Here is a more detailed account of our recent "out of the booth" experience at the audiologist's.
In the past, Aiden's mapping appointments always started with him in the soundbooth - test lings, create audiogram based on his conditioned responses using pure tone audiometry (or sometimes warble tones), measure speech recognition (repeat for each CI separately, then together). Then head back to the audiologist's office and adjust CI programs based on new audiogram and parental feedback of ling checks, voice quality, spontaneous language use etc.
This appointment went more like this (I'll do my best to explain it, but let me preface by saying I am by far not a professional audiologist. I know enough about mapping to be dangerous and explain it to the best of my knowledge.)
- FIRST - changed maps based on Neural Response Telemetry. (background if you'd like: Aiden's implanted electrode arrays each contain 22 electrodes, each one delivering different loudness and pitch of sound to his auditory nerve then onto the brain. The NRT provides an objective measure of how his auditory nerve responds to the electrical stimulation produced by each electrode. This provides the audiologist with initial programming parameters.)
- I had learned from another audiologist that they typically see a common shape on the maps based on NRTs.
- Aiden's "old" map on his right CI was very similar to this said "commonality", and to his NRT. There were no neural responses in the high frequencies (in which she calmed me down after a brief mom freakout and helped me understand that just because there isn't a response to some electrodes, doesn't mean he isn't hearing the sound - in fact on his right CI, there were only THREE responses out of the 22 electrodes. She reassured me that this in not uncommon and that older CI patients reiterate they still hear sounds where electrodes show no response). So, based on our personal observations and his audiogram from JTC (30db@4000hz), she increased high frequencies too.
- For his left CI, there were more drastic differences in his old map vs. this commonality AND his NRT results, especially in the low and high frequencies. We did see a lot more responses across all frequencies from this NRT, which went hand in hand with this "common" map shape I was told about. His lows here were very sporadic and were made more "fluid" and the mid and high frequencies were both increased.
- AFTER, changes were made based on NRTs, we talked to Aiden about things sounding "too soft", "good" (thumbs up!), or "too loud", and we showed him a picture of monkeys demonstrating each. She would then bump up his levels, across the board, little by little. I was very apprehensive of this, as he is only 3 1/2 years old, and wasn't quite sure he completely understood what kind of response we were looking for. Low and behold, he seemed to be pretty on target instead of all over the board with just "choosing" whichever monkey. After a couple increases, he would immediately cover his ears and say, "it's too loud". Very small changes were made based on this.
- FINALLY, she tested him based on his phonemic awareness that ranged across all the frequencies for each CI. For example, he had to imitate back /p/, /t/, /k/, /d/, /g/, /b/, /m/, /n/, /f/, /s/, /sh/, /v/, /z/, /ch/, /dg (j)/, /y/, /l/, /r/, /h/, /l/ and all long and short vowel sounds, including diphthongs. (all the sounds noted are listed as you and I know them - not as a speech pathologist writes them ; ) )
- With his right CI, he repeatedly imitated /k/ as /p/, /f/ as /s/, and /g/ as /d/. After making a few adjustments, he said each one pretty darn perfect.
- With his left CI, he repeatedly imitated /f/ as /p/, /g/ as /d/, /p/ as /t/, /k/ as /t/, and he was very closed mouth with the short i and e. Again, after adjustments, he was saying each one beautifully!
- /v/ was hard on both sides and we couldn't get him to imitate it, but at one point he was pretty close. We also could not get him to reproduce /n/ for the life of us (kept reproducing it as /m/; they overlap each other on the speech banana), but he does not seem to confuse them in his speech (besides the word "milk", which he says "nilk"), which we'll keep watching.
After four days with his new map, I still see very good changes in his speech, but he still sounds very jumbled when putting more than two or three words together. Even though his technology definitely needed a good tune-up, he still has motor planning challenges, which is why we will continue on strong with OT. As Aiden strengthens and overcomes his praxis challenges, we should also start to see an increase in his conversational speech. I think this is going to be a GREAT year for him!