I was discussing with my friend about stem cells vs. cochlear implants and how stem cells will be so much better. After all, stem cells can improve hearing and eventually make you hearing! Cochlear implants are just an aid to give a profoundly deaf person access to sounds but don't come close to natural hearing. I did talk about the fact I might get CI in 3-5 years but seeing that stem cell technology is advancing much faster, ill probably get the chance to get stem cells by then, that's my choice. I have made many valid points for my choice. Below are the advantages and disadvantages for your reference.
Advantages of stem cells:
1. Hear unaided
Perhaps the biggest advantage of them all and something I desire the most! Even a partial improvement of as little as 20db(although ive been told 40db is likley) will give me some ability to hear instead of the silent world I now experience. I get excited just thinking about this! It's going to be so surreal to hear something, reach for my HAs and find they aren't there! This is something cochlear implants can never, ever achieve. In fact, most people actually lose their residual hearing and thus their ability to hear even the loudest sounds. They can never go back to HA if CI doesn't work for any reason as CI usually wipes out your residual hearing. Even those who keep some residual hearing usually end up losing it within a year. Hybrid CIs are a failure for the same reason. Save your residual hearing for stem cells to improve upon that! CI never made sense for anyone with residual hearing but I, my audiologist, parents and friends admit it's great for those with no(or very, very little) residual hearing. No HA would help since you need residual hearing(110db max HL) to amplify.
2. Lower cost
Cochlear implants cost $50,000 per ear of which $35,000 is due to the surgery to implant. Insurance may sometimes subsidsize the cost for one implant. Many feel "one sided" with only one CI but can't afford the out of pocket cost for a 2nd CI which insurance rarely covers. No one knows what role insurance will have in covering stem cells, im guessing they will cover deaf babies and young children. They are very unlikley to cover HOH people since they are very functional with any decent HA and they can still hear some sounds/speech unaided. Also there's way more HOH people than deaf people and insurance can't afford this.
Older children and adults can take out a low(or even no) interest medical loan for the $20,000-$30,000 cost of getting both ears done with stem cells and pay off the loan over a decade. Many others may be able to get some financial support from (hearing) family and friends in the form of gifts and interest free loans. My parents will help me afford stem cells as they know how great it's to be hearing.
3. Lower risk
There's many associated risks of cochlear implants, surgery being the biggest risk. This is one reason I am not keen on getting CI. Neither my parents nor audiologist recommend CI for me either. Ive seen people develop all kinds of complications and infections including meningitis(vaccines reduce that one risk) damage to nerves and allergic reactions. Nerve damage may cause permanent numbness to the face, twitching of the eye, loss of the sense of taste and constant pain. The materials, including silicone in the internal CI can cause adverse affects. Silicone is toxic to everyone and should never be in the body! I read a blog of a lady who was allergic to the external speech processor and no one could remedy this so she was forced to stop wearing her CI. You also take the risk of being unable to get a MRI or other medical procedures that may ruin your internal CI.
Stem cells that are derived from your own skin/blood are risk free, your body will never reject your own stem cells! The process may be as simple as having a small vial of blood removed or a piece of skin scraped from your inside cheek or arm. Your cells are then processed into adult stem cells and injected(or inserted by IV) back in your arm. About the only risk is failing to improve your hearing. No residual hearing should be destroyed so you can go back to HAs and hear the same as before.
4. Wide acceptance
Once stem cells become mainstream and FDA approved, they will be accepted by 99.9% of hearing people and by 90% of deaf people. The deaf has learned to accept HAs and more recently CIs. They too will learn to accept stem cells for it's wonderful ability to let you hear sounds and speech.
5. Reduce tinnitus
Since tinnitus is very often associated with hearing loss, restoring your hearing even in part will also reduce your tinnitus. Ive read of people that find their tinnitus more annoying than their hearing loss and would trade away the rest of their hearing if they could live in peace without any tinnitus. With stem cells, they get to restore their hearing and reduce tinnitus! Cochlear implants have been known to make tinnitus worse!
6. Reduce recruitment
All deaf/HOH people experience recruitment where amplified sounds can quickly become too loud. Hearing people don't have this problem. Cochlear implants can also get around recruitment but not as well as actually restoring your natural hearing. I know people who still experience discomfort with loud sounds and are forced to turn their maps down. Their ability to hear decreases as well.
7. Best hearing
There is no argument that stem cells gives the best possible hearing. For those unhappy with how poorly they hear with powerful HAs and are considering a CI, they know that stem cells can do way better. After all, CI is just a tool like HAs but only stem cells is a cure. Even those who don't want to be cured of their deafness and become hearing, they can get a lower dose of stem cells and become less deaf. They will then hear better than CI with the right HAs programmed correctly and even if not, they can always get more stem cells! Cochlear implants gives aided hearing comparable to what a severely deaf person gets with HAs. I hear worse(not in the lows though) than what most hear with CI since im profoundly deaf(at 500Hz and above) but this will change when I get stem cells and ill hear better than almost all CI users. When I get stem cells a 2nd time, no CI in the world will even come close.
This is another huge advantage for stem cells that no CI(except for the rare totally internal CI) or even HA(I did read of a waterproof CIC HA, but won't help the deaf) can achieve. When I shower, my hair needs 2 hours to dry so I can't wear HAs during that time. When I prespire, I must remove HAs or risk ruining them. I have to stay out of the rain and other wet situations unless I remove my HAs then of course I hear nothing. I would love to experience swimming(pool, lake, ocean, waterpark) and showering with sounds! It would be so surreal!
I won't have to deal with any of the hassles of HAs, you won't have to deal with CIs. People get lasik, prk, intacs, iols so they can reduce or even eliminate their dependency on glasses. The same will be said for stem cells to reduce or even eliminate dependency on hearing aids! I like HAs because they give me access to sounds but I won't miss them when I am hearing. No worries about feedback, molds, discomfort, changing batteries, repair, avoiding water, etc. Just pure, natural unaided hearing! CIs are just as inconvenient as HAs if not more so. The batteries only last a day or two, the processor is larger, heavier, more fragile. There's a cord and magnet to deal with as well. I often go without HAs when im alone because it's so much more convenient. I only wish I could hear some sounds without HAs! Those of you with more residual hearing than me are so lucky!
Face it, HAs and CIs are subject to failure or glitches. Of course stem cells won't prevent hearing loss but as long as you avoid loud noises and stay healthy, your hearing will remain and last way longer than your HAs or CI. I have had to get my HAs repaired about once every 3 years on average. For most people, their hearing lasts a lifetime with only the usual high frequency loss due to presbycusis. They can get stem cells for that when stem cell technology is mature.
Disadvantages of stem cells:
1. Blissful silence
That's about the only real disadvantage. You will be hearing 24/7 if you choose a full restoration of your hearing(25db or better) I was just thinking that alot of deaf people would go for a partial restoration and become less deaf. They would hear with powerful HAs better than CI for cheaper and less risk, yet still enjoy silence without HAs! Initially, stem cells won't be able to restore hearing in full but will be able to several years later. CI will be phased out so for the deaf who were looking to CI to hear more, they can go ahead and get stem cells or just live with what little residual hearing they have. That's your choice and I respect this, just respect my choice to improve my hearing as much as possible and I choose stem cells because it's so much better than CI.
I may get stem cells 2 or 3 times depending on the cost and extent of improvement. The first time, I expect at least 20db improvement but may achieve 40db. The second time, I would prefer to get down to normal or near normal hearing. If I end up with near normal hearing, say 35db loss I may decide not to get stem cells a 3rd time since any further improvement would be small and not worth the $20,000+ cost when for $2000 I can get mini open fit HAs that will aid me to 0-10db HL. I won't need HAs but wear them whenever I feel like and I can turn the HAs off to make very loud sounds much softer. I will decide when that time comes. For now, I have decided that ill get stem cells and can decide later if I want a repeat when stem cell technology matures.
2. Deaf culture
The Deaf fear the loss of their culture. They could get stem cells to be less deaf and not have to experience any of the disadvantages they can come up with. Cochlear implants didn't destroy their culture, stem cells might not either. There may be less deaf people since stem cells will be very popular for deaf babies born to hearing parents. Itll also be popular for late deafened adults and for the "oral only" deaf like me.
3. Few year wait
Stem cells is highly experimental today with only a few anecdotal reports. This "disadvantage" will go away after a few years. Those who are against hearing restoration which includes most Deaf people today say the wait is 20, 30, 40+ years or even that we might never live long enough to experience any restoration of our hearing. Guess what? It's already happening! My friend knows someone who got a 25db improvement in his hearing at a clinic in Costa Rica. Human clinical trials on children/babies under 18 months has begun! My friend says give it 6 months before we see human adult clinical trials and he will be a pioneer, getting stem cells first chance he gets. I will get stem cells after I see it on the news and read testimonals from the pioneers who are among the first, ill be right after those guys.
The saying goes "the time to hear is now" but keep in mind that those with CI may have to wait a decade longer before stem cells becomes advanced enough to repair the damage that CI causes. For one, you kiss your residual hearing bye. A 40db improvement for someone with an infinite loss might get you to 90db loss. But if you kept your 90db loss, you could be enjoying a 50db loss! The electricity CI uses can cause cochlea scarring gradually. Some fluid is removed from the cochlea to make room for the electrodes. Id rather just skip CI and wait 5 years for stem cells than get CI and have to wait 15 years for stem cells, but the choice is yours. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions or comment.
Hearing regeneration with pills? They project 2010 as the year for human clinical trials! This could present another option besides stem cells!