Usually if a child has hearing difficulties they will be noticed very early in their lives. This means a plan of action can be out in place to help them receive the best medical care in order to live their lives as normally as possible. There are varying degrees of deafness and many children use hearing aids to help them hear and participate in life. They also become adept at sign language, which can help them significantly with understanding and participation. However, there are a few children that even the most powerful hearing aids cannot help. These are the children that may be considered for cochlear implants.
What Is A Cochlear Implant?
It is a special device that helps converts sound into an electrical signal that vibrates or stimulates the auditory nerve. During the surgical procedure it is installed into the back of the head (close to the). It helps a person who has severe deafness. The brain begins to interpret the signals and gives meaning to them allowing a person to hear speech.
Does A Cochlear Implant Cure Deafness?
Cochlear implants do not cure deafness. A child with a cochlear implant will need a lot of support from family and medical professionals in order to give them the best chance. Children that have cochlear implants fitted will still be deaf, but their condition will be more akin to severely deaf, rather than profoundly deaf.
When To Consider A Cochlear Implant
There is a lot of debate about cochlear implants in children, which is why it is best to consult a Pediatric ENT specialist before making a final decision. If your child has a very early diagnosis of profound deafness, then installing a cochlear implant between the ages of 1 and 4 years can help them acquire language and speech skills more naturally through hearing. If your child is older and has been using hearing aids, but you feel these have been ineffective at best, then your Pediatric ENT specialist may decide that a cochlear implant is the best way forward. They may also suggest other alternatives, if any are available.
Assessment For Suitability
Your child will need to be assessed for suitability for a cochlear implant. The assessment will generally include:
- Conventional hearing aids: Have these given any benefit, and have they been tried for long enough.
- Any other medical condition: If your child has any other medical condition then this will need to be taken into account before consideration for the surgery can be contemplated.
- Is the family in full support: Your child will need the help of as many people as possible and if all the family is not in support of the idea of a cochlear implant and committed to the process, follow-up program and educational support, then this is an area for discussion.
- Attend long-term program: Once a cochlear implant has been installed then your child will need to be monitored closely and have long-term involvement with a team to help them develop their hearing to its most efficient.