The Penny

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

[Sunday, August 7, 2011]

Benefit? YES!

On Friday I went with Laynie to interpret for her rehab appointment, where a rep from Laynie cochlear implant company, Med-El, would be present. The woman showed up early, and they were chatting in the waiting room. One thing she asked Laynie was, "Do you think you benefit from having cochlear implants?"

Benefit? How do you quantify that. Laynie was surprised by the question and not able to answer it fully. The simple answer is YES. But how to explain why? It's especially tough when she's really not understanding much spoken language yet. (yet)

For someone who is hearing and becomes deaf, gets an implant, and understands when people talk, I think a CI would be such a relief. The benefit would be clear. Similarly, a young child implanted and learning to hear and speak, as many implanted kids do, would clearly benefit. But for someone in Laynie's situation, the benefit is less externally apparent. She shared an anecdote about understanding her mother say, "I love you," which made an impact, as well as a few small examples of ways that hearing aids and cochlear implants have been different for her.

At dinner later, we were talking about it, trying to think back on life before implants. After two years with them, it sort of feels like she's always been this way.

I was telling Laynie that I have a very clear memory of an instance when we were standing in a busy area on the BYU campus between classes. I had asked Laynie what she heard, as she happened to be wearing her hearing aid that that day. She said that she heard noise. I asked her to describe it. All she could say was that it was noise, that it was all one sound blended together, at a constant volume. People talking, construction nearby, cars passing... all one sound.

The other day we were in a restaurant, and she asked if there were kids around. I told her which direction, and she nodded knowingly. Later she asked if a table was being cleared nearby. She had heard the clatter of dishes. Not only is she distinguishing the sounds, she's identifying what they are. She can identify laughter in another room. Jazz music, which she hates. A piano amidst the din of a department store. A car vs. jetliner vs. prop plane vs. truck vs. motorcycle going by. Thunder. A baby vs. a toddler screaming during sacrament meeting.

In the kitchen today, Laynie's back was toward me. The microwave was in use, the fan over the stove was on, and food was sizzling in a pan. I don't remember what her attention was on... throwing away trash or something. I said her name at a conversational level and she turned to me.

With hearing aids, Laynie could hear some things, but she could only identify a few. Whistling. A drum. A piano, if she knew it was music and focused on it. But she couldn't tell a voice from a car going by. Not that she couldn't hear the voice. Everything just sounded pretty much the same.

Laynie is hearing quieter things. Today she heard distant thunder from inside the house. She hears all the speech sounds, including very quiet ones like H and TH. Today I whispered quietly from three or four feet away, just to see if she heard me... she did. With her hearing aids there was a whole slew of sounds she didn't hear at all.

Obviously hearing and understanding are two different things. Two different levels of the same thing. Hearing is the bottom rung of the ladder, and understanding is the top. Laynie understands some things when listening purposefully in therapy. But she also understands things occasionally outside of therapy. Just simple things like asking a question and not looking as the answer is given, listening for the yes or no.

Yesterday she was sitting next to me on the couch, telling me something--showing me something on the computer. I don't remember exactly. But I remember that I asked, "Where?" She told me what it was again. I said, "I know, but where?" She said, "Right here," and showed me. I didn't sign it, and she wasn't looking at me. She heard and understood. I asked her if she knew what I said, and she answered, "Where." She didn't realize that I didn't sign it until I told her.

Things like that happen every day. Just the fact that she uses her CIs every day, all day long, is testament to the benefit she receives. She likes them. They help her feel connected to the world around her.

Like many children with CIs, she's beginning to prefer sound over sight for some things. Sometimes sound is easier.

She was saying that she wanted to get a doorbell, because some people knock quietly, which is hard to hear (even for me, and I'm "very hearing" as she says) from the kitchen. We discussed getting a flashing light doorbell, which she's had before. We realized that she hasn't used one in two years! With her CIs, she doesn't need one. She hears a knock just like everybody else. She thought that she would prefer a doorbell that chimes rather than flashes. A flashing light can be easy to miss in the daytime, if you're not looking in that direction. But she could hear a chime from wherever she is, whatever she's doing. So she'll be getting a doorbell that chimes... and she found one that has a portable receiver with a blinking light.

That doorbell will be a perfect fit for a girl who's straddling two worlds. She's Deaf yet very much a person who hears.


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