Thursday, May 12, 2011

Worth Another Try

When Ronnie was 4 years old, eleven years before I would adopt him, he received cochlear implants. When he joined my family, he still had the implants but none of the external processor parts. The few times he talked about the implants, he would say that he didn’t like them – that they were way too loud.

Personally, I have never been an advocate for implanting every deaf child. I don’t see deafness as a disability but rather a cultural state. I have never suggested that any other family not get an implant for their child, but for my family, it didn’t seem the right choice.

But now Ronnie is saying he wants to try his implants again.

Although I have no records from the time he was 4 years old, my belief is that there was little to no follow-up after his initial implantation. And, based on what I have read, follow-up is key to success with cochlear implants. So I wonder if now, with appropriate follow-up, implants could be of some benefit to him.

I contacted the doctor who did his implants at age 4. I spoke with both the doctor and the doctor’s audiologist. They gave me the contact information for ordering the external parts Ronnie would need, but then really tried hard to discourage even trying the implants again.

They said understanding and using speech would not be possible at age 16 – that all language development occurred by age 5. They said he might be able to hear some environmental sounds, but they wondered if that would be worth it to him.

Since then, I talked to Ronnie, to his teacher, to 2 speech therapists, and to an interpreter, and the overall opinion is that trying again would be a positive thing. It’s true that he won’t use speech and will still use sign language, but that he could hear some things that everyone believes he would really like to hear, most notably music.

So today I am calling the manufacturer of his specific implant and ordering the pieces we are missing. Since we will be relying on Medicaid to fund this, it may take a while. In the meantime, I would like to hear opinions from people who were implanted (or had their implants turned on) when they were older.

What were the challenges? What did you do to overcome those challenges? Do you still use your cochlear implants, or did you decided after trying that it wasn’t for you? And anything else you can think of…..

1 comment:

Dalia said...

I'm deaf, and because alot of my family are too, we've never really thought about implants. I have a cousin who lost his hearing at 22ish but he's not crazy on ASL.I have friend who got one in his 30's and with a lot of hard work he learned to hear (he had min base line hearing) but it was hard work, but he treasures it.