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My 89 year old mom has worn hearing aids for many years, however they are no longer proving to be effective. The audiologist referred us to a surgeon at very good teaching university near our home. She meets the requirements for the implants and Medicare will cover them. Mom is a happy person, reads lots and volunteers twice a week. Lack of hearing is a frustration for her. I do have some concerns moving forward with the implants. First, I've heard there can be issues with balance and a fall would be worse than not hearing well. A fall after implants where she couldn't hear would be horrible. Secondly, she loves to learn and read, but she does have some short term memory issues. When her primary care doctor points to his pen, shoes, tie and magazine she is only able to remember one or two of them two minutes later and may call them something different. A pen becomes an "ever sharp". The memory issues have me concerned with the cochlear learning curve. We will go to a meeting in a couple of weeks where there will be others with an implant, but no one around her age. My wish for her is to improve her quality of life and am worried surgery could do just the opposite. Thank you.

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After very careful consideration (research, consultations and meetings with the Hearing Association) my mom had the implant put in last Wednesday and things are going alright. Not as good as I hoped, but I recognize she is 89 and it is more difficult to bounce back. I'm certain this is a difficult time for her mentally too, as she is really out of the hearing loop during this recovery week. No hearing in the left (implanted) ear and very poor hearing in the right ear even with a hearing aid. Using a wipe board is helpful. Thursday she will have her doctor's appointment and if all is well implant will be activated.
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Read: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9296424 before opting for surgery.
Have a heart-to-heart with an anesthesiologist, who may tell you the outcomes are often not good for any patient over 80.
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This is an interesting question, and I would have similar concerns for my Uncle who is 92, legally blind, recently fell (nothing broken) and is hard of hearing (in denial about that). On Thursday I am taking him to an ear specialist for ear cleaning, testing and evaluation. I was told they would test his balance issues after the cleaning, but before the hearing test. As for any surgery, I would be curious to find out what specific anesthesia would be administered and if it would be a general (deep) anesthesia or a light "twilight" sleep. I read somewhere on the internet that there is specific type of anesthesia that can result in dementia for elderly patients after it wears off. I too am interested in improving my Uncle's quality of life, and it seems logical that if he could hear better, his balance would be better also. But surgery in the elderly is a tricky issue. I think my main concerns would be not only their chances of surviving surgery at an advanced age, but also the after-effects of the anesthesia even if the surgery itself goes well. I would research the various kinds of anesthesia, and I might also go for a second opinion on the issue with another ear specialist. It is my understanding that Medicare will cover a second opinion visit. Good luck with your Mom and hope all goes well for her. Also, please keep posting as things develop so we can all learn more about this type of issue.
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