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Navigating Your Child's Cochlear Implant Journey: Ensuring a Sound Start

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

This blog post is a guest post by Dr. Kelsey Kerkhove. Read more about Dr. Kerkhove here.

The day your child's cochlear implant is turned on marks a big milestone in their journey towards hearing and communicating. It can be an emotional moment filled with anticipation, hope, and excitement. This blog post will guide you through the essential steps involved in this process, from fitting and programming to activation and adaptation, along with essential terminology to guide you through this journey. Understanding these steps will help you support your child's transition into the world of sound.

Keywords to Help Understand Cochlear Implants:

Before we dive into the critical steps, let's familiarize ourselves with some key terms related to cochlear implants:

1. Processor: The processor is the external piece that is worn on your child's head. The processor has microphones that pick up sound from the environment and send the sound or the signal to the implant.

2. Implant: A cochlear implant consists of the receiver, the internal magnet, and the electrode. The electrode is surgically embedded in the cochlea, an important part of the ear responsible for hearing. The implant decodes incoming sound from the processor and sends this information to the electrode within the cochlea.

3. Electrode: The electrode is a small, implanted device that is responsible for decoding different sounds based on pitch or frequency. It serves as the bridge between the implant and the auditory nerve.

4. Auditory Nerve: This auditory (or hearing) nerve picks up the electrical signals generated by the electrodes and relays that information to the brain, where it is interpreted as sound. It's the essential link that enables your child to perceive and process sound.

5. Impedance: Checking impedances is an essential part of managing cochlear implants. This test assesses how effectively electricity travels through the various components of the implant. It ensures that everything is functioning correctly.

6. MAPS: This refers to the personalized programming within your child's cochlear implant device. MAPS fine-tunes the implant's settings to ensure that your child can hear sounds clearly and comfortably.

7. Activation: Activation is a monumental step in your child's cochlear implant journey. It's the moment when your child's cochlear implant is turned on for the first time. During activation, the external processor communicates with the internal implant, allowing your child to hear sound. This step marks the beginning of your child's hearing journey!

Steps for When Your Child's Cochlear Implant is Turned On:

Now, let's dive into the specific steps involved when your child's cochlear implant is turned on:

1. Fitting: Your child will be fitted with their processor, the external portion of the cochlear implant system. The audiologist will carefully determine the appropriate magnet strength to ensure the processor stays securely in place. Typically, this fitting occurs 2 to 4 weeks post-surgery or once your child is cleared by their ENT specialist.

2. Programming (aka Mapping): Your child's processor will be connected to a computer, initiating communication with the implant. This is the moment when your little one will start to hear sounds. The audiologist will gradually increase the volume for specific sounds, representing different pitches or frequencies. This customization ensures your child's hearing experience is tailored to their unique needs.

3. Activation: Your audiologist will 'activate' your child's cochlear implant by turning on the microphones of their processor. This is the moment when your child will be able to hear your voice for the first time - have your camera ready! Reactions can vary from smiling, crying, eye widening, and turning toward sound. Every child reacts differently but any reaction is usually a good reaction!

4. Adaptation: To help your child adapt and adjust to the new sounds, your audiologist will add four different programs (or maps) that gradually increase in volume. These programs allow your child to adjust to hearing various sounds over time. Over the next several weeks, you can adjust the programs as your child gets used to hearing more sounds.

In this blog post, we've not only explored the critical steps of cochlear implant fitting, programming, activation, and adaptation but also gained a deeper understanding of the essential terms associated with this technology.

As you continue on this path with your child, remember that it's not just a journey toward sound; it's a journey toward a world of possibilities. Each day will bring new sounds, discoveries, and milestones, and all should be celebrated!

Along with your audiologist, speech pathologist, and other members of your child’s hearing healthcare team, you'll play an essential role in guiding your child toward a life filled with so many new connections!

By providing your child the gift of hearing with cochlear implants, you are unlocking a world filled with laughter, music, dancing, and the voices of loved ones. This journey may have its challenges, but remember small steps lead to big results!

Learn more about Dr. Kelsey Kerkhove

I’m Dr. Kelsey, a pediatric audiologist with a passion for family-centered care.

I’ve seen firsthand the roller coaster of emotions that parents feel when they find out their child has a hearing loss. I want you to know that no matter where you’re at in this journey, I’m here to support you.

When I say there are no limits to what your child can achieve with hearing loss, I mean it. I completed my Clinical Doctorate in Audiology at Purdue University and my pediatric residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. I currently work at a large medical center in Los Angeles, CA, and my background is in early diagnosis and intervention. I have supported countless kids as they accomplish goals of all kinds—from learning multiple languages to playing sports and pursuing their academic dreams! I’m here to help you navigate your child’s hearing journey. So you and your little one both get the support you need to thrive.

You can find more information or connect with me at:

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