After weeks of relative quiet on the hearing front, today we had another big day!
Today, Eliza, Fiona and myself visited Fiona’s Cochlear Implant surgeon for the first time. Armed with a well researched and thoroughly documented list of 10+ questions (printed in hard copy mind you), we were ready to rock this appointment. The doctor didn’t leave disappointed .
Doctor Brian Hermann is one of the most experienced CI surgeons in the country, and (word of mouth has it) the top CI doctor in Atlanta. He’s been performing CI procedures over 10 years, and has “high hundreds” of CI procedures under his belt. His demeanor was very professional, patient and accommodating so we were well at ease with the discussion. We learned quite a bit, but more importantly we were able to talk through Fiona’s upcoming timetable.
Dr. Hermann has done procedures on infants as young as 10 months, sometimes younger if medical conditions warrant. With infants, the younger you get them implanted, the better the chance they have of normalized speech development – but if you go too young, the bone density of their skull is not hard enough to safely support the procedure.
FDA approval in the US is currently at 12 months, but many doctors have been safely performing the surgery in the US and abroad as young as 9 months old for many years now. Dr. Hermann sees 10 months as his sweet spot.
Eliza and I have long been in favor of “earlier is better”, provided its medically safe to do so. All the research and discussions we’ve had indicate 10-12 months is desirable. Given this discussion with Dr. Hermann, we were able to go ahead and book a surgery date. Fiona will be 10 months old on March 1, 2014, so we chose the first opening after that…
Friday, March 7, 2014!
For safety reasons (disruptive to inner ear balance, infant under anesthesia a long time, etc.), Dr. Hermann strongly recommends only implanting one ear per surgery, so we’ll be doing the first ear on March 7th, and the second ear about 2 months later in the May 2014 time frame.
About 1 month after the first surgery (April 2014 timeframe), her implant will be “activated” and she will hear her first moments of sound at that point. You bet your ass I will be filming and blogging that moment. (see my old post “waking up to sound” for a taste of that experience).
Of courese we are told not to expect miracles out of the gate – advances will start out slow and ramp up as they increase signal over the months to come. Still, its very exciting to think about the possibilities!
Some other “lessons learned” from our chat with the doctor today:
- We will need to select a Cochlear Implant model by early February. I’ve blogged about this topic quite a bit, but its still a big decision. Apparently the latest “Cochlear” model (see my last blog) has had some problems so they are not implanting that model. We are leaning towards Advanced Bionics because it has a waterproof version, but haven’t 100% made up our mind yet. More research to come.
- The surgery lasts about 2 hours, but Fiona will need to stay in the hospital overnight. For the next month, risk of ear infection is very high so we need to watch that closely. After the skin heals properly, the activation event will occur. This will happen before her second implant procedure is done. (most likely in April 2014 timeframe).
- The new Advanced Bionics model also has a version of the implant that is less destructive to the existing auditor nerve, meaning the procedure does not knock out as much of the existing hearing. Since Fiona doesn’t have much existing hearing this is likely a non-concern, but its still good to know in case our understanding of hearing changes down the road, which we all know is very possible. I may do a more detailed blog about that down the road.
All in all an exciting day and we’re looking forward to the future. And since I’m overdue for a recent baby picture, here’s Fiona today (at 5 1/2 months) waiting in the lobby…