Onwards and upwards

Alice has now been back for 2 sets of mapping since switch on.  We went back the following day to add increasing programmes to her map.  Essentially the game is to expand the distance between Alice’s threshold and comfort levels, thereby essentially increasing her access to all sounds and frequencies.  This involves incrementally increasing her map and thereby increasing the sounds she should be able to hear.  So we have spent the last couple of weeks keeping the implant on her head and gradually jumping her up. 

Keeping the implant on is easier said than done, we have the choice between a huggie or a snugfit.  Snugfit is essentially a plastic casing for the behind the ear (BTE) bit, that has plastic wrapped wire to fold round the front of her ear.  As Grandma will agree, this usually involved squishing Alice’s ear into an awful shape to keep it on.  When I snapped it after only 10 days, we looked at the alternative.  Huggies – these are essentially a plastic stretchy cord that comes down round the front of Alice’s ear hugging the BTE to her ear. Its smaller and neater and seems to stay on better.

Getting her to wear it can be a moment of stubbornness, Alice is very stubborn about many things (order in her universe is very important).  However a threat of going into her cot or a stern word from Daddy and she complies.  Thereafter she happily wears it all day, often pointing out if its fallen off or switched off for some reason. 

Therapy starts again, its all about encouraging discrimination of sounds and we have been introduced to the Ling sounds (essentially, oo, aah, sh, ee, sss, mmm) which show the therapist that Alice can hear all the speech frequencies.  We now look sillier than ever, every time a plane goes past, its aaaaaaaaaaaah,  Alice responds with her sign for plane and we smile full of hope. 

“uma” and “mu” are Alice’s 2 words, the first is very definitely mummy, the second is mouse, Mrs Mouse

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I can hear…..

In my eyes at least, it couldn’t have gone better. I’ll let you make your own minds up by watching the videos. They are about 10 minutes each. ‘Switch on’ essentially consists of two parts. Firstly, the Speech processor is connected to a computer which feeds sounds directly into Alice’s implant. We hear these as beeps on the video, Alice as who-knows-what. These beeps are slowly increased in intensity to the point at which Alice reacts. This is conducted across five of the 22 electrodes to get a conservative estimate of Alice’s comfort thresholds at each point in the spectrum. A ‘sweep’ is then conducted across all 22 electrodes, programming them to the same sort of levels before the microphone and Alice’s bionic ear are switched on fully.  The tests are completed in the usual testing suite, Alice has been taught to look at a speaker in the corner that lights up with a dancing Winnie the Pooh when she reacts to the sound.

At first the programme is very conservative and quiet. Over time, the thresholds will be increased allowing Alice to experience more and more sound.

The first video shows Alice reaching her threshold level with the first electrode – the moment we had all been waiting for:

The Second shows Alice’s full switch on – welcome to the world Alice:

A Small miracle, but a miracle nonetheless.

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