The surgeon I wrote says my audiogram looks like a good candidate for a hybrid cochlear implant, so I'm trying to schedule an appointment for a full evaluation this semester to do a thorough candidacy evaluation. That'll be a complex schedule-juggle, but I'll figure it out -- and the medical procedures for the evaluation don't scare me one bit, because there are no irreversible decisions being made there -- just a lot of tests, from which we'll learn a lot of things. If, after the evaluation, they think the surgery would do me plenty of good... well, that's when I'm really going to want to go hear alternative perspectives from the Deaf community and from people who have not done well with implants (as well as from the people who have).
So I'm not worried about that part. What I'm worried about is the financing.
The thing I'm trying to figure out right now is the ~$2,000 it's going to cost for the evaluation -- plus however much it costs me to sleep near the clinic, plus the $100-$150 gas it'll take to drive there and back. If I really have to cut corners, I will put a sleeping bag in the back of the minivan, and put my grocery shopping on the Cheapass Diet (rice, beans, and cheap-but-nutrient-dense veggies) instead of my current Cheap But Optimized For Dancing diet (Cheapass almost-Paleo, essentially).
I have grad student insurance, so nothing about this is covered -- absolutely nothing. From a little digging, I've found that cochlear implants might run around $100k as a ballpark total, plus travel expenses for the multiple clinic visits. To put things in perspective, my ("excellent") PhD fellowship pays less than $1300 a month. And that flow of funding stops in August, and I'm not sure how I'm going to pay for school after that; I've hit dead ends on every funding opportunity I've tried so far, but hey, that just means I need to keep on trying.
It's a catch-22: it's basically impossible to afford this surgery as a grad student relying on a student stipend alone. I'm not even sure it's affordable on a postdoc or assistant professor's salary -- if it is, it's only barely so -- but I don't think it's possible to function as a postdoc or assistant professor while having this surgery (how would you teach, or go to meetings, or anything like that, while your brain's unscrambling speech again?).
So the only logical conclusion I have is that I'm going to need to find something that's not a grad student's stipend -- resources outside that, somehow -- if I'm going to go through with this. Thinking. Thinking. I wonder if someone would give me a book advance to write about this experience from the perspective of a young engineer, musician, and polyglot. (Although to be completely honest, I would rather have that book be an open-content one -- but I'm not sure that "Kickstarter My Cochlear Implant!" would work.) Or fund me to do it as "participatory research," to go into this with the eyes of an ethnographer. Or...
Thinking. Not sure what will happen. But let me figure out the evaluation trip first, and then go from there.