The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Sunday, March 27, 2011]

Another Listening Update

Wow, this is my 200th post. I thought I'd lose interest long before 200 posts.

Laynie has gone to auditory therapy twice now, and I got to go along on her second visit (it was while I was recovering from the kidney stone incident).

I like her therapist, Kristen. She is so positive, and she really "gets" deaf people. And did I say she is so positive?

Classic Kristen: "Mistakes are wonderful! I just love that you had the opportunity to listen to your choice and what I said and decide for yourself. Didn't that help you so much?"

I don't want you to get the wrong picture: she's not all valley, peppy, bubble-person positive. She's urban, hipster positive. Picture this: 50ish, haircut resembling the nasty (yet chic) queen on V, with chunky glasses and gold hoop earrings. She seriously cracks me up.

The positive vibe somehow communicates "I'm totally confident that you are going to succeed eventually, yet I'm pleasantly surprised by every little bit of progress along the way." That's just the antidote for a person who thinks slow means forever and forever means never.

They spent an hour doing two tasks--nice, slow pace. Laynie listened and repeated sounds and words. Yes, she can do it! Wowie! She can make her voice go higher and lower, louder and softer, matching what Kristen did (hiding her face behind a screen--no lipreading). She needed repetition, of course, because she is just learning. Laynie remembered three of the words she had done before: I/eye, be/bee, and shoe. Then she listened to sentences of about seven to eight words, with a group of five sentences as choices, and she pointed to the one that Kristen said. She did a great job with that, too, with not many repetitions. After doing each sentence several times, Kristen covered up the sentences and asked Laynie just to listen. She got the first one right away! She got the rest with just a few repetitions.

The tasks were standard issue auditory therapy, but I think having a good teacher makes all the difference in the world. I loved her approach and want to emulate her positive-even-through-difficulty attitude. And although none of the activities are things we haven't or couldn't do at home, just the fact that she has an appointment and drives to the clinic for the express purpose of working on listening skills makes a difference--she's very vocal after therapy sessions and comes home wanting to practice more.

Laynie has made a big leap by learning to repeat what she hears. The next step is realizing what she is saying, what the words she is repeating are. Remembering what the words sound like. Hearing the same words over and over is the key, which Kristen said as well. So Laynie chose ten words to learn this week: help, want, hungry, thirsty, food, computer, bed, store, clean, shower. She is doing a great job with them!

Laynie's favorite thing lately is whispering. I think it must have been about four years ago that I explained what whispering is (she sort of had an idea of what it was, but not exactly), but now that she's an implanted girl and can hear it, she loves it. Sometimes she'll whisper from across the room, probably to test my hearingness. It's funny to play with sound, right?

So the gist of the listening update is: Laynie is doing great, and I heart Kristen. So glad Laynie got the perfect therapist for her. Kristen feels like Laynie is just about to climb up to the next rung of the listening ladder: comprehension. That rung is spaced pretty far from the one below it. But she will do it. She's only had her implants (well, the first one) for two years, and the first year was a mess of mapping issues (struggling to get them programmed right). The audiologist said she'll take at least 5-7 years to reach her potential and might continue to improve long after that.

Speaking of the audiologist... I love him, but maybe she needs to switch. She was getting an eye blink with some sounds, which could mean too much stimulation overall or a problem with a certain electrode. It might mean that some electricity is learning the cochlea, where it's supposed to be, and stimulating the nearby facial nerve. The audiologist just globally decreased the power on both ears, which made things quieter, which she did not want. The problem is that it's hard to find an audiologist who knows how to program Laynie's brand. She has Med-El, which I guess you could say is kind of like the Apple of cochlear implant brands... think pre-iPod Apple. Okay, so it's more stable and user-friendly, and the quality might be higher... but it's not on most people's radar, and good luck finding programs for it. Med-El has a fantastic track record (no "oops we accidentally put out YET ANOTHER BAD IMPLANT that went down in a blaze of glory or maybe killed a few kids" like AB or paying off doctors like Cochlear), and the company has been wonderful with the few minor technical problems Laynie has had, but it sure is a pain to find an audiologist who can map it.

There's a fantastic audiologist at GBMC that a lot of deaf people go to, whom they bring their deaf children to.. but she only maps Cochlear and AB. Maybe she'd be willing to learn? I did hear of a good audiologist who maps Med-El, who is down at the University of Maryland. There's another guy at Hopkins who specializes in mapping adults, but it's kind of awkward to switch to someone in-house. And her current audiologist signs, which is a bonus--not fluently but enough to get by if I couldn't go with her. (Sure she could get an interpreter, but that's a crapshoot.) And of course I have to admit that Laynie is probably a very difficult patient to map, just because she doesn't know what things are supposed to sound like and can't provide very good feedback yet. Who's to say that the current audiologist didn't do the right thing by turning everything down? I'd like to see him spending more time with her and figuring out problems, though. I guess I'll just close this little digression by saying that I don't envy Laynie her decision of which audiologist.

And I'll close this whole post by reiterating that I'm so proud of Laynie for the work she is putting in. Oh, I forgot: the other day she recognized that her dad answered the phone not by his linguistic style but by his deeper voice. She is doing great!


Post a Comment