Sick Hearing

So last week my hearing got really weird.  I realized things were sounding really loud again and I was tempted to turn down my volume.  I thought, “Oh, maybe this new T-Mic is going out like the other one” and switched it with one of my back-ups.  Nah, everything still sounded the same (and weird).

As the day went on, I realized everything sounded like it was echoing, especially voices (including my own voice).  The volume stopped being an issue, and instead it was just the quality of the sound…echoey and almost like I was in a tunnel, hearing things shouted down to me.

It kind of freaked me out, so I went and changed out my headpiece (the magnet that attracts to the magnet inside my head).  I even went to one of my back-up processors, but still, everything sounded weird and echoey.

This is one of the things I still need to get used to with my cochlear implants.  When things sound different from what I’m used to, does that mean it’s an equipment/hardware problem?  Do I need a new mapping (which is the software that the audiologist programs for me)?  Or is it just a temporary change due to fluctuations in my health?

Maybe in time it’s one of those things I’ll just get a feel for, but right now I’m hyper-sensitive to any changes in my hearing…especially after the recent revelation that my T-Mic wasn’t working to full capacity.  So my first move now is to check the hardware.  I switch out my processor, T-Mic and headpiece to my back-ups and see if there’s a change in how things sound.

Since there was no change, I figured my next move would just be patience.  If it was a health-related hearing change then I would expect to see improvement in about a week.  If a week or so went by and my hearing didn’t improve (or got worse), I’d put in a call for a visit (and mapping) with my audiologist.

You know how your hearing gets weird when you have a cold?  Usually it gets kind of muffled, and you feel like if you could just yawn and “pop” your ear, things would be clearer?  I assumed that kind of thing wouldn’t happen to me anymore now that what I hear goes right from the electrodes in my cochlea to my hearing nerve.  I figured I was bypassing all the stuff that makes your hearing get weird when you have a cold.  But I’m not a doctor and don’t know the workings of the inner ear very well.  A while back, I’d mentioned to other CI recipients that when I felt like I might be coming down with a cold, my hearing (with the CIs) got weird.  Most said the same thing happened to them.

So I thought, well, a cold has been going around the house.  My husband and daughter had it, and my son and his girlfriend stopped by the Monday after Mother’s Day and they ended up getting sick too.  I never got sick, but I figured maybe my body was fighting something off and I didn’t have the usual symptoms (runny nose, sore throat) but it was still affecting my hearing somehow.  I don’t know – maybe the Eustachian tube was swollen or something?

So I waited it out.  It was a little scary because the first day I noticed it (this was earlier this week, on Monday or Tuesday) I was actually having a hard time hearing by the end of the day.  I had my volume up around 2:00 (12:00 is the normal level) and I never, EVER move it past 12:00.  The next day it was a little better though…voices were still echoing a bit but my volume stayed stable all day long.  By the third day, things sounded back to normal again.

I never did have any typical cold symptoms, other than being a little more tired than usual, but I’m going to assume this was a health-related hearing fluctuation.

If anyone knows why hearing changes when you’re sick even once you have cochlear implants, I would love to know!  Or if you’ve experienced the same kind of thing, please leave a comment and share…I just find it really interesting that this happens (and I like to know I’m not alone, as well).  🙂


About wendiwendy

I'm a real-life bionic woman.

Posted on May 25, 2009, in Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, Observations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Given that you are still under a year in having your implant – my best bet is this is the time for a tuneup. Your brain is wanting new and different sounds. I would recommend calling your audiologist first thing tomorrow or drop your audiologist an email



  2. Kim, thanks so much for your concern and comment! 🙂 My hearing is back to normal though — if it was still weird, I would definitely be calling for a mapping by now.

    I just thought it was strange that I noticed this definite (and temporary) change in my hearing. But absolutely, a long-term change that didn’t improve would have me in my audiologist’s office pronto. 🙂


  3. Hi Wendy, This is so normal. Everything that affects our bodies does affect our ears. This includes medications, allergies, colds, even hormones. Our hearing is still affected even though we have CI’s. I was told early on when I first got my CI by my rehab therapist that I would still get stuffy ears with a cold and that those days my hearing would be off because of it. She reminded me that my ears were still part of me. It helped when I got a cold early on to remember what she said and I didn’t really freak out too much but it was weird I agree. You did the right thing in checking out all the hardware first to see if there was any problem. If you’re ever in doubt, email your audie though for sure and not wait. Glad you’re feeling better and your hearing is back to normal!


  4. its quite normal for the cochlear implants to go funny when you have a cold because its all connected etc your ears to your nose and throat etc
    it can sound whiney to muffly to echoey
    it does go back to normal though dont worry! 🙂


  5. It might be normal but I agree with you, it’s very strange! I would have thought the same as you, that with the implant we bypass all the things that would get stuffy from a cold. I guess not!

    That gives me another thought about *my* hearing. I’m a bit echoy still, and not even 4 weeks post-op yet, so it could partly be fluid/etc in my ear as my last tympanogram last Friday wasn’t quite back to normal.


  6. Wendi, what impact does having cochlear implants have on tinnitis?



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