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To Implant or Not To Implant a Child Who Has Never Been Amplified

Posted Aug 23 2008 11:47pm

Do you or do you not give the okay for a cochlear implant to a child over age 7 who has never been exposed to any form of amplification? Good question. My answer: NO. I spoke to an audiologist at the Gala Dinner of the NHS 2008 Conference and her answer was a resounding "Maybe." The gentleman sitting next to me, who worked for Advanced Bionics agreed with me.

We were discussing the case of a fourteen year old boy who really wanted a cochlear implant. He had excellent speechreading skills and signed, but had never worn hearing aids. His parents and this child, who really wanted a ci, approached this audiologist. Their reasoning for requesting the ci was not because they believed it would be an "instant fix," rather, the boy wanted to be exposed to sound. He wanted to know the "sound of sound." He wanted to be aware of background noise in the street, in restaurants: he wanted to "hear" music.

The audiologist assured me that the parents were provided with reasonable expectations, resources were provided and they were told again and again that their son would not acquire speech as he had never had access to the spoken word prior to the ci. I asked her if the parents had been given the contact information of other parents who had lived the same experience. She said, "No."

The parents told the audiologist again and again that they did not expect their child to speak...they were not expecting a "miracle."

I looked at the audiologist skeptically. Implanting a child who has never heard at age 14 will only be a delusion for that child and the family. That family, no matter how many pamphlets or how many doctors tell them that child will not speak...HOPES that their child will speak or they would NEVER go ahead with implantation on a fourteen year old Deaf child who signs.

The child received a cochlear implant.

Apparently, although the child is unable to decipher sentences and cannot speak, the child says that the ci assists him in speechreading and provides him with a certain tranquility with regard to environmental cues.

And the parents...???

They would like to know why their child still isn't speaking.
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