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Cochlear Implant

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Updated June 27, 2014

Cover of The Parents' Guide to Cochlear Implants

Cover of The Parents' Guide to Cochlear Implants

Photo Courtesy of PriceGrabber
Are you considering a cochlear implant for yourself, or for your child? I have a cochlear implant myself, and the About.com Deafness site has information about cochlear implants that covers qualifying for an implant, preparing to get an implant, preparing for surgery, life after an implant.

Meeting Criteria for an Implant

Do you or your child meet the criteria for receiving a cochlear implant? The basic criteria usually is:
  • A severe hearing loss
  • Little to no benefit from hearing aids
  • Willingness to work hard to receive maximum benefit from an implant (for older children and adults)

Improved technology has expanded the number of people who qualify for a cochlear implant. However, not everyone can qualify for a cochlear implant.

Preparing for an Implant

When considering an implant, learn the basics, learn how an implant works, and understand all the costs involved. If time permits, you may even wish to learn about the history of the cochlear implant. Next, move beyond the basics:
  • Although opposition to implants in the deaf community is less than it once was, it is important to listen to the viewpoints of both sides. In addition, there was once a controversial court case involving foster children and cochlear implants.
  • Check with your insurance company for coverage of implants, and/or post-implant therapy. If there is no coverage, you can try to convince your insurance company to cover it. Implant manufacturers or implant teams may be able to help. The January/February 2003 issue of Hearing Loss: The Journal of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People had an article, "Cochlear Implants and Insurance Reimbursement." Note: Medicare does cover implants.
  • If there is no insurance coverage, and all efforts to obtain coverage have failed, you may have to become a fund-raiser as some parents have done. In that case, you will need to research fund-raising and available sources of help.
  • Learn what can happen after an implant surgery, such as extrusion and infection.
  • Learn what is involved in cochlear implant surgery, familiarize yourself with its risks, however small, and the possible side effects. In addition, learn about post-surgical care.
  • Make sure your expectations are realistic based on the age of the implant recipient and other factors. Implant recipients are still deaf and when an implant is turned off, the implantee is deaf.
  • Read my cochlear implant story, or the stories of others like Tammy and Albert who have had implants. Talk to others who have had implants, or parents of children with implants. If you are an adult considering a cochlear implant for yourself, you may wan to read advice from About visitors for adults considering cochlear implants. Research the outcome for implantees with similar conditions.
  • Know what to expect at activation time. It is normal for a young baby to react by crying or otherwise being upset because of the strange noises in their heads.
  • Investigate a single implant versus a bilateral implant, particularly for a child.
  • Research the implant manufacturers (Cochlear, Advanced Bionics, and Med-El) and check to see what their record of malfunctioning is.
  • Research implant programs at implant centers and find the one you feel is the best for you.
  • If you have the time, read books on cochlear implants. There are cochlear implant reference books, books about people's experiences with implants, and even children's books on cochlear implants.
  • Prepare for the financial cost of maintaining an implant by learning where to buy batteries for the cochlear implant (if batteries are not provided by insurance).

Prepare for surgery

After implantation

  • After your child has had their implant for awhile, it may become clearer what type of educational services are needed. Perhaps an oral deaf education program, or a total communication program in a school for the deaf or program for the deaf, will meet your child's needs. If you choose a mainstream program, your child's teacher may not be familiar with deafness and cochlear implants. If that is the case, About.com has guidelines for teachers of deaf children with cochlear implants.
  • Join the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation or start a chapter in your area.
  • If you don't know sign language, consider learning it because even though you can now hear well with an implant, when the implant is turned off, you will still be deaf and need to be able to communicate.
  • Implantees can play sports, with a few restrictions.
  • Relax and enjoy the implant and be patient, especially for older recipients. Progress comes with time as you learn to hear with the implant.
  • Commit yourself to working hard with the post-implant therapy. This auditory training therapy is essential for maximizing the benefit from the implant. Note: Some insurance companies will not pay for therapy, or will provide only limited therapy coverage.
  • Consider doing a web page about your cochlear implant experience, so that others can benefit from your experience.

The Rest of Your Life as an Implantee

  • There may be future surgeries if there is a problem, or the technology changes and you need or decide that you want an improved version of your implant's internal parts.
  • One thing that I discovered with my own implant, is that electrodes can die, as described in my blog posting, "Sorry, Your Electrodes Are Dead."
  • Maps for the implant's speech processor may need to be changed.
  • Speech processors may need to be upgraded or even replaced.
  • Eventually, the cochlear implant itself may need to be replaced because cochlear implants, like any prosthetic part, have a limited lifespan.
  • When I travel now, because of my implant, I have to ask to be wanded by security instead of going through the scanning machines.

Readers Respond: Advice for Adults Considering Cochlear Implants

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