What to Expect with a Cochlear Implant
What should children who have just gotten their cochlear implant expect? You can expect a lot of changes. After awhile you will get used to the new sound. The entire experience can probably be compared to a roller coaster ride. There are going to be high points and low points, but the journey will never stop being thrilling. I can guarantee they are not going to like everything they’ll hear. Parents and children also have to remember that how quickly one adjusts to a cochlear implant is different for everyone and to practice patience (although I know it is really hard to do!).
Jill Eckerly, Au.D., Audiologist
Why Children sometimes do not want to wear their hearing aids or cochlear implant
Sometimes there is a real physical reason why the child is pulling their hearing aids out. Maybe they have an ear infection and so adding the hearing aid to it is just more uncomfortable. We have seen many times that the kid will always for example, pull out the right hearing aid and it turns out they have had frequent ear infections in that right ear. Sometimes it’s typical toddler behavior and you need control the situation. I had another youngster several years ago who was at the time probably about three or four, and wore two hearing aids. All of a sudden, one day one hearing aid disappeared. The family had had landscapers come and put bark mulch around all the bushes and trees and she had been playing outside so they thought that somehow it had gotten mixed into the mulch. They had the landscapers come back and dig up the bark mulch, searching for the hearing aid. Well, it turned out she had actually buried the hearing aid in the yard because she thought it wasn’t working. They came in to see me a couple of months later and the child’s hearing had dropped significantly. She wasn’t hearing as well as she typically did so she thought, in her three year old mind, that she should just get rid of it.
Charlotte Mullen, M.A., Audiologist
Not wanting to wear hearing aids or FM system
If your child does not want to wear hearing aids, there is usually a reason. For younger children, it may be because the earmold hurts, the sound is too loud, or maybe not even loud enough. This is the child’s way of telling the parents, “Hey, something is not right!” If your child is older, resistance to wearing their listening device(s) may be because the child feels some stigma among peers at school. It may be a good idea for the child to do a presentation in the front of classmates about hearing loss and why the child wears hearing aids or has a cochlear implant. Children may appreciate being allowed to pick the colors of earmolds or hearing aid cases. Teens may also feel self conscious about their listening device. This may be a good time for them to take ownership of their hearing loss and spend time with their audiologist on their own to be given an opportunity to ask questions or address concerns they may not feel comfortable talking about in front of their parents.
Jill Eckerly, Au.D., Audiologist
Changing technology for hearing loss
I remember what it was like to struggle with high power analog hearing aids on babies with profound hearing loss. The hearing aids didn’t do much good compared to the access to sound that cochlear implants provide. What the young brain does with the imperfect stimulation provided by a cochlear implant is simply unbelievable. The first “sounds” may be intrusive but in no time the brain seems to develop a healthy addiction to the new sound sensations. To watch little faces open like blossoms when they enjoy hearing sounds gives great pleasure to audiologists. But we always want the technology to provide more detailed sound and better separation of voices from background noises. The greatest adjunct to the technology for hearing loss is to bathe the child in the sounds of language that are relevant to what he is doing or seeing at the moment. The parent’s greatest gift to the child is to “narrate” the child’s day and to honor the process of language interaction as it emerges from joint attention to true interchanges. Talk to your child, talk with your child, react as your child talks, teach him so much about how the language works that he will be able to understand it even when there is noise and he can only hear part of what is being said.
Marilyn Neault, PhD, CCC A, Audiologist
Developing a Strong Identity
There are many kids who feel like their hearing aids or cochlear implant are a part of who they are, the same way some kids will always draw a self portrait and have glasses on it. You know, Harry Potter you wouldn’t think of Harry Potter wearing contact lenses or hiding the fact that he wears glasses. There are many kids who see their “hearing helpers” as a part of their individual identity. There are many kids who see themselves as Deaf, and they are happy for it and proud of being Deaf. Having an accepting and affirming attitude within the family helps to prepare kids for anything. When kids are not too embarrassed to wear hearing aids, or a cochlear implant, or use sign language in public…when kids feel in their core they are completely “okay,” they’ll handle themselves well outside the family and in life.
Terrell Clark, Ph.D., Pediatric Psychologist