It was early morning in 2008; I got ready for my office; had some short conversation with my wife and rushed to my work. I was in such a rush that I did not notice even what she said. While talking to my colleagues in the office, I realized I was not getting what they were talking. I concentrated more, but I could hear clustered and distorted words only. I already had one ear working, the other ear drained since childhood, had a surgery but there was absolutely no hearing.
After two years, the hearing was back to normal. I was the most happy man on earth. I resumed my normal life: I got a new job offer and I took it. However, after exactly two years, the hearing was gone again exactly the way it had gone for the first time. There was a new series of visits to the doctors and audiologists. Every doctor had the same opinion "go for Cochlear Implant". An audiologist at Stanford Medical Centre said that even if I use best available hearing aids , my hearing won't be more than 20%.
I decided to go for alternate treatment, acupuncture. The acupuncturist ensured that there were no side effects. After the second visit however, I started feeling something strange with my hearing. The voices changed rapidly and within two days hearing was completely gone, not even with the help of hearing aid. Doctors prescribed steroids and there was marginal improvement.
I started looking for the hospitals which had the cochlear implant facility. Stanford and San Francisco University Hospitals were the closest. It took quite a time to get the cost estimates from them. Since I did not have the medical insurance which could cover the cost, all the expenses had to be born from my own pocket. Stanford came with $100,000 and San Francisco University Hospital $125,000. These costs were after a discount of 50% . With such high cost estimates, it seemed difficult to go for an implant. I got another estimate from Cleveland Clinic: it was much lower at $35,000. It looked workable but travelling with a six hours flight from California for every post surgery visit, did not look practical.
Finally, I found a doctor in San Jose. Doctor Jennifer Maw runs her clinic (Ears Associates) and carries out surgeries at Silicon Valley Surgery Centre. After a few visits and tests, my surgery was set for May 2019 and it went smooth. The total expenses incurred were as following
Doctors Surgery fee $5,000
Operation Theater Charges $5,000
Cost of equipment (including all accessories) $25,000
Total Expenses $36,000
There are three brands of implant devices available: Cochlear, Advanced Bionics and Med el. The doctor provided literature for all three manufacturers. I decided to go for Cochlear on the basis of info in the literature and the audiologist also recommended same.
First five visits after the surgery were free. Prior visits were charged depending on nature of visits but they were not on the higher side.
Though I was little scared of surgery, but it did go smooth, and I was discharged after three hours of surgery. My first visit to the doctor and the audiologist was after three weeks. Sound processor was fixed for the first time and I could hear unfamiliar voices and sounds. For a week, all sounds were like steel rods rattling and it was difficult to differentiate between male and female voices. After a week, an audiogram was taken and adjustments were made accordingly: now, sounds and voices were much better. The voices got more clear with the passage of time. It is almost a month since sound processor was fixed, it is still improving. Doctor Maw told me that it takes at least three months to have full impact of the implant, but varies from person to person as it can take six months for some people or even a year for older age group
I feel it worth spending that much of money and going through the procedure since it brings you back from isolation to this beautiful word.