After switch-onPublished Date: 31 Aug 2023
George was bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants in January 2023 after being born profoundly deaf in March 2022. At the time of writing this, we are five months post switch-on, and life has been a whirlwind!
It hasn’t all been lovely, happy moments though… those first couple of months were intense. I felt like I was totally winging it, and I was just hoping and praying we were making the right decisions for George.
During the cochlear implant process, we had been warned that it’s not as simple as ‘switching his new ears on’ and voila, he can hear! No, there are a lot of hearing tests, mapping appointments, speech and language therapy, cochlear implant rehab, sessions with his Teacher of the Deaf, and we talk, talk, talk to him. We were literally tasked with teaching our son to listen, something he’s never done before.
Every two weeks we were attending our local audiology clinic for a hearing test and ‘mapping’ of his processors. These appointments eventually thinned out, and now that George has good access to all speech sounds, we don’t need to go back as often.
From the early days of George’s diagnosis, we were assigned an amazing Teacher of the Deaf who we meet with every couple of weeks. She has taught me tips and tricks for communicating with George, but she’s also reassured me along the way when I haven’t been confident on something.
We have a bi-weekly session with George’s cochlear implant keyworker where we discuss how he’s getting on and we practise the Ling sounds in a fun way. We were told it’s good practise to do the ‘Ling Six Sound Check’ every day to detect any changes to George’s hearing, and it’s something we have incorporated into our morning routine when getting ready.
Alongside all of this, we have been trying to learn British Sign Language (BSL). Sadly, there’s no funding available to us to do an accredited course yet, but we have found some great, free, tools to aid us. Our Teacher of the Deaf gave us a ‘Baby Sign’ book by Cath Smith which we have used since George was born for some basic baby signs. We use the Bright BSL app which we think is brilliant for beginners to learn around their busy schedule.
We have also just completed a six-week Family Sign Language online course with the National Deaf Children’s Society and I cannot recommend this enough – it’s engaging and fun, and we particularly liked being taught a nursery rhyme at each session so we can sign these to George before bed when he has taken his cochlear implants off.
Life has been busy… Not to mention the frequent haircuts. Luckily George’s grandma is a trained hairdresser, so she’s always on hand for a quick trim when George’s magnets start feeling a bit slack from his hair growth!
Overall, it’s been a lot. But five months down the line, I have no regrets about getting George implanted, and he’s thriving beyond our expectations. He loves music and having a dance! He also loves the sound of the hoover and hair dryer and sometimes cries when we turn them off. He’s able to localise where a sound is coming from and is able to recognise some voices. We’re hearing all sorts of wonderful sounds from him now, with his latest being the ‘mmm’ sound.
It’s hard work teaching your baby how to listen, let alone speak, but we’re very fortunate to have a brilliant support network behind us and will continue to do our best for George on this crazy journey.