Today is Maliah’s half-year hearing anniversary. Six months ago her cochlear implants were activated and she heard sound for the first time.
We’ve seen a lot of progress since then. Some days (or weeks) it feels slow, but when we actually stop and put things in perspective, she’s doing really well. People sometimes ask, “Is she talking yet?” It will be a while before we see that, I think. She may be more than two but hearing-wise, she’s six months old. So it’s not really a big deal that she’s still only making vowel sounds – “oooh” and “aaaah” all day long.
But she’s definitely picking things up. She’ll stop and listen a lot more now. She’ll freeze and then go looking for the sound if she hears the doorbell, or the vacuum cleaner, or other noises that catch her attention.
She absolutely loves music, which blows my mind. People with cochlear implants don’t hear the same range of frequencies that people with full hearing do, so they experience music differently and everything sounds more processed. I imagine it’s like hearing the entire world in Auto-Tune. But Maliah will come running from other rooms to listen to music. She likes to stand directly in front of speakers and feel the vibrations as well as hear the sound.
She’s definitely recognizing certain words too. If I tell her “No” in a serious tone of voice, she’ll actually stop what she’s doing… for about three seconds. Then she’ll watch me and try to gauge if I’ll stop her from committing whatever misdeed she’s attempting (usually trying to heave a toy down the front stairs).
In other words, she’s pushing her limits, which is actually a positive step. It’s another sign of how she’s interacting more. She’s actually looking for a reaction, which is a big thing. The other night she had something that Gideon wanted, and for a while he chased her around the kitchen trying to get it back (while yelling at her the whole time). When he stopped, she walked over to him, poked him, and then took off again so he’d come after her. With any of the other kids we’d get annoyed with them for deliberately provoking their siblings, but with Maliah this was a landmark development.
She’s reaching out to communicate more. Not with words, but she will take us by the hand and lead us directly to what she wants. There were three or four times today when she came and got me and I realized right away what she wanted. That’s a neat development too.
And one of the biggest things is she likes hearing now. For months, she cried every time we turned on her implants in the morning. But she rarely does that anymore. And she’ll throw a temper tantrum if her units come off (which usually happens when Gideon mauls her). In the mornings she gets restless if we wait too long to “turn her on.”
We’re so lucky that we have a great team of specialists who work with Maliah regularly, but my wife deserves a lot of the credit too. On top of everything else—like homeschooling and juggling naps and changing a zillion diapers—Shawna sits with Maliah every day and deliberately works with her on learning various sounds and training her how to respond. (Xander, our oldest, calls it “Maliah’s homeschooling.”) It’s a daily process that sometimes feels frustrating but is definitely paying off. We’re seeing Maliah grow in her listening and communicating skills all the time.