Since we are approach the anniversary of Miss Kat's bilateral implant, I thought I would write a blog about the differences between our experience with Miss Kat's first and second implants.
First, it was easier for us to get Miss Kat's second implant. We had to change insurance to get it, but we just waited for open enrollment and switched, we had it all scheduled before we even changed over. The first time around there was a lot more resistance. Our former audiologist was against it, they had to have a meeting about it...all because she signed (Well, I guess they also objected because she was "so old", but her loss was progressive, so she never even reached profoundly deaf). But since Miss Kat has been a very good implant user, and she has next to no speech discrimination with her hearing aid, the second one was a "no-brainer".
The actual surgeries went very similarly. They were at different hospitals but the same surgeon. She was the first surgery both times (because we weren't at the children's hospital) because she was the youngest scheduled for the day. She went into surgery very well prepared and not scared (Thanks Versed!) and both times the doctors said she was downright helpful in the operating room (hoping up on the bed, putting on her pulse ox, and picking her flavor for gas). Daddy and Grammy and I just sat around playing cards waiting for the doc to tell us that surgery went well and we got full insertion of the electrode. (Which happened both times!)
Miss Kat woke up pretty crabby both times, but she was OK by the time she was discharged from the hospital. The first time we didn't have a TV in the room, so she took a little nap, but was overall in a better mood the second time around (Thanks here goes to Sponge Bob!) Both times she threw up right as we were packing up to leave...luckily they let us leave anyway.
The recovery went well both times as well. Miss Kat took her prescription pain meds for the first day, but by the second afternoon the bad taste outweighed the pain, so we switched to regular Tylenol and ibuprofen. She took a nap and ate and then was nearly back to normal.
Her implants exactly line up! Her incision is MUCH smaller this time around. It is closer to her ear and it looks like all the other kids incisions. Her first one was WAY bigger, and he shaved nearly half her head!
The activations were very different. The first time she was curious, but really didn't know what would happen. The second time around she was an old pro at MAPing. The first time she didn't even classify the sounds she heard as "hearing" and pretty much ignored the input in the office. The second time she responded well and we were able to get a good MAP set, very quickly and she was able to express what was going on.
The rest of those first two days were very different as well. On the way home from her first activation she suddenly became very interested in all the new sounds she could hear. She walked around knocking on things and making sounds, for the joy of hearing them. With the second implant, she just wanted it off! She told us that she couldn't hear with it and that it sounded terrible. The difference between the two was the quality of input that she had had with the first implant since activation. Because she couldn't hear well with her hearing aids, this all new input coming from the first CI was amazing and fun to explore. The second CI provided the same input at activation, but this time she KNEW what hearing well was, and her brain was used to understanding sound and so, the new, scrambled sounds actually sounded bad, and she wanted to go back to having just the clear sound (the old CI).
She struggled with putting the implant on, first thing in the morning, with both. It lasted around a week each time. The first time we dealt with it by adjusting her volume wheel to provide a bigger variation in loudness between all the way down and "noon" (where the wheel is meant to stay). Our audiologist generally programs a 20% increase in volume using the wheel, but for us he set it to 50%. That way she could put it on first thing in the morning and not be shocked by the sound, but then, when she adjusted, we could jut turn it back up. The second time around, she just put her old device on first and she was ok.
As I said before, the adjustment to her second implant was rough. She didn't like not being able to understand speech with it. She would say that it was just "beep, beep, beep". She was frustrated, she wanted to have the same clarity that she had with her first, and being a child, she wanted it NOW! She very much did not want to wear the second side. But, we explained that if she wanted it to sound better, she had to wear it. So, we devised a plan to have her go to sleep wearing the device, and listening to music or books on tape, anything to allow her brain to continue to get input, and allow her to get the stimulation, but since she was asleep, it didn't bother her.
After about 2 weeks, she was fine, she had "bonded" with the new device and would always wear them both. At one year out, she hears equally well with both sides and doesn't express any sort of preference.
I'm very glad that she has two implants. Her reaction to the activation of the second (and actually, the first as well*)clearly shows what poor input she was getting from her hearing aids. If she had ever been getting good auditory information from her hearing aids the CI wouldn't have been such a shock to her brain. But, alas, as we know, she hadn't.
(*She had obviously never heard the sounds she was discovering with her first implant. Also, she SHOULD have thought it sounded weird and like beeping the first time too. But she didn't, she liked it. Why? Because even the beeping was better input than her hearing aids had been.)
So, her hearing has improved with this second implant. Her language has really blossomed. Her grammar and articulation has improved. All around, we are very happy we went ahead and went bilateral. (Oh, and of course we couldn't be happier with the first!)