the gift of hearing

a friend sent me this link this morning and seeing the photos made my heart melt and tears roll down my face. obviously the photos hit home because we've been truly blessed with this gift--this gift of hearing. yes, kiele, my deaf child, hears!! kiele has a cochlear implant, which i refer to as her bionic ear. she hears at the same levels as a normal hearing person, however, she hears differently. and people with cochlear implants (and hearing aids) still have their challenges...especially listening in noise. this is kiele's internal device, which was surgically attached to her skull and then the electrode fed through her cochlea.

this is her external device, which she wears on her ear. the headpiece attaches to the back of her head, with a magnet, allowing the external and internal devices to give kiele sound.  

kiele talks almost the same as you and i (you probably wouldn't even know she was deaf, if you didn't see her cochlear implant). she is in a mainstream 6th grade class at one of the most challenging middle schools here in san diego. she's in the gifted program. she's at the top of her class. she touches the hearts of everyone she meets. i get emails from her teachers regularly on what an amazing child she is. and i can't say it very blessed and grateful we are.

what i love about the TIME photographs is that you can truly see the joy on so many of the children's faces, as they are fitted with their hearing they are able to hear, many of them probably for the first time.

yesterday, i got to watch the opposite. the audiologist did some testing on kiele, where they test kiele's hearing in noise, in the sound booth (listening to spoken sentences, with noise in the background). they did the testing using a noise level that was equivalent to the noise level in a standard classroom. kiele did terrible, which was expected and is normal for a hearing impaired child with hearing aids and/or a cochlear implant. this is why DHH kids have to have services like an FM in the classroom. but what i didn't anticipate is how much not hearing would affect kiele. as she tried to listen and repeat the sentences or any word, for that matter, the anguish was displayed all over her face. many times, it looked like she was going to cry. the audiologist had to stop the testing a couple times to let kiele know she was doing great and that the test was supposed to be hard. all of this was done to show how difficult it is in the classroom, if kiele does not have the appropriate DHH services (teacher's FM, pass-around, realtime transcription, etc.).

this is a sample of how kiele hears...what the sounds are like with a cochlear implant.  i always describe it as it kind of sounds darth vader-ish.  kiele has 16 channels but i think the last two channels are turned off because they weren't doing anything.  it really is amazing!!

so with all that said...i'm totally PMSing, which equates to extra emotional...and totally crying as i type this. i just think how blessed we are to live in a time when kiele can have this opportunity to hear. and how grateful i am to have met the people we have along this journey--people who have believed in kiele and believed in her potential. kiele wouldn't be where she is today without them...that's for sure. you know who you are. and i thank you from the bottom of my heart. you will always be a special part of our lives...but you already know that!

photo of kiele is from the other day, when we were playing at the park. we are so blessed!