The Amazing Owen
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Great news from the Audiologist!

I know, I know - a month at a time with no posts, and then suddenly we get several days in a row. Well, when it rains it pours!

Today Owen went to the audiologist for another hearing test and cochlear implant checkup.  The results were just awesome.  We are now 6 months post hook-up and today Owen's speech threshold was only 10 dB!  That's a very quiet whisper! 

2009-03-23-Audiogram.jpg

Above is the audiologist's report from today.  You will note the completely blank audiogram.  When Owen first got there they hooked him up to the computer where they play tones directly into his brain.  He loves this and it makes him laugh.  But then they put him in the sound booth to listen to normal sounds through the microphone and he just freaks!  I don't know why, maybe it's because everyone is staring at him, or because it's 200 degrees in there, or because the two year old in him senses that he is expected to do something on demand and he just doesn't do requests. 

Either way it was looking like a pretty big waste of a three and a half hour drive.  But then Lisa, the audiologist, started to sing "Itsy bitsy Spider" to him through the machine that lets them output their voice at a specific decibel level.  She had done it earlier in the session at a louder level and he seemed to like it.  So during a fuss she tried it again, but at a very quiet 10 dB.  He missed the beginning of the song because he was too loud, but when he stopped to take a breath he clearly heard her singing and he stopped fussing and settled down to being perfectly quiet in just a second or two.  When she got to the part where the spider goes up the spout again he put his two hands together and twisted his wrists to make the spider - right on cue! 

We all kind of sat there and stared at each other as if to say, did he really do that?  But it was just as clear as day and Owen absolutely loves The Itsy Bitsy Spider and makes that sign all the time when we sing it at home.  If I ask him, "Do you want to sing a song?" he generally responds by making the sign of the spider. 

For a reference on what 10 dB is, I'll post the chart of familiar sounds again:

familiarsounds.jpg

She was singing very quietly and yet he not only acknowledged that there was a sound, but he could identify it properly as his favorite song and knew exactly when to make the spider sign.  I think that officially means that he is hearing very well!  You can see on the report that she writes "Did Itsy bitsy spider down to 10 dB".  And then she circled SAT (speech awareness threshold) and under aided sound field (meaning with his implant turned on) she wrote 10.  At his last exam he only tested down to 35 dB. It was the same mapping, but he just needed more time to get used to hearing I guess.  We have definitely noticed at home that he hears very quiet noises and responds to them, but it's nice to have it confirmed during a controlled test.  And 10 dB is the lowest that they can test down to.  In my reading I have found that "normal" hearing is considered to be anyone who can hear down to 15 dB.  Many cochlear implant programs say they consider a success to be hearing down to at least 25 dB, which allows hearing at normal conversational tones (the red "speech banana" in the picture above).  And Owen can hear down to 10 dB!  We've made it!

Owen also now recognizes quite a few verbal commands such as "Up", "No", "No teeth" (meaning please stop gritting your teeth before Mommy goes insane), "Give that to me", "Do you want to sing a song?", "All done", "Eat","Sit up" and probably a few more that I'm not thinking of at the moment.  I asked the audiologist how Owen is doing compared to other children who are 6 months post hook-up and she said that he is doing very well.  She actually said that there are many children that aren't doing this well at only 6 months. For once, Owen may be ahead of the curve! 

You'll also see the letters IT-MAIS toward the bottom of the report, with an 80% next to it.  This stands for Infant-Toddler Meaningful Auditory Integration Scale.  It's basically a set of questions that they asks the parents about what a child appears to be able to hear and not hear - because the little ones don't do the best at testing.  You can read more about this test here.  Before the implant his score was 5%, and I'm not sure how he even got that high to be honest. Today his score was 80% - an amazing improvement in just six months. 

So we are very happy.  If you look at yesterday's post and watch him playing that piano, you can start to understand how much this has meant to us.  He can hear us, he can understand us, and we can finally share our love of music with him.  Music is huge in my family - I play the flute/piccolo/recorder/penny whistle, my brother plays piano, bass clarinet, guitar and anything else he can get his hands on, my Mom plays piano, my grandmother was an excellent violinist, and even those that don't play an instrument all love to listen to music.  My daughter Sammy loves any type of music.  Not being able to share this with Owen was a big hole in our ability to relate to him. Seeing him at that piano and watching his face light up when you sing to him is just priceless in so many ways.  Being able to hear has changed every aspect of our interactions with Owen and we couldn't be happier that it has worked out this well.

Have a great night!

 
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