“How’s Dempsey doing with his ears?”
Price and I get this question all the time and WE LOVE IT!! We love sharing about our sweet little Dempsey Bean and the wonderful progress he’s making with his cochlear implants!
As a quick overview, we found out Dempsey was deaf very quickly after he was born. His bilateral profound hearing loss (meaning completely deaf in both ears) was confirmed in January of 2019. Price and I knew pretty quickly that we wanted him to hear sound and live as full of a life as possible, so we decided we wanted him to get cochlear implants.
Dempsey had his implant surgery in August of 2019 and was activated (meaning his ears were turned on) one month later- in September of 2019! September 26th is the first day he heard sound! 🙂 Here is a little video of his activation day if you’re interested 🙂
Since activation, he has come SO FAR and we are SO PROUD of our little dude! He loves talking and hearing others talk to him. He loves music and banging on things and screaming at the top of his lungs just for fun! Wilson and Lily Ryan think it’s hilarious to scream first to get Dempsey to scream. So often times, our home is just three youngsters screaming and laughing. It’s annoyingly joyful!
Here are some FAQs about Demps and his ears!
Q: Will he have to always wear those things on his head?
A: He sure will! Right now we keep his external processors on with a headband called Ear Suspenders because we would jerk them off often if that thing wasn’t holding them in place! Eventually, as he gets older, he’ll lose the headband and the processors will rest on his ears. But in order for sound to get to his brain, he HAS to have the round gray magnet things (called coils) connected to his internal magnets. Those magnets are how the sounds get to his brain and he hears! You can click here to see a video we made about how his processors work and how to put them together!
Q: How much can he hear?
A: Our goal is to get him hearing 100%! I am not exactly positive on where we are in our progress to 100%, but if I had to guess, I’d say around 80%. We have regular appointments with Dempsey’s audiologist and she gives us new progressive maps each time. Dempsey started out only hearing maybe 10% of normal volume. Then we moved him up in his progressive maps to 15%. Then several weeks later, we bumped him up to 20%. We have had a few minor setbacks with Dempsey’s reactions to increased sound (like excessive blinking, for example, when he hears a sound that should not normally cause someone to blink) so we have had to slow progression in those cases. We even had to bump back down at one point, then work our way back up to where we were. So it’s a very technical process with lots of attention to detail by our wonderful audiologist! If I had to guess, I think Dempsey will be to 100% pretty soon! 🙂
Q: How are y’all handling his school with COVID stuff?
A: Having all three kids home has been a CHALLENGE. I know all the mamas feel me! But we are doing the best we can. Dempsey’s teacher sends us a complete lesson plan at the beginning of every week, and each week has a theme! This week’s theme is bugs, for example! Last week was zoo.
The lesson plans include fun sound activities, themed books to read and toys to play with if we have them, and new ways to incorporate listening activities into our days. We FaceTime Dempsey’s teacher every morning to tell her what we did the day before and talk about our plans for the present day. Every Thursday, we do early intervention with our teacher (who also happens to be our early interventionist now! yay!) via Zoom.
We also have Zoom meetings for the older twos’ classes every day, so we are staying in great contact with all of our teachers. It’s certainly been a challenge trying to teach all three PLUS keep up with my regular stuff without having much time to myself, but we are making it! Part of our routine every morning after what we call “stretch and sing” is to pray as a family that God would fill all of us up with the fruits of the spirit and help us all get along and be productive that day! And guess what? God is faithful! Every day isn’t perfect, but His goodness is all around, even in the hard moments. 🙂
I HOPE we will be back in school for the summer! But until then, we’ll just be taking it day by day over here!
Q: What words can Dempsey say? How much is he talking?
A: He is babbling up a storm, and he is starting to make more and more meaningful sound every week! Since he was activated in September, his hearing age is only 7 months, even though he’s about 18 months. So he is on par with a typical 7 month old, speech wise. But because he is older and is otherwise more developed than a typical 7 month old, I think he will start picking up on things more and more quickly. (That could be just me as his optimistic mama talking! But I think he’s so smart!!)
He’s saying mama, dada, “muh” for more if he wants more food, and is making tons of great sounds trying to mimic things said to him! He loves making “ooo ooo eee eee ahhh ahh” when he sees a monkey! It’s my favorite thing! He is also SUPER into using his pointer finger to tell things “no no no” even if his “no” is more of an “uh.” He frequently gets onto himself, too, which is hilarious. He will throw an entire roll of toilet paper into the potty (A MODERN DAY TRAGEDY) then will stand there and tell himself “no no no” and shake his finger at himself because he knows he did wrong! Thankfully the TP thing only happened twice. hah!
He also has excellent language models in Wilson and Lily Ryan, so he is getting just about as much sound exposure as he can from his family! We feel very blessed!
Q: Are y’all teaching him sign language?
A: No, not yet! But in the future, we would love to!
Right now, as we are focusing on developing Dempsey’s spoken language, we want to keep his top form of communication verbal. We love the idea of American Sign Language (fun fact: knowing sign language counts as a language all it’s own, so if I were to learn ASL, I’d be considered bilingual! I think that’s pretty kewl!) but we want to get his primary verbal spoken language developed before we learn signing. We’ve heard that if families try to teach ASL and LSL (Listening and Spoken Language) at the same time, neither forms of communication develop as quickly because the child just uses the one that’s easier for him or her.
Cochlear implants are somewhat new to the market, only having been around for about 30 years, so many older people with hearing loss didn’t even have the option for CIs when they were young. But we have met several older people who grew up signing and have gotten CIs later in life! We have also met several families who have younger deaf children who chose for sign language to be their child’s primary form of communication. Price and I made a decision for Dempsey based on how we felt led, as I know every family does when making these sorts of decisions!
The reason I would love to learn ASL in the future is because, if some crazy unforeseen accident should occur and Dempsey is without his processors for an extended period of time, meaning he can’t hear at all, I want him to have a backup form of communication. And obviously our family needs to be able to understand this backup form! Haha so that’s the main reason why I want all of us to learn it!
I think that about covers the main questions we have gotten recently! We love watching Dempsey grow and develop and get funnier and more expressive by the day! If you have any other questions for me, please feel free to drop them in the comments below! I’m an open book, happy to share whatever I can!
Here are some posts that might be interesting if you like hearing about all of this!
Thank you so much for taking interest in Dempsey’s ears 🙂 I love talking about this cool journey! Thank you for reading this far. Means the world to me! xoxo