Yesterday marked a big day in this whole journey, as Coop got his hearing aids! However, this is not a “fix” for him by any means. This post will probably be fairly short, but I just wanted to take some time to explain the trial.
So long story short, we are on the road to cochlear implants sometime between 6 months and a year. But before insurance will cover that surgery, it has to be deemed necessary because nothing else worked. And in order for that to happen, we have to at least try other things, such as the hearing aids.
Because of Coop’s level of loss, the doctors prepared us for the fact that the hearing aids wouldn’t likely do anything to actually help Cooper hear. In fact, it was possible they would do nothing at all. Hearing aids work by amplifying access to sound that already exists. They don’t create sound. Implants are different because they bypass damaged parts of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Cooper actually won’t be hearing with his ears with implants, but rather with his brain, which is pretty amazing.
Based on Cooper’s reaction when the hearing aids got turned on, we do believe he is getting a little sound from them. He startles and moves when there are loud noises now, which was never the case before. But this doesn’t mean he can hear like we can. It’s just that before, he could hear pretty much nothing. So now, he has at least a little bit of access to sound, but it would never be enough for him to develop language.
The other benefit of the hearing aid trial is that a) he will get used to having something on his ear, since that is also where the outer part of the implant will sit and b) it still stimulates the auditory nerve, which is beneficial because that’s what implants do as well.
The plan is for Cooper to wear his hearing aids up until he has surgery. I’m sure keeping the hearing aids on will be a challenge as he grows and continues to discover his hands. Another frustrating part of the hearing aids is the LOUD feedback they give off. But it’s part of the process and it’s temporary. And it’s so fun to see the little wheels in his head turning when he is wearing them.