Thursday, February 25, 2016 happens to be Cochlear Implant Awareness Day. Of course, I couldn't let this day pass by without saying a few words about my little miracle. Cochlear Implants have changed this family in more ways than one. Certainly, our lives would look very differently if our middle child did not qualify as a recipient for the hearing devices. You might have been like me when I saw a child with a cochlear implant-- I thought, "Oh, something must be really wrong with that baby. How sad!" I kind of cringe thinking about my own ignorance. It's just that often times, the cochlear implants overwhelm the head, especially if there's no hair. People jump to all kinds of conclusions about them whereas if one sees an adult with one, I think they're more likely to guess the purpose of the behind the ear device. Some people have even mistaken them for bluetooth technology! Most of the time, I don't really know what people are thinking when they see them. Some recognize them for what they are. Others ask if they're curious and I much prefer that over staring. Please do ask if you have questions! We want to bring awareness and love to talk about our sweet, Abe.
There are two main parts to a cochlear implant- an inside portion and outside processor. The only part you can see is what he wears behind his ear and travels up along the cord to attach to his head via magnets. This is how the device is able to talk to the inside portion. Without the magnet connected, Abel is completely deaf. If you're familiar with our story, you know that Abel was implanted bilaterally (both sides/ears) but due to major complications one side had to be removed. He now functions with only his left "ear" and he hears fairly well with it. The struggle with bionic hearing is that it's simply not natural. The kids have to work extra hard to assign meaning to the new sounds they're bombarded with. Most children start their hearing journey in the womb and begin talking by age two. Cochlear implant kids are often compared to their hearing age instead of their chronological age. Abel is three, but his hearing age is 18 months! Extensive therapy will hopefully bridge the gap between him and his hearing peers in a few years. He has already made significant progress, but it takes time and feels like a very slow process.
Because of the Deaf/deaf/Oral deaf community I've become a part of, I come into contact with hearing loss all the time. Just the other day I was sitting on campus watching as Abel was participating in a group with other hearing impaired preschoolers when I observed a conversation in sign language. The woman was saying that she never used her voice because she was afraid she sounded "stupid" and that she strictly used ASL. The Deaf community has a lot of pride in their culture that I completely respect. I grew up in a hearing world and so my signing and (especially) reading/interpreting is pretty limited. I know if we had not implanted Abel, he would still be significantly behind his peers because I would be learning alongside him. He would be limited