Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Otoscopes and Electrodes

Another day, another appointment - this time with the Eminent Surgeon who implanted both of Tom's CIs. It was a routine follow up, well as routine as such things are when we're talking about sophisticated electronics embedded into children's skulls. Any examination amounted to little more than a peer into the ear canal using his otoscope.

Tom decided that, for reasons best kept to himself, he would deign to allow the surgeon to stick this rather odd object in his ear. Whether this is a sign of his burgeoning maturity (he is, after all, two and a half now) or simply resignation to the inevitable I don't know. What does appear to help though is one of the most useful tips we've received. It is also one of the most blindingly obvious, forehead-slapping-while-exclaiming-'Of-course!' pieces of advice that has come our way too. It is that straightforward that I feel very dumb admitting that I actually needed it spelling out for me but, hey, I have a number of excuses lined up.

To make our life much, much easier we take time to tell Tom 'the plan'. No point in hiding the stuff he's going to dislike and springing it on him at the last minute (we tried that - Tom thinks that sucks), we share the bad news and also tell him the good bit that comes after. So, in this case, we told Tom that we were going to see Mr Gibbin who was going to look in his ears. He then repeated this back to us for the next 30 minutes at 10 second intervals, occasionally pondering whether this would involve going in daddy's noisy car and why we were seeing Mr Gibbin at Tracey's house ('Tracey's house' being the Implant Centre where Tracey, one of our audiologists, works).

In the grand scheme of nasty treatments that Tom's been through, having an otoscope delicately placed in his ear canal is small beer. He still made the Eminent Surgeon, a man not lacking in gravitas, examine the ears of Lightning McQueen, Sally and Ramone before his own. Now that was funny.

What wasn't so humorous was the confirmation that one of the electrodes in Tom's left implant needed to be switched off. The audiologists identified atypical impedence readings which have finally been diagnosed as a short circuit. Demonstrating his uncanny knack of being at the wrong end of long odds, Tom is only the third person out of 2000 implanted to have this happen with the Advanced Bionics device.

The upshot? Well, there's been no dropping off in the pace of Tom's language development and he still chooses to ignore us when he feels it appropriate. The redundancy built in to the device is designed to cope with such occurrences and, with improvements such as the Harmony System now released, there isn't much cause for alarm. As long as this isn't the start of something.

The appointment's most memorable moment, however, was so enormously positive that it left the electrode news deep in the shade. While watching Tom bounce around and talk incessantly to Nik and I we overheard the Eminent Surgeon say, in an aside to his registrar, 'You just can't tell he's deaf!'.

That is what he, and this technology, have done for our son.


Anonymous said...

Great to here what Mr Gibben believes but are there no guarantees with the device?

Laurie said...

I wish I could be a fly on the wall watching all this. Your descriptions of your experiences are wonderful and I feel like I'm right there with you all. Glad to hear Tom is doing well!