When our son, Ben, was born on January 13, 2009, his newborn hearing test showed a possible problem. We visited an audiologist in hopes of learning more, but the tests were inconclusive. So, when he was five weeks old, we brought Ben to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, where Auditory Brainstem Response tests found severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
As new parents with our first baby, my husband, Adam, and I were confused and scared, but our Doernbecher audiologist, Heather Durham, M.S., explained everything and drew pictures of the parts of the ear. She directed us to a lot of resources. We felt like we got a huge education on how a person hears - things I never expected I would need to know.
At nine weeks old, Ben got hearing aids. But his hearing loss continued to get worse, so we met with Don Plapinger, Ed.D., director of audiology in the Cochlear Implant Program at OHSU. We made an appointment for an implant on Ben’s right side, although we had to wait until Ben was 11 months old for the surgery.
We were never pushed into a decision. It was completely up to us. We even got to explore different implant brands and choose the one we wanted. Sean McMenomy, M.D., implanted the device on December 23, 2009, and Dr. Plapinger gave us the external speech processor a few days later. We had a week to get familiar with the processor at home before we went back to have it activated.
Once Ben started to respond to sound, it was miraculous. Now he asks to have his “new ear” on. He points to his head if it falls off, and he gets fussy if the battery goes dead. He says words like “dad” and “mama” and “bye-bye.” He’s really making progress. This summer Ben will have an implant on his left side.
Ben has the sound level on his processor adjusted every three weeks. He gets so excited when we go to see Dr. Plapinger. Doernbecher evaluated his language skills before the cochlear implant and will do another evaluation after a year to decide if he needs further therapy.
We love working with Doernbecher. Every time I call, they refer to Ben by his first name. No matter who is on the phone, I feel like they know who I am. You can tell they are people who work with children and families, because they’re so personable.
Cochlear implants have changed Ben’s life, and ours too. We want him to know he will always be a deaf person, but he has something that helps him to hear.