Dempsey’s New Ears || Activation Day and FAQ!

Dempsey's Cochlear Implants are ON! Activation Day + FAQs

Quick note: I am SO late in getting this post up! I’ve been working on it for almost two months… ha! Better late than never! 🙂

Dempsey is ACTIVATED!!! This means he is officially hearing sound these days! It’s been a wild almost two months since he got his ears turned on on September 26th, but it’s been absolutely amazing seeing him respond to noises 🙂 

His actual activation at the audiologist’s office was a bit chaotic, but it was still just amazing. There was so much going on, and Dempsey was so squirmy and amped, that I hardly had time to really process what all was going on. After we got home from his activation, we let Wilson and Lily Ryan play with their hearing baby brother, then we had an activation day party with our immediate family! It was such a great time celebrating some really wonderful blessings with some really special people. My favorite moment of the day was Price popping a bottle of champagne and Dempsey hearing it!! A magical, fun, joyful day indeed 🙂 

Dempsey's Cochlear Implants are ON! Activation Day + FAQs
Dempsey's Cochlear Implants are ON! Activation Day + FAQs

I made this video of his activation day + week highlights! 🙂 Please take a peek- I think it’s my favorite video of all time!

We have had a whole new round of commonly asked questions since Dempsey has been implanted and activated, so I’m excited to do another round of Q&A! We are so thrilled that Dempsey can hear now, and are so thankful for the wonderful miracles that are available these days 🙂 

Real quick, here are a couple of pictures of our first day out into the real world with Dempsey wearing his superpower ears! We went to brunch, then to a friend’s birthday party, and Dempsey did not miss a beat! 🙂 The video clip of Lily Ryan blowing bubbles in her OJ was from this day. Warms my heart so much!

Dempsey's Cochlear Implants are ON! Activation Day + FAQs
Dempsey's Cochlear Implants are ON! Activation Day + FAQs

Here are some of the questions we’ve been asked! 

What do you call the things he has to wear on his ears?

Those are his external processors! We call them his processors or his “ears” around the house. “Where are Dempsey’s ears?” “Wilson, does Dempsey still have his ears on?” “Lily Ryan, quit trying to put Dempsey’s ears on.” “Dempsey, quit taking your ears off!” 

Can he hear without his processors/”ears?”

No, he can’t. His external processors are comprised of a microphone that rests over his ear, then a magnet (called a coil) that attaches to the magnet that was implanted into his head. (That internal magnet is part of his internal processor! So two processors— internal and external.) 

Anyway, the external magnet has to be attached to the internal magnet for the sound to get to his brain. I don’t fully understand all the science behind how they work (yet! learning!) but I do know that in order for Dempsey’s brain to receive sound, those magnets have to be connected. 

How much can he hear?

The goal is to get him hearing 100%! We started him off at about 20% of what you and I hear as normal sound. We didn’t want to blast him with full sound after hearing nothing for almost a year! So we started off around 20% and we are slowly bumping his sound up until he reaches full volume! Right now, from what I understand, what he hears is just a bunch of noise. He can’t really differentiate between “useful” sound and background noise. Since sound is so new to him, it’s just a mash up of noise. He will learn how to pick out important sounds vs. background sounds through therapy and maturity!

How long will he have to wear his external processors?

Forever! These are with him for his whole life. He will not, however, have to wear his headband forever. He is still so little, so we use the headband to hold things in place. He still pulls them off his head every now and then, although he has gotten SO much better about leaving them alone. He seems to mess with them less as he gets more and more sound! That is a huge answered prayer of mine 🙂 And once he is old enough to realize that he has to have them to hear, he won’t want to pull them off! 

As he gets older, there are different types and styles of external processors he will be able to choose from. There is actually one that is about the size of a silver dollar that has the magnet and the microphone all in the same piece. So that one will easily hide in his hair! But that’s for years down the road 🙂 And from what I understand, that one isn’t quiiiiite as good as the over-the-ear processor, but we will just figure out what works best for what situation as we go!

How does he sleep now that he can hear?

Well, he sleeps great because we can take his processors off and he can sleep in full silence! Today, in our current life stage, this is such a blessing. He is mentally exhausted so he needs to sleep in silence to regain energy for more listening and hearing! Processing sound is hard work! 😉

Do you have to charge his processors?

Yes! The everyday batteries we use last about 8 hours each, so we swap to fresh batteries mid-day each day. We have a couple of sets of batteries, so we always have a backup pair. We can use disposable batteries, too, which last a couple of days. 

What’s the difference between a cochlear implant and a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are most helpful for people with conductive hearing loss. That means, they can still hear sound, their ears just don’t hear at the volume of a normal ear. Hearing aids basically magnify sound so it’s loud enough for your brain to be able to sort through sound and understand spoken language. 

Cochlear implants are usually (not always! But usually) for people with sensorineural hearing loss, meaning something within the anatomy of their ear keeps them from being able to process most or all sound. This is the type of hearing loss Dempsey has. He has profound hearing loss, so he receives zero sound to his brain naturally. We think the hairlike cells in his cochlea are either missing or simply don’t work. Those hairlike cells are imperative to hearing! Cochlear implants allow external sounds to translate into electrical impulses that the brain can then process as sound without a properly functioning cochlea. 

Typically, cochlear implant surgery wipes out any natural hearing that might still be there, but our amazing surgeon used a method that is more likely to preserve natural hearing. We are certain that Dempsey was profoundly deaf before his surgery, so we were very at peace about his natural hearing being potentially wiped out, since he never had any!

BUT, should some crazy amazing miracle occur and Dempsey develops natural hearing 5, 15 or 50 years down the road, with the method of implantation our surgeon used, there’s a greater chance that he will be able to use that natural hearing. That’s a huge long shot, but we serve and amazing God so I know it’s not impossible! It is simply not likely.

That about wraps things up! If you have a question that I didn’t answer, please drop it in the comments below! If you have it, others probably have it as well. I’m loving my new “job” as an advocate for Dempsey and other deaf kids. It’s a joy to share about him and our process and what all we have learned. So seriously, ask away! And next time you see me out and about if you have a question, stop me and ask! I’m always happy to take time to share 🙂

Thanks for reading today! All my love xoxx



  1. Janice Muse November 18, 2019 / 10:40 am

    Thanks for the blog and sharing your little one’s life experience with us all. Technology is simply amazing and our God is Great. Can’t wait to see and hear more and take this journey with you and Price.

    • Laurel at THE HIVE November 18, 2019 / 4:11 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and journeying with us! 🙂 You are right– God is so good for making people smart enough to figure out things like cochlear implants!!

  2. Nicole Brown November 18, 2019 / 7:44 pm


    Thank you for sharing Dempsy’s story with all of us! I’ve enjoyed watching and reading his story, and getting to know you! Praise the Lord for modern technology and the people he places in our paths to do the job!


    • Laurel at THE HIVE November 19, 2019 / 10:40 am

      Thank you so much for reading!! Amen to everything you said! Love that we are friends in real life now! 🙂 XO!

      • Meredith Hegi December 3, 2019 / 7:28 am

        Sweet Dempsey is simply beautiful and I love reading about him and how you share your heart! Beck and I were in carpool several weeks ago, and out of nowhere he started sharing with me “Let me tell you something about one of my friends.. he has a baby brother that can’t hear and mama, now he can hear!!! Isn’t that good??!!” I asked him what his friend’s name was and he promptly told me Wilson! I told him I knew his friend and we got to talk about sweet Wilson and Dempsey a little more. So sweet to hear how much Wilson loves and wants to share about his precious brother! 💙 And so happy our boys get to play together at church! Love y’all and love praying for Dempsey!

        • Laurel at THE HIVE December 3, 2019 / 10:30 am

          Aw Meredith I’m crying the sweetest, happiest tears!! Thank you for sharing this! I have been hearing more and more Beck thrown into conversation with Wilson lately! 🙂 I love it!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! 🙂 XOXOXXOXXXXX!

  3. msks November 19, 2019 / 8:28 am

    There is an episode of StoryBots called “How Do Ears Hear?”, and it has helped me understand sweet Dempsey so much better! Love you ALL. xoxo

  4. Allen Cunningham November 19, 2019 / 3:06 pm

    Dempsey has an amazing family!!

  5. Grace Greene December 7, 2019 / 10:21 am

    Thanks for your explanations and for being such a great advocate for Dempsey. God gave him a wonderful mother to walk him through this! And I’m just blown away that we have the medical technology to let him hear. How unbelievably life changing for him (and for all of you).

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