We're almost a year post-activation, and not a day goes by where I am thank God for the miracle of Christian's CI. I never thought in my wildest dreams that he would be doing as well as he is. I've learned over this year that Christian's progress is not typical. I've learned that he has surpassed many people's expectations. Geez, I went into this whole thing just hoping he would be able to hear things for safety's sake, and he's in my backyard pointing to his ear saying "Mommy, do you hear that fire engine", as it blows it's sirens at least 5 miles away. And while I am so happy, and so proud, it makes a difficult decision, even harder.
We're currently exploring possibly going bilateral with Christian (implanting his left ear). Currently, Christian is bimodal. He wears a hearing aid in his left ear, and his Cochlear Implant on his left. Christian was an exceptional hearing aid user, and his aided results get him into the 50-45db level. Over the past year, we've learned that his hearing aid complements his CI quite well, giving him some acoustic hearing along with the electrical hearing that he receives with his CI. We are absolutely certain that Christian has functional residual hearing in that ear, as he does respond to very loud voices/noises when just aided. We've also learned, that Christian hears in the 25-20db with his CI. That gives him full access to speech sounds. 25dbs makes a big difference when it comes to spoken language.
I can't help but wonder that if Christian is doing this well as a bimodal user, how would he do with both ears hearing in the 25-20db level? Surely having two ears with full access to speech sounds is better than just one, right? And, I have this recurring nightmare of Christian coming home from school with his hand over his right ear telling me it's broken. What happens when his right CI fails? I know it will. Maybe it will happen in 5th grade. Maybe it won't. What if it happens in college, during finals? Or on the baseball field in high school when he's on 2nd base? The reality is that something WILL happen to it within the next 18 years, and the fact that he doesn't have a back-up ear terrifies me. We use ASL in our home as a back-up language, something for the bath, for reinforcing concepts, and for times when his CI is off. We are committed to being an oral family, and our ASL use was never meant to be our primary form of communication. We use all of our energy to teach Christian his first language: spoken English. Christian will attend a mainstream school, thanks to his CI. If that fails, there is no way that he would be able to succeed in a mainstream classroom. I would have to pull my child out of school to deal with a failed implant.
There's not much research out there regarding situations like ours. I've read everything there is out there regarding bimodal vs. bilateral. I know the pros and cons. I know that for folks who don't get benefit out of their aid, that bilateral is the way to go. But what to do about my boy? My boy who does get SOMETHING out of his aid?
We have Christian's audiology team at both his implant center and his school on the case. We're working on speech perception testing. We're examining his localization abilities, and we're looking at all of his test scores. We're trying to compile everything we can to make an educated decision. While we know we don't have to rush, we also know that if we do chose to get the second implant, the sooner the better.
Just one more thing on my list of worries.