120 channels and everything on

“Buh-bye, Dad-dee.” The sort of words that fathers head from their two-year-old children every day. Always accompanied by that little wave they do.

Odd to think that it’s almost exactly two years since we got the confirmation that this now two-year-old was born profoundly deaf, and on his own can’t hear pretty much anything except perhaps artillery.

Since then another 1,680 babies have been born deaf in the UK. That’s 1,680 parents who’ve had to cope, in whatever way, with knowing their otherwise perfect child can’t hear. (Some are happy, of course.)

What’s so different about us now is that we understand how it can be that a child who was born deaf can hear, and speak, and what’s more speak with diction that’s comparable with his hearing peers. Really: things are that good. Two years ago, things just looked bleak.

That’s the wonder of cochlear implants; and especially of the device that child3 is using, an Advanced Bionics with the new Hi-Res system, which simulates having 120 hearing channels (which means being able to distinguish 120 different tones) rather than the 16 or so his implant really has.

What’s odd, looking back, is how we completely didn’t know about cochlear implants. Didn’t know about a 20, 30, 40-year-technology that is almost routine to implant, whose effects (benefits and risks) are well-known. Isn’t that strange, in retrospect?

But then again – most people think that rock climbers make their ascent by banging things into the rock. There are all sorts of other things that people have misconceptions about, because they’re slightly out of the mainstream but somehow a bit well-known. I’m tempted to blame the media..

Still, to any other parents of a newly-discovered-to-be-deaf child: things can work out so much better than you expect. Work on it. And the reality may be so much better than you expect.


  1. > most people think that rock climbers make their ascent by banging things into the rock… Iím tempted to blame the media.

    I blame that Bond film where Roger Moore does some rock-climbing that way. That’s my only reference for it.

    Which film was that?


  2. ‘Whatís odd, looking back, is how we completely didnít know about cochlear implants.’

    Couldn’t agree more – it comes with that faint tinge of embarrassment. Throughout the 90’s I was a biology teacher but there was no mention of cochlear implants in textbooks of any level. Clearly I wasn’t reading around enough – its a good job I gave it up!

    Now – my geeky CI dad questions

    How are things progressing with thoughts re: bilaterals and how is the Harmony strategy working out? Too early to tell?

  3. Charles

    Friday 13 April 2007 at 3:29 pm

    @Jason – bilaterals is on hold, probably for years: we don’t want to put him (and ourselves) through more hassle and upset.

    As for how the Harmony system works, well, it’s hard to know: we don’t have anything to compare it against. To know if it was working, you’d have to have one ear with and one without, which I think would struggle to get ethical backing on an infant. An adult at least can make an informed decision – and tell you whether it’s different.

  4. Hi Jason – Charles’s wife here. I think I’m probably the biggest reason we haven’t pushed bilaterals. Having one implant fitted nearly brought me to a nervous breakdown. But it really is all good. A little example: the other day we bumped into some old ladies at a local garden centre, and after ten minutes chatting, one said: “How old is he?” Two, I replied. “Oh, I wish my grandson was talking like him,” she said. “He’s two and a half and hardly says a thing”. It was a few moments before I realised she hadn’t noticed his implant.

  5. Hi Jojo

    Those are the most telling moments aren’t they? I recently posted a video on my blog showing where Tom has got to over the last year. If you can bear to sit thorugh the 7 minutes of grandparent-pleasing schmaltz I think you’ll find the last clip of Tom talking about the Three little pigs quite telling.

    And the bilateral thing? I understand completely – our perspective was somewhat skewed by what had come before. The surgery really did seem insignificant when compared to PICU & coma but of itself without that? Jeez…


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