A cochlear implant does not work like a hearing aid, which amplifies sound. Instead, a cochlear implant works by picking up the sounds in the environment and transforming them into electronic signals that are routed from the auditory nerve to the brain.
Implant hearing and speech specialists adjust and fine-tune the device over several months for peak performance and assist the recipient to learn how to interpret the electronic signals as recognizable speech.
About a month post-surgery -- which allows enough time for the incision to heal -- Seiler’s implant was activated by Duke audiologist William Dillon, AuD, CCC-A. Though advised not to expect too much, too soon, Seiler could immediately hear Dillon speaking. “I hear you talking!” said Seiler to Amelia’s and Dillon’s delight.
Erin Blackburn, AuD, CCC-A, an audiologist who specializes in fine-tuning the implants, compares activating a cochlear implant for the first time to switching on a light in a dark room. “It can take a while for your sense of sight to become acclimated to the brightness,” said Blackburn. “It’s the same with a cochlear implant and hearing. Each person progresses at their own pace and Mr. Seiler is one of those who quickly became acclimated.”
Speech pathologist Carlee Jones, CCC-SLP, MS, worked with Seiler for about six months, formulating daily exercises to improve his skills at understanding the new sounds he could now hear. One activity was watching short TV segments and repeating to his wife what he heard.
Diligently doing his homework paid off. Seiler’s pre-surgery hearing with understanding level was just 16 percent. Eight months after his implant, his hearing with understanding soared to 85 percent. It is enhanced with an implant-linked hearing aid in his left ear. Jones said he continues to make progress.