Making the Decision for Children
When a child is diagnosed with profound hearing loss, the family must decide how to address the child’s fundamental communication needs. Options might include American Sign Language (ASL), manually coded English (MCE) which is English-based sign language, Total Communication which is a combination of sign and spoken/auditory communication, or strictly oral/aural communication which is speaking and listening. Auditory options include using hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or simply foregoing any type of amplification and raising the child as part of the Deaf culture.
For many children with severe-to-profound hearing loss, hearing aids may not provide adequate benefit even after extensive experience and auditory training. Families arrive at the point of considering a cochlear implant at various stages in a child’s development. Each child presents with a unique background and circumstances that can impact the child’s potential to benefit from the device. Factors that can affect benefit with an implant include duration of deafness, length of hearing aid use or other amplification, family and educational support, and whether the child already has some system of communication in place. Families are encouraged to speak with audiologists, speech language pathologists, educators, physicians, and/or counselors who are familiar with the cochlear implant process. Families also are encouraged to talk with parents of children who have received cochlear implants, as well as members of the Deaf community. Active participation in this process is critical to making an informed decision for your child in regard to a cochlear implant.
Making the Decision for Adults
For many adults with significant hearing loss, hearing aids may not provide adequate benefit. They may find understanding speech to be extremely difficult, even in a quiet room or within a small group. Adults with severe to profound hearing loss who do not benefit from appropriately fit amplification may benefit from a cochlear implant. Each potential recipient has a unique background and set of circumstances that can impact his or her potential to benefit with the device. Factors that can affect benefit with an implant include duration of deafness, length of hearing aid use or other amplification, and individual motivation. Another important factor that can affect cochlear implant benefit is the age at which hearing loss was acquired. An adult who developed normal speech and language skills early in life and acquired hearing loss later in life is likely to perform better with a cochlear implant than an adult recipient who has acquired hearing loss prior to the development of speech and language. Potential recipients and their families often have varied degrees of information regarding cochlear implantation and the expected outcomes and are therefore encouraged to speak with audiologists, physicians, and/or counselors who are familiar with the cochlear implant process. Individuals interested in pursuing cochlear implantation are also encouraged to talk with other individuals who have received cochlear implants. Active participation in this process is critical to making an informed decision in regard to a cochlear implant.
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