Dempsey’s ability to hear is one year old!
On September 26th, 2019, Dempsey’s cochlear implants were activated and he was able to hear sound for the first time! It was a really cool, emotional day that we will never ever forget. Boy are we thankful <3
Over the weekend, we were able to celebrate his HEARING BIRTHDAY! Our deaf baby has had access to sound for one whole year! I love how the cochlear implant community makes a big deal about hearing birthdays. They totally should be celebrated, and I’m always looking for a great excuse to get family together, so this was simply perfect.
We had sandwiches and cookie cake and sang happy birthday to Dempsey’s ears! I think we all felt a little silly singing “happy birthday to your ears” but it was really cute! You can see a video in this post! 🙂
We are so thankful for Dempsey’s great progress and are very excited to see what his next round of words will be!!
How sweet is the sign that Wilson made for the front door?! Totally saving that 🙂
Now on to FAQs! Every couple of months on Instagram I ask for questions people might have about hearing loss in general, or more specifically, about Dempsey and cochlear implants. Here is the latest round!
How has his communication grown since turning his ears on?
Dempsey loves using his little voice and, in the past few weeks, is really starting to say SO much! When he was first activated a year ago, we could tell he was hearing, but he wasn’t really saying anything “meaningful.” Of course, everything he has to say is important!! But he was just babbling and making sounds, but not producing any real words for a while.
Now, a year later, he has what I think to be a great little beginner vocabulary! I’ve been writing down his words as he starts using them. He can say “hey,” “bye bye,” “dada,” “mama,” “uh-oh,” “hot,” “please,” “yay,” “no no,” “wheee,” “more,” “cracker,” “cookie,” “thank you,” “star,” “yellow,” “shoes,” “ball,” and he’s getting pretty good at three out of his four grandparents’ names! He says “Pop Pop,” “Nina,” and “Wookie.” We are still working on “GrandMary!” It’ll happen soon, mama, I promise! haha 🙂 He’s also getting really good at animal sounds!
But I believe Dempsey’s language is taking off so well right now because of several things: (1) His precious school which is specifically for hearing and language impaired kids. They are SO wonderful up there. (2) The homework they give him. We have two fun little exercises they send home for us to do every night with him! (3) His very chatty brother and sister. (4) His love of reading. He would sit there for HOURS for book reading. It is absolutely precious, and one of my favorite things to do. The older two love to get in on book time, as well! (5) Early Intervention. (6) Routine narration. I’m sure I sound like a crazy person when I’m folding laundry and Demps is by me. “These are dada’s khaki shorts! These are Wilson’s blue socks. This t-shirt is from when mama was in college!” But just think about how much extra language he’s getting when we narrate our daily activity!
Did you say something about Dempsey getting a new ear? What happened to his old ear?
Yes! Unfortunately, we are in the 1-2% of cochlear implant patients who had to be re-implanted on one side. This is a VERY rare thing to have happen. We went in for an audiology visit one day and found that one of his internal processors was not working. This was likely due to either a bonk in juuuuust the wrong spot, or the actual device was a lemon that somehow accidentally made it through quality control. The bonk is the more likely scenario. It was pretty devastating, honestly. He couldn’t hear out of his left ear for about a month and a half. We had to go through the surgery process again, take the old internal processor out, have the new one put in, wait a month, then get activated on that side again. It was pretty cool to get to do another activation day!! And thankfully we have the best cochlear implant surgeon on earth on our team, who was able to fix Dempsey up with a new ear somewhat quickly.
I pray so hard that we never have to do this again. We are trying to be extra careful with Dempsey while also letting him be a little boy, so it’s quite the fine line there. So I’m just praying each morning for that day. Then I start over again the next day 🙂
Thankfully, the lack of one ear for a month and a half didn’t seem to slow Dempsey down any!
Where does Dempsey go to school?
His school is the sweetest place on this planet earth! I don’t feel completely comfortable saying where any of my kids go to school “out loud” on the internet for safety reasons, but I will tell you if you ask me in person! Or if I know you personally, you can message me and I’ll tell you 🙂
I’ll take this moment to say, if you are ever interested in giving financially to his school, they always need money! Please contact me and I’ll share where he goes and how you can get involved in helping it continue to be a place of miracles! They are non-public / non-profit, so they really depend on donations, monthly pledges, and participation in their fundraisers. I’m happy to share anything you want to know in a private setting!
I see that you call the things on his head “processors.” How are those different from hearing aids?
Yes! I know this is confusing, because I was pretty confused when we first started this journey. So what you see on the outside of his head is what we call his external processor. The circle part, called the coil, is a magnet that connects to the magnet inside his head, which is his internal processor. In a nutshell, the part of his external processor that rests on his ear is the microphone, which captures sound, which is sent through the magnets to a little wire with electrodes on it. That wire runs along the edge of his cochlea, which does not properly function on Dempsey. So that wire and those electrodes do what a hearing person’s cochlea does. Then those sound waves are sent to the brain and processed as sound! I *think* that is correct, but I am not medical at all. Price, or anyone else reading this and notices an error, please feel free to correct me! ha!
Are cochlear implants the same as hearing aids? No, not really. Hearing aids help people who have some natural hearing. They magnify sound to make it easier to hear with whatever natural hearing you may have. Cochlear implants are usually for people who have no natural hearing at all. BUT, if people do call them hearing aids, I usually don’t correct them. Because they do AID in hearing! 😉
How long will he have to wear his processors?
Forever! He will always have to wear them to hear. There is a smaller external processor that does not have the microphone-over-the-ear component. It’s basically a coil and microphone all in one, and it’s about the size of a poker chip, so it hides more easily in a full head of hair. From what we hear, the microphone in that processor isn’t quite as good, so for now, we are going to stick with the model we have! 😉
How often do his ears have to be upgraded?
This is such a great question! The cool thing about our implant company (and I believe this is the same with all three implant companies out there) is that all of their technology is “backwards compatible.” So in a perfect world, we won’t have to re-implant Demps again. The internal processors he has now should last him forever! But any time new technology/upgrades hit the market, we will be able to get and use those upgrades because they will work with even the oldest models of internal processors. In the year that Dempsey has been implanted, there has been one external processor upgrade. Just a newer model! AND, in the past few months, our implant company came out with an app, which we can use to adjust Dempsey’s settings if we need to. I think that’s pretty cool!
How much can Dempsey hear?
It is my understanding that he will eventually be able to hear pretty close to everything you and I hear. His quality of sound is a bit different, but since it’s all he knows, it’s perfect quality to him! His right ear (the one that did not have to be re-implanted) is in a sweet spot right now because he can hear all the sounds he needs to hear, and can repeat pretty much any sound he hears (when he wants to. It depends on his mood! ha!)
We had to start back at square one with his new ear, so I’m thinking we around 50% of what he will eventually hear with that ear. Every few days we bump his sound up in that ear just a little to get caught up with his “old” ear!
But as long as my baby can hear and speak and is happy, I don’t care what percentage of sound he’s hearing! If he’s communicating, which he is, then his language will continue to grow, and he will soon be able to tell us if one ear feels funny, or if he wishes one was louder, or whatever!
Ok that covers all the questions I got for this round of Q&A! Please feel free to leave any you may have below! And if you want to read old FAQs, here are a few from September 2019, November 2019, and April 2020.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read!! I know this post was a little long. We are so thankful and continue to praise God from whom all blessings flow. He is in ALL of the details, and it’s so fun to see. I love how our family has grown with the hearing loss curve ball that came our way, and I pray we continue to see the good at every turn!
Have a lovely day!!