Thursday, June 21, 2007

The straw that broke the camels back

Some people have asked what caused us to finally have Nichole implanted. In the fall of her Freshman year in high school, Nichole came home with an assignment to listen to three recorded interviews on NPR radio on-line, and critique the interviewers. I set her up in the computer room (quiet location), with her facing the screen with the speakers 2 feet from her face. Perfect conditions. We increased the volume, logged into NPR and started the first story playing. After about 30 seconds, Nichole turned to me and said "Dad, I know they are talking, but I can't understand anything they are saying". As a Dad, this made me want to cry. I ended up sitting across from her at the kitchen table, with headphones on, listening to the story on my laptop, pausing it, and repeating each sentence I heard so that Nichole could hear me and read my lips. This got her through that assignment, but I knew I couldn't always be there to help in the future.

My wife had been commenting in the weeks before this event that Nichole was not hearing too well. This inability to understand the electronically reproduced spoken word drove home the point to me; the proverbial final straw. I called her audiologist the next day and made an appointment for a hearing test. The results showed her down around 100dB to 110dB, worse at some frequencies. Her aided results were between 40dB and 60dB. Her word discrimination was in the low-mid 30% range. Clearly she was not hearing a lot of speech.

With no real options with respect to new, more powerful hearing aids, the Cochlear Implant offered us the only real hope for Nichole. So we contacted Marilyn Neault at Children's Hospital in Boston and brought Nichole in for a battery of tests. The results showed that Nichole was a good candidate. A CAT scan showed Nichole was a mild case of Mondini Syndrome, where the cochlea doesn't spiral the full two and a half to two and two thirds turns. Nichole's turned only about one and three quarters times. Even still, her surgeon, Dr. Greg Licameli indicated he thought she would still do very well with an implant.

Nichole was in every meeting and participated in all the discussions about the CI. Given the anticipated amount of work involved with hearing rehabilitation, we wanted her to be 110% committed to this, otherwise we would not proceed. She decided it was necessary, and that she would work to learn how to hear with it, so we decided to go ahead with the surgery.

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