As promised in my Good News Friday post, I have good news to impart to you about my granddaughter Shaked’s cochlear implants. As you may recall, the implants were carried out at Shaare Zedek hospital about a month ago. She was given a month to heal, which went very smoothly thank G-d. And “switch-on” day was last Wednesday.
We travelled up to Jerusalem in a mad rainstorm, got stuck in horrendous traffic, but finally made it through rush hour and arrived (soaking wet!) at the hospital.
Walking into the audiology department we met the staff of 5 or 6 people (I apologize for not remembering their names), all friendly and eager to help. Then Genia, the speech therapist from AV Israel, entered, and we got going with Switch-On.
One of the magnets (princess pink if you don’t mind) was attached to Shaked’s head, but the processor unit lay on the table, connected to a computer in the adjoining room. After a few computer checks that the systems were working, we got started.
Well, actually, we didn’t get started right away. Shaked leaned forward and unplugged the whole array! 😀 After a squawk from the control room that “we’ve gone offline”, the elements were all plugged back together and the process started.
It was actually far less dramatic than you would think, and we had been told this in advance. Nevertheless I couldn’t help being excited at the thought of little Shaked finally being able to hear the world about her.
Here we have the first Switch-on, of her left ear. Watch Shaked’s reaction 🙂
It took a while for Shaked to understand what she was supposed to do as she wasn’t too sure what was going on. She had to be helped to hear, and she didn’t seem madly enthused about hearing sounds. However this is the most normal reaction, we were reassured. In fact, most babies cry at switch-on because they don’t understand what this strange sensation is that has come to disturb their quiet little world.
The testing and tuning was done while Shaked was being distracted with a toy because the team wanted to see if she would stop playing and look around for the sound. But by the time the second side was being tested she was beginning to tire and blew raspberries at the whole process 😀
But you can definitely see Shaked pulling at her ear and pointing at her head. That was the most dramatic moment as far as I was concerned!
At one point Shaked was so absorbed in her toys that didn’t react at all. So the technicians next door upped the volume and suddenly Shaked was blinking madly and pulling away, and Genia yelled out “lower the volume!”. Poor Shaked had quite a shock, but she recovered immediately. It is a trial and error process at the beginning, despite the “objective” testing involved as well as the behavioural testing. Objective testing means that the technicians could see the reactions of Shaked’s auditory nerves on the computer, without having to rely on her behaviour, e.g. looking at the speakers or blinking.
Next we received an explanation from Genia about the process of learning to hear – and it is a learning process. It is not “automatic” as I presumed. The auditory center of the brain has to be taught to hear since it has never been used before. In the video, Genia explained that babies develop hearing in the womb at 20 weeks, and it continues to develop after birth along with their other senses. A deaf child like Shaked is basically starting from zero. We have to consider her as a new-born baby from the day her implants are activated. But Genia reassured us that she will catch up very quickly because of course she has developed her other senses and she has already learned about the world around her, unlike a newborn.
The next session for further tuning of the implants is next Wednesday, and if there are any more dramatic developments I will update you. Otherwise I will wait until Shaked begins her speech therapy in earnest in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile you can enjoy this picture of Shaked back at home. 🙂
Heartiest thank you again to the staff at Shaare Zedek, to Genia and to AV Israel for all their help, advice and caring treatment.
(PS: I “stole” the title Happy New Ears from Elaine (Ayala) Tal-El of AV. It’s so brilliant I couldn’t resist!).