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The Cochlear Implant Journey – A Year On


It would be an understatement to say it has been life changing for me to have a perception of sound again, however, it is totally different from having naturally hearing (and no, I don’t mean everyone sounds like a robot). It takes the brain a while to adapt and understand new sounds through the cochlear implant, and I’m still finding improvements nearly every day. Unfortunately, everybody with or without superficial siderosis will have a different outcome with a cochlear implant, but I’m relishing the chance to push it as far as possible.

Starting the Day

It’s a good idea to take the cochlear implant processor off and put it in the dry box overnight to clear out any moisture. It may be surprising, but this can make such a difference to the quality of sound, as the smallest droplets of moisture can cause big issues and block sound signals. When I put the implant in the dry box overnight, I always charge the batteries up at the same time and rely on my wake and shake alarm clock to get me up in the morning. When putting the processor on first thing after waking up, things can seem a bit loud and overwhelming, but that soon subsides.

Cochlear Implant Dry-box

Loud Environments

A cochlear implant isn’t like natural hearing in the sense that it picks up all sounds and amplifies them. The artificial intelligence is clever in that it can block out certain unwanted sounds to an extent, but unlike natural hearing, its difficult to focus on a certain sound when there are multiple things going on. For example, if lots of people are talking at once, it can become quite challenging, which is why it’s good to let people know how it works. In particular, I find plates and cutlery clattering quite bothersome, as it’s quite a piercing sound.


When watching telly, I stream the audio straight to the implant via a TV steamer. It’s great because it blocks out any other unwanted sounds that are coming from around the room, so I can just focus on the TV. I still find it difficult to hear someone talking on the TV when there is background music on the TV as well, or listening to commentary on the football when the crowd noise is loud, so I keep the subtitles on to help fill in anything I may be missing. 

The Mini Mic

The mini mic has been great when I’m driving and need to chat to someone in the passenger seat. My cochlear implant is on the right-hand side, so where I am in the U.K., it would be against the driver side window, which isn’t ideal when wanting to talk to someone in the passenger seat. The mini mic clips on to a person and wirelessly streams audio via Bluetooth straight to the implant. I’ve also used the mini mic when cycling so I could hear the instructor when he was behind me; it has a good range too, so we were able to keep some distance apart and he could still direct me.

Cochlear Mini Mic


To start with I was only able to recognise songs that I was familiar with, but I’ve been listening to new music in attempt to broaden my range of hearing. It can be quite a long-winded process listening to something over and over again, but once it suddenly clicks, it really is worth it. I’ve also been playing the guitar again, and find that hearing chords in particular is difficult to understand, and comparable to having multiple people talking at once, in that the implant can’t mix the notes together to make a chord sound as it should. I’m tackling this by playing the individual notes of a chord separately, training my brain to recognise them individually then putting them together as a chord. Again, this has worked, but it’s quite a long process, and is going to take so much more practise.

Adding another layer of sound to this in the form of singing is also challenging, but I do feel I’m making progress. Pitching is so different to naturally hearing, and much harder to grasp. The tinnitus is also a barrier when it flares up and distorts the sound; and hearing/playing music is usually what sets it off to begin with. I know I have to be realistic, and I am not expecting to be able to pick out all of the individual parts/instruments in a song as I was previously able to, but the progress I am making is very encouraging.

A Few Issues

I’ve had a few hiccups however, one of which required a trip back to London after everything seemly went very loud, and I had an error message pop up on the phone app telling me the processor had misconfigured. The audiologists I saw at the cochlear implant centre had never seen this error before, so decided to swap the processor over and send the faulty one back to cochlear. Thankfully, this was a short-lived issue, and it has now resolved. However, there was a bonus to this journey, as I got to see King Charles because he was visiting the nearby Macmillan Cancer Hospital, and drove straight past us waving out of his car window.

An Unwanted Message!

Summing it Up

Well, what can I say? It’s been completely lifechanging, but as you can probably see from everything else, it requires a lot of patience and practise to get the most out of the cochlear implant. Technology is constantly improving, and it’s incredible that this even exists in the first place, and it just gives me complete hope as to what may be, or rather will be, possible in the future.

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Rhys Holmes

Rhys is a former musician, data analyst, shop assistant,childhood footballer, and a feature writer at Living with Superficial Siderosis. In his spare time, he enjoys watching his favorite football team Liverpool FC. Follow Rhys on Twitter @RhysHolmes

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