According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, two to three of every thousand children born in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. Of those children, ninety percent of them are born to hearing parents.
As a hearing parent, raising a child with hearing loss can be a difficult task. Does he/she need a hearing aid? Cochlear Implant? Speech therapy? Should you teach your child sign language or maybe all of the above? It can seem like trying to decide the right course of action is impossible when you yourself don’t understand what your child is going through. That’s where a specialist at Pediatric ENT Associates can help. Our physicians have extensive training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and can work with families and children to decide which course of action is best for the child.
A cochlear implant isn’t right for every child. Whether or not a child should receive an implant depends on a variety of factors – the parent’s preference, the commitment level of the parent and the child and the level of child hearing loss.
Parental Preference for Hearing Loss Treatment
A cochlear implant can be an option for children and parents who are committed to the procedure and the therapy that comes after. It is a long commitment leading up to and after the surgery, so everyone needs to completely understand what is involved. Some parents decide they can commit to the child hearing loss surgery, speech therapy and follow-up visits post-surgery, while others decide it isn’t a good choice for their child. Some parents opt to teach their children sign language and forego a cochlear implant all together. This is often a good option for parents who don’t want to make the decision for their child. The child learns sign language at an early age and is later consulted on whether they would like the surgery or not. It’s all about the personal preference of the entire family.
The decision to have a cochlear implant procedure should not be entered into lightly. An implant requires not only a surgical implant into the cochlea, but it also requires speech and audio therapy on a weekly basis. In addition, follow-up visits with the physician are required for a year following the implant to assess the success of the procedure and check for any abnormalities. Finally, there is usually a large financial commitment involved, even with the help of insurance. So, the decision for a child to receive a cochlear implant needs to be considered carefully.
Level of Child Hearing Loss
Contrary to popular belief, a cochlear implant is not for everyone. Not only because of the aforementioned factors, but also because it is not beneficial to all types of child hearing loss. Many people believe implants work like hearing aids, and that is not the case. Hearing aids amplify sound. Cochlear implants transmit sound into signals so the brain can interpret what is being said. Children with severe to complete hearing loss, as either infants or in later stages of childhood, can benefit from an implant.
Children with partial hearing loss may find a hearing aid better suited to their needs, since hearing aids amplify sounds and could potentially allow the child to hear properly without undergoing surgery.
How to Find Out Your Child’s Hearing Needs
If it is unclear whether child hearing loss is severe, or if the parents are unsure which choice is best, they can visit a specialist for an evaluation. Even if the parents decide to go the route of a cochlear implant, the child would need to undergo extensive testing and evaluation before the surgery would take place. So, rest assured, a skilled pediatrician will make the final recommendations based on the best interest of the child.
Schedule an Appointment for a Cochlear Implant Consultation
If you feel that your child may benefit from a bionic ear, please contact Pediatric ENT Associates at (205) 831-0101. World-renowned pediatric ENT specialist Dr. Audie Woolley heads the cochlear implant program and will take the time to evaluate your child and explain everything that the process involves. We look forward to assisting you and your child.
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