are implanted into the cochlea, or inner ear, to replace the nerve cells that have been lost. After a post-surgery period of four to six weeks, a cochlear implant patient returns to the House Ear Clinic for an initial stimulation and mapping session with an audiologist. At this time, the patient is fitted with the external unit of the cochlear implant. This unit consists of a tiny microphone that picks up environmental sounds and transmits them to a speech processor, where mechanical sounds are converted into a processed electrical signal. This processed signal is sent to the brain via the implanted electrodes in the inner ear and then along the hearing nerve.
Speech processors have anywhere from 16-22 electrodes, depending on which device is used. Mapping of the speech processor is reevaluated periodically, as little or as much as the patient chooses to fine-tune things. Mapping refers to the process of adjusting the speech processor for the individual. Each person requires different levels of stimulation to hear best with the implant.
For every cochlear implant patient, there is a learning curve of months and years involving close collaboration with an audiologist and family members. An immediate benefit to most patients during the initial stimulation session is the ability to hear environmental sounds again. Over time, the cochlear implant patient learns to hear and identify a voice, determine inflections and pauses, and then the brain tends to fill in the rest.
Q: How soon do you predict Mr. Limbaugh will be able to benefit from the cochlear implant to fulfill his job functions? Until then?
A: Mr. Limbaugh will be able to continue fulfilling his job functions with the technology that he is currently utilizing during his radio program. Over the next few months, he will learn to discriminate speech and other sounds with increasing accuracy.
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