by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Cochlear implants have come a long way in the past 25 years. Now, instead of just implanting one ear, doctors are starting to implant both ears, since having both ears implanted gives even better results than just having one implant. (After all, God gave us two ears for good reasons.)
Here is Heidi’s story of her young daughter’s oddessy into the world of cochlear implants and her amazing results.
Mallory was 26 months when she got her first implant. She only had 3-5 words when she went into the surgery. However, she quickly increased her vocabulary into the hundreds of words over the first month or two. The quality of her speech was also amazing!
Even with her unbelievable success, she still had problems localizing sounds, hearing at a distance and definitely had trouble in noisy environments.
She wore a hearing aid in the unimplanted ear (which fluctuated between 70-85 dB). After a while, we had our audiologist do 3 different hearing tests: one with just the implant, one with the implant and hearing aid and one with just the hearing aid. The results showed that Mallory was hearing about 95% from just the implant and only about 5% from the hearing aid by itself. We were pretty surprised.
We had read some articles about kids with unilateral hearing loss (which essentially she had if she was only getting 5% benfit) being at possible risk for learning difficulties–I guess because of the difficulty localizing sounds, following the spontaneity of conversations, etc., so we started looking into getting a second implant.
Basically we thought, “If we have two ears, why shouldn’t she?” At that time we knew three other families who were getting second implants for their children, so we let them go first. They were all very happy with the decision and the consensus was that their children all did much better localizing sound and hearing in noisy environments.
Since the world is a noisy place, that was enough for us to make our decision. Mallory got her second implant and now one month post implant, she is doing fantastic! She had speech recognition with just the second implant within 1-2 weeks, and now can have a conversation with just the new implant on!
Almost immediately we noticed a difference in how quickly she responds to us, how much “incidental” speech she hears (she actually “overhears” our conversations and chimes in) and really hears a lot better in noisy environments. Her speech has cleared up even more with the second implant. Her pronunciation is amazing. She is now using plurals, etc.
The best was the other day when I was standing outside waiting for the kids’ school bus in the morning and they both had winter coats AND HATS on and Mallory suddenly said “Mommy, do you hear the bird go tweet tweet?” The bird was in a tree next to a house across the street! It was pretty amazing.
Cochlear implants areindeed wonderful devices and can tremendously increase the quality of life for those that have them. I know hundreds of people with cochlear implants, and with 2 or 3 exceptions, all said that knowing what they know now, they would do it all over again in a heartbeat. That alone should tell you something!