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OPINION - Rush's ears

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Rush Limbaugh was supposed to return to his program today after getting a second Cochlear implant a few days ago.

My younger sister considered a CI many years ago when this was a new, and risky, procedure. Its become much more common over the last 15 years. There are about 150,000 people in the U.S. who have them.

A CI is for people with profound hearing loss. An internal receiver is surgically placed underneath the skin behind the ear. It literally transmits sound to the tiny hairs around the ear drum that are picked up by an external microphone and processor thats worn just behind the neck or over the ear. Its literally a surgically-implanted hearing device. Its much more effective than a hearing aid, which only amplifies things that you already hear.

My sister, who was born with severe hearing loss, decided against the CI operation. In the 1980s the success rate of the operation was much lower, and if there were complications what little hearing she had left would have been lost. Rush Limbaugh opted for his first CI because his hearing loss was impacting his ability to do his radio show. Now hes getting an implant in the other ear. Implants tend to be more effective for people whove lost their hearing, as opposed to people whove been born deaf. (Its widely thought that Rush lost is hearing because of his abuse of pain killers earlier in his career.)

The biggest post-op risk is meningitis. As with any surgery, infection is sometimes an issue. There are no indications that there have been any complications in Rush Limbaughs case, although he is taking a little more time off than expected from last weeks procedure. This has become a safer, more effective procedure than before. Expect Rush to be better-than-new when he returns.

Chris Conley

Image: Rush Limbaugh REUTERS file photo via wsau.com