Friday, January 19, 2007

What Is That Blinking Light On His Head?

This is actually a question that we got asked at Costco last week :>

As most of you know, there is a little red blinking light on Aiden's ear level microphone that lets us know that the implant is indeed picking up sound - and apparently makes other people very curious! When people have asked about Aiden's implant, I think I have told every person a different story. I have never known quite what to say before (Do I just call it a fancy hearing aid? Do I go into a lot of detail? Am I talking over or under people's heads?) - but I think I've figured it out! Here's what I'm going to tell anyone else who asks me, "what's that blinking light on his head?" (or words to that effect...)

"It's called a Cochlear Implant. It is like a hearing aid. But, whereas a hearing aid is an entirely external thing, part of this device is actually implanted in his head. Plus, a hearing aid's job is just to amplify sound. A Cochlear Implant goes much further - it actually picks sound up with a microphone (the blinking light part), translates that sound into electrical impulses (using this processor on his back), and sends that information to his brain (through this magnet on his head) which then interpret those impulses and understands them as sounds. It's really pretty amazing."

I hope that helps those of you who have wrote me and said that you also didn't know what to tell people.

Or, you could just follow what Aiden's 3.5 year old brother Noah tells people. Last time we were at Aiden's Pediatrican's office (Hi Dr. Dempsey!!), Noah and Aiden were playing in a little house that it is the waiting room with another girl who was probably 9 years old. She asked Noah what was on Aiden's head. I was just about to jump in and offer an explanation when Noah (as confidently as anything) said simply, "It's a Cochlear Implant, it helps him hear." Seriously!!!!! I didn't even know he KNEW the words Cochlear Implant - let alone be able to use them in a sentance that answered the little girl's question perfectly. I guess I could learn a thing or two from him...

Aiden's Second Mapping

Aiden had his second "mapping" at CHEO on Monday.

The mapping process is actually pretty cool. Aiden's Audiologist unhooks his implant from Aiden's Speech Processor (the part he wears on his back) and hooks it up instead to a laptop. The laptop is equiped with software that can read and change the settings on Aiden's Implant (much like you would change the settings on the graphic equalizer of a stereo). For Aiden's new Map, the Audiologist wanted to change some of the settings, which would increase Aiden's ability to perceive softer sounds (even as soft as a finger tapping lightly on a table). When the settings were first changed, the Audiologist made a "ssss" sound, and Aiden got very upset and cried like he was hurt - much like he did at the time of initial turn on. So, we gave him a break, and tried again with a less drastic change (even thought the first change was pretty small). Aiden adjusted pretty quickly to the new setting, so that Map was saved - and now this is what we use on Aiden's Implant every day.

Aiden's Audiologist has the ability to program 4 Maps into Aiden's Implant. This part is really cool. Aiden's "Map 1" is the new Map that was programmed on Monday that we are to use everyday. Aiden's "Map 2" is a setting that we change change the implant to if Aiden is in a noisy environment. For example, if we took him to a hockey game, we would take his speech processor, click a button, and reset his map to "P2." On this setting, Aiden would be able to hear less of the background noises at the game and be able to focus more on sounds closer to him (like us talking). In noisy enviroments, this is would be a much more comfortable Map for Aiden. Aiden's "Map 3" is a called the "Whisper Map". So, if we are in a very quiet place (like a library - or at home doing his therapy sessions) we change change to P3 and Aiden will be able to perceive quieter sounds with more clarity - and from a greater distance. Aiden's "Map 4" is simply the original Map we had before the changes were made on Monday.

After the Mapping session, Aiden got to have a little time in the sound booth - and he did amazingly well! He clearly picked up sounds at just 25db (which even I had trouble hearing!).

We had a really great visit all the way around this week in Ottawa. On Thursday, Noah, Aiden & I were invited to a playgroup that another Mom with a boy in AV Therapy at CHEO hosted. We had a really great time - it was so nice to meet her and the other Moms that had children with a hearing loss. All of the kids at the group have hearing aids now, and some are hoping to get Cochlear Implants soon. So, they were very interested in Aiden's experiences. I think it is so important to have this kind of support from people that are going through a similar experience as we are - not to mention that it's just nice to have new friends! :>

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Happy Second Birthday Aiden!!

We had a fabulous birthday party for Aiden yesterday (not quite the extravaganza that it was last year - but fun nonetheless!). And, he could actually HEAR us sing Happy Birthday to him :> Now that's a cool birthday present. Aiden's Grandma and Grandpa traveled for more than 4 hours back and forth from Ottawa just to have dinner with us, and Aiden's Nanny joined us as well. We cooked Aiden's favourite dinner (ham, Tater Tots and asparagus), and Daddy made one of his famous birthday cakes in the shape of a train. Poor little Aiden has a bit of a cold, so there aren't many smiles from him in the pictures :<
I actually can't beleive that it's been as long as it has since I made my last posting. My apologies to those of you who check here often hoping to hear news of our little man (Hi Shirley!!). Aiden continues to do amazingly well with his implant. As you can see from the last picture in the series above (with Nanny and Noah) we are still having the same frusterations as always with keeping his behind the ear microphone actually behind his ear. So, it dangles around by his neck like this picture shows most of the time. At first that really bothered me - but now I guess we're getting used to it. We have ordered a longer wire from Cochlear through CHEO, so our next step is to try having him wear the microphone on his sholder, as many other people have suggested. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!
In terms of his actual hearing and speaking - he is really making amazing strides. The way that things usually progress with a child after implant activation is that the first 4 months or so are spent really just listening and taking in all the new auditory information. After 4 months they start to imitate some new sounds. Think of it this way: a newborn baby hears about 3 months in utero - and 6 months or so in the world before they start making intelligable sounds. Well, Aiden (in his typical fashion!) is just 6 weeks post activation - and is already making an amazing amount of new sounds.
For some time now, he has imiated the airplane (ahh, ahh, ahh) sound. But now he REALLY clearly says "meow" for a cat and "bye" when someone leaves and he's waving. He also says, "ma ma ma" (but I don't think he actually means "mom" yet). He also is very good at imitating sound patterns. Plus, his therapist and I think he makes a train sound ("ooh ooh ooh") and a monkey sound ("ee ee ee"). Pretty impressive I think! Also, I think that Aiden really LIKES wearing his implant. Whenever it is off (bath time, bed time, in the car) he points to his ear like he is missing something. Also, when the magnet falls off - he comes and finds me. Plus, when he sees the implant when it is off, he will always bring it to me and hand it over like he's saying, "come on mom, let's get this thing on!"
Also, as an aside, now that he can hear, Aiden's sign language skills seem to have improved! He clearly does the sign for cat, milk and sleep. Very cute :> I'm trying to get him to sign "all done" for when he's finished his meal instead of throwing it on the floor...
Other than that, we couldn't be happier with his progress!!! I can't even imagine what kind of a posting we might be making a year from now on his third birthday!!!