Sunday, January 3, 2010

What, Exactly, is a Cochlear Implant?

Followers of my blog will notice that the four most recent posts were all published on the same day--after a couple months of absence. To all my faithful readers, I realize this is an overload of information but I finally got some time and had a lot to write. I won't be offended if you decide not to read it all. As always, I write for two main reasons: first, a journal for Brynn to read someday (I'm not a scrapbooker so this will have to do); and second, an outline to help other families going through similar experiences.

I'm assuming these two groups won't care about the crammed timing of the recent posts. But unfortunately, this means lots of info for you die-hard readers of my blog. To add insult to injury, what follows in this particular post is a rather boring, technical explanation. Have fun :)

So, what is a Cochlear Implant?

This photo below is the internal implant, which is surgically placed between the skull and the skin. Although some drilling in the skull is required to ensure the device doesn't move around, the brain is never exposed or touched (contrary to some popular legends circulating the Deaf community). The electrode array (A) is inserted into the cochlea. The magnet (B) is smaller than a dime, and the surrounding silicone is about the size of a quarter. The computer chip (C) is the gold-mine of the implant and must be preserved at all costs (unless Brynn decides she likes having surgery). In other words: no rugby for you, Brynn.

On January 28th, our little girl will receive two of these in one surgery--one for each ear (called "simultaneous bilateral implantation").

The external parts look like the photo below. The magnet (A) snaps to the magnet under the skin and allows for transfer of information from the externals to the internals. The microphones (B) pick up the sound, which is then converted to signals in (C) the processor. (D) is the battery, which can be detached and clipped to the shirt or whatever if the ear piece is too heavy for little ones like Brynn. If she hates anything on her ears at all, the processor (C) can be clipped to her shirt as well.

Brynn will start wearing this two weeks post surgery (activation day is February 11th). This wait time is because her scar needs time to heal. She'll start wearing one implant, and then a few weeks after that, we'll turn on her second implant. This separation gives the audiologist time to build a program (called "mapping") for only one of Brynn's ears at a time. It also give us parents time to adjust to a new piece of equipment.

This is the remote control, by which we the parents have all control over Brynn's hearing:

By the way, a big thanks to IPOD for giving Cochlear Corp some good design ideas. :)

Because I don't have any photos with Brynn wearing the implant yet (for obvious reasons), these stolen photos will have to do. I got them from this blog, courtesy of Google. This is what the implant looks like:

This is what bilateral implants look like:

So there you have it. Bionic ears.


Heather said...

Thanks Natalie for posting this, it helps me understand a lot more of what is going to be done. and I love all your posts so keep them up!

Alatariel said...

Wow, what a journey! I pray that everything goes well with the surgery for Brynn, and as always, I'm uplifted by your strength. Thank you for being willing to share a part of your life with us!

Dawn E.