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Hearing in Hospital

Life has some bizarre twists. Recently I became a live kidney donor for my husband Rob. It is apparently quite rare for a husband and wife to be compatible and the renal teams did not think we would be a tissue match. But after 12 months of testing and re-testing we were given the go ahead. Our research showed a live donor transplant BEFORE dialysis gives the best long term health outcomes so we opted for this to make sure we kept the best health and lifestyle possible. When Robís kidney came close to failure and reached the critical point of needing dialysis, the Royal Adelaide Transplant team moved into action and our transplant was scheduled.

The timing for the transplant was quite critical as I had recently had my second cochlear implant and my ENT specialist had to give me the all clear before the kidney operation to ensure there was no lingering chance of infection in my cochlear implant. In addition the kidney transplant team had to be educated in the risks of earthing me near the implants. There was a very, very small risk that had I been earthed near the implants (above my nipples), if anything had gone wrong during the operation, electrical currents could have burned an implant (apparently), so we had to make sure earthing was done on my leg.

Before the operation I had to show the transplant team how my cochlear implant processors worked so they could reconnect me to the hearing world once I was in recovery. This was important so I could communicate with the nurses who were monitoring my vitals as I was coming out of the anaesthetic.

After the operation, the transplant team did everything I showed them, putting my processor back on me correctly. However, what they didnít realise (and neither did I at first) was they accidentally pushed the Ďoní button for too long and this switched the processor program to one which is dedicated 100% to telecoil (or tíswitch) functionality. This meant the processorís microphone was actually switched off so I still couldnít hear anyone. In my drowsy state I didnít realise and kept telling everyone who spoke to me that I couldnít hear them. I thought they hadnít put my processor back and it wasnít until they wheeled me past equipment that gave me buzzing from electronic interference that I realised what had happened. I was then quickly able to swap programs so I could hear.

In the first 24-48 hours I wore one of my processors all the time even while sleeping. I was unable to move much so the processor stayed in position. I was in intensive care for much of this time and being able to hear allowed me to understand the nursesí requests every time they came to check me. But hospitals are noisy places so I turned the processor down a little to cut out some of the intrusive noises such as air conditioning, people talking and walking in the corridor and of course the constant buzzing, beeping, clanging and pinging of hospital equipment. I was woken regularly for specialist visits of varying kinds so being able to communicate was good. (I reckon about 50 specialists of some kind visited me in the first 24 hours. They came in twos and threes and included pharmacists, ward doctors, nurses, kidney educationalists, surgeons, kidney specialists, students, research and data collection people.)

My second implant was recent and although I already understand close to 100% of speech, my cochlea hasnít settled down yet and I still need more frequent mappings as the nerve learns to re-hear. I found the noise in the hospital intrusive so I didnít try to wear the processor for my second implant during my stay. After five days I was released and it was then I put my second processor back on and found the sound I was getting had changed dramatically. There was much buzzing, tremolo and vibrato in the sounds with the deep sounds overriding the higher frequencies, so it was not comfortable to wear and did very little to aid my hearing.

I was concerned something had happened to my implant, so a few days later, once I felt a bit better, I contacted my clinic and they told me my impedance levels had changed because I hadnít worn the processor for a few days. It was a relief that nothing untoward had happened and it really was only a matter of getting used to hearing again and being remapped. They did suggest, though, that I wait until I was further into recovery before doing anything more as my audiologist felt communication wasnít compromised because I could hear well enough with my first implant - and I had enough to deal with, without worrying about hearing.

The kidney transplant operation and recovery, especially in the first few days was horrendous, but now we are both home and convalescing. Seeing Robís improved health is worth it. Already my remaining kidney has picked up 25% additional function and Robís Ďnewí kidney is working at 100% or greater giving him the best kidney function heís had in more than a decade. I chose to be a live donor because I wanted to keep ĎUSí, to keep our lifestyle and relationship.

Since being home I have felt better able to think about hearing again and have been wearing my second processor. At first I reduced the volume and sensitivity of the microphones but slowly I have increased these. If I can get back to the level of hearing I was at before the kidney transplant operation, when I go for my next cochlear implant mapping I can improve the sound quality and clarity.

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