Friday, March 1, 2013

Still Here/Hear! Travelling, Reading and FM Systems

Waiting for our plane to arrive

My older daughter pointed out last week that I haven't blogged since October!  I really didn't have much to blog about that would really interest anybody.  However, I have lots of news and new experiences I would love to share.


My husband and I travelled with Lauren and Ava to Mexico last month.  It was Ava's first airplane trip with her CI's.  I put all of Ava's CI stuff in my carry-on:  charger, zephyr drying box, personal audio cable, rechargeable and disposable batteries, remote.  I didn't say anything to the security staff.  Just left it all in my carry-on bag and it went through the x-ray machines no problem.  Ava walked through the security x-ray no problem either. I didn't point out her CI's or anything.  I had her CI identity cards with me in case they asked about her equipment but they did not.  (I have never had to inform security about my hearing aids/accessories before so I didn't feel the need to bring up Ava's CI's.  While on the plane, Ava was able to listen to the aircraft's radio using Cochlear's personal audio cable.  She also was able to watch movies on the iPad using the personal audio cable which connects her processor directly to the iPad.   Lauren has the music links by tech ear for her hearing aids so she was able to watch the movies together with Ava using the same port (my husband bought a dual earphone splitter from Best Buy so they could both hear the movie at the same time using their different devices).
Ava listening to music with her
Personal Audio Cable

Ava checking out emergency
flight procedures
Getting ready to snorkel

Chillaxin with a virgin strawberry daiquiri

Girls with their new braids
The trip was fantastic.  Ava snorkeled out to the reef with us (we practiced in the pool first), swam and played at the waterpark.  We left one of her processors on at the water park - she splashed about, went down the waterslides, dunked her head in the water and even stood under waterfalls with no problem leaving the processor on.  We fastened the cable to her hair using a claw-like clip so that the processor wouldn't fall off and get lost.  We plan to purchase Cochlear's waterproof bags this summer for swimming in the pool.  Hopefully she will be more receptive to this as she didn't like using the aLoksak bags.  Ava also wanted to get her hair braided.  She had the half head version so that her coils would still be able to stay on her head.


Ava's  Student of the Month photo

 Ava is doing very well with her reading.  A video clip of her reading is HERE .    I am so proud of her!  In the clip she keeps asking me if I'm "taking her picture" as she doesn't like to be photographed.  While I'm taping her with my cellphone, I had to keep reassuring her I wasn't taking a picture (ok, I was taking a video, not a photo - not the same thing - if I admitted I was videotaping her, she never would have read for me on camera - so yes I sheepishly admit, I had to tell my daughter a "little white lie" to get her to read on film)


Ava has been struggling to hear in her new all-day kindergarten classroom.  Her classroom is the worst possible imaginable set-up for a child with a hearing loss.  Her school built a new addition to accommodate three new full-day kindergarten classes of 90 children.  These three classrooms are side by side and separated merely by a wall between each of them that does not meet the ceiling.  There are no doors separating these classrooms from one another.  It is a total acoustical nightmare.  When one class is singing, the other class will join in.  With Ava's classroom being the middle room sandwiched between two outer classes totalling 60 rambunctious 4 and 5 year olds, the background noise coming in from both classrooms into Ava's room is overwhelming.  The hearing kids even struggle to stay focused.  Ava received a soundfield at the beginning of the school year but it just was not working well enough for her.  Her TOD saw all the signs that she was not hearing well.  She would tune out during story time and was not participating in class discussions.  She could not follow teacher instructions and seemed lost, uninterested and distracted.  There were also some slight behaviour concerns.  And Ava was absolutely miserable and exhausted by the day's end.   I did some research and felt that Ava would benefit greatly from a personal FM system.  I had my reservations about a personal FM system for Ava since she is only 4 years old and would not be a good reporter if something were to go wrong with the FM.  I also had reservations about using the MYlink neckloop system, which is favoured by the school board since it's cost-effective.  The MYlink neckloop can be wonky, Ava hates having her telecoils switched on as she cannot stand the constant buzzing sound from electro-magnetic interference and I was worried about safety with having something around her neck that can be whacked at other kids or pulled on by 29 little kindergarteners in her class.  We had a meeting at the school with the Vice-Principal, TOD, Ava's classroom teacher and the educational audiologist to discuss solutions for Ava.  I wanted Ava to receive Phonak's ML14i receivers which are WAY better than the neckloop system.  I armed myself with research supporting the benefits of the receivers vs. neck loop - some of the advantages are: no electromagnetic interference buzzing, better sound quality, better speech intelligibility in noise, better dynamic capability and better signal to noise ratio than the neck loop.  You just plug the small receivers into her processors and that's it.  No remote to fuss with.  However, the receivers are more expensive than the neck loop system.  It just so happened that the educational audiologist had in her office two ML14i receivers on hand and Ava could have them! The following week, the board audiologist and Ava's TOD came to the school with the new receivers.  It took some coaxing for Ava to agree to let them touch her processors, let alone wear the receivers.  But after some bribery and little tricks, Ava finally let them put the receivers on.  Let me tell you that a couple hours later, Ava's teacher personally called me on the phone with these words..."I don't believe it but it's like you have a different child....." Ava participated in the classroom discussion, answered questions, was totally focused during story time etc etc.  I was so freaking relieved.  And to think of what she has missed these last 6 months of school.  I should note that Ava remains on par with her peers academically; but had we left things the way they were, she surely would have fallen behind both academically and socially.  We can now breathe a little easier and sleep at night rest assured that finally, she can hear at school.