Two Cochlear Implant Activations – A Comparison
Report By: Shauna Garelick
The following youtube videos documented the first time a cochlear implant was activated for two different children. The first child, Maya is approximately 18 months to 2 years old. The second child, Naomi is approximately 7 years old. Both videos showed the first time that the implant was turned on and the reaction from the child. The rest of the video showed the initial steps of the intensive therapy of the first session that these kids were able to hear. The purpose of using two different videos was to compare the reaction of the kids the first time they were able to hear, and the different steps that are taken to achieve the desired response for the therapists. Maya, the two year old did not appear to know
Both of the candidates that I watched definitely did elicit a response when the implant was turned on. However, a much more emotional and reactive response was exhibited by the two year old. Clearly, it is necessary to apply different strategies to determine responses from the participants given the difference in ages. However, it seemed like Naomi had difficulty comprehending what was asked. While it is difficult for me to judge without knowing the background information of her signing and lip-reading abilities, it seemed that it was almost more difficult in an older child. She seemed concerned with getting the right answer. I had a expected a more emotional response from Naomi. I had expected one of fear, excitement or anxiety. Instead, she was rather calm and did not seem quite focused on the task at hand. The therapist was emitting a series of beeps from her computer and Naomi was supposed to put a game piece from the Connect-Four game into the apparatus. Sometimes it was unclear if she had heard the noise. When asked if she had, she would confirm it and be told to add put a piece in the game. However, it did not seem like it was always her choice, but more like she was simply trying to get the answer right in order to please the therapist. The next test, asked Naomi to respond the same way when she heard an “ah” sound from the therapist. It was also clear that Naomi was far more responsive to her mother and while she still did not complete the task, it was much clearer that she was hearing her mother’s voice. I found that quite interesting considering she had never heard either voice before. In the therapy done with Maya the 2 year old, there was nothing systematic only noting responses from a variety of sounds that were not necessarily planned or progressive. These included toys and voices. She got obviously overwhelmed at one point a couple of minutes in. This is perhaps a result of the lack of progression involved and with multiple sounds from multiple directions, it was a sensory overload. I can think that it would be similar to that of a child with autism in that because the child does not know what sound is meaningful, they cannot extract the line of meaning and therefore do not attend to any one sound in particular and then becomes overwhelmed. Maya seemed to turn in the direction of where the sound was coming from which was quite impressive.
It seems that it is quite an incredible experience to be there at the precise moment when a person hears for the first time. In addition to these two videos, I watched a variety of other clips that showed other children with activating their implants for the first time, and the reactions are different every time. Some are scared, anxious, excited and confused. It is unpredictable but quite extraordinary.