Cochlear implants are tiny electronic devices embedded into the spiral of the cochlea (inner ear) in surgery that simplified in recent years. In Ireland over 600 children have implants, up from 360 children in December 2012.
NEWS – December 2013: HSE To Fund Bilateral Pediatric Cochlear Implants in Ireland
Information on cochlear implants in Ireland is available from:
- The National Cochlear Implant Programme at Beaumont Hospital.
- Helping Deaf Children To Hear And Talk – Beaumont’s family booklet.
- The ebook on this site, Teaching A Deaf Child To Hear And Speak … Perfectly.
- The Sound Advice website (right here) and Facebook page.
How Implants Work, and Who’s Eligible
Implants replace the function of the inner ear by sending sounds via electrical signals from an external device with a small microphone, directly to the hearing nerve and to the brain through a very thin wire called an electrode.
Deaf children can receive cochlear implants (CIs) from a very young age – ideally before the age of five, if spoken language has not been acquired. CIs are best for children with a severe to profound deafness in both ears.
Cochlear implants consist of both internally implanted and externally-worn components. The external parts are taken off at night when your child goes to sleep (like a hearing-aid) or engages in contact sports.
If a cochlear implant is not suitable for a child, an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) may be a viable alternative. In this video, a young girl aged 14 hears for the first time, with an ABI – which works for people who have no cochleas.
What Do Cochlear Implants Sound Like?
Try these audio clips, “what do cochlear implants and hearing aids sound like?“, and this cochlear implant simulation:
Benefits of Implants
Cochlear implants bring many benefits to children, while altering what ‘deaf‘ means as a term.
After a cochlear implant the real work begins, to teach sound-identification and actual words if a child did not hear these before surgery.
Research shows one language may be best for children with implants (to start with) but again – bilingual, spoken language can be acquired for home and school use.
Making The Decision
Reading balanced views about cochlear implants is important, with most parents tasked to make decisions on behalf of their very young children. In this case however, the twin boys made the decision for themselves.
One family in the US, made a film, ‘95 Decibels’ to explore the emotions families face when making decisions on behalf of a child who’s deaf. The family in this case chose a cochlear implant for their daughter, with the film telling their story.
Families can read these posts, “ What it feels like … to have a deaf child ” from UK-based broadcaster, Oliver Dennis, and Jennifer Rosner in the US, whose two girls speak, with digital hearing-devices and with bilateral cochlear implants.
Explaining Cochlear Implants To Children
Videos are brilliant for explaining cochlear implants to children, their friends, schoolmates and the wider community. There’s also a Cochlear Implant School Toolkit for families, teachers and children to learn about cochlear implants.
Books for children who wear cochlear implants with hearing-aids include the “My Brother John” series, while little girls with two cochlear implants will enjoy reading “Let’s Hear It For Almigal!”(Wendy Kupfer). The “Sophie’s Tales” books also present hearing – and cochlear implants – to young children and the adults around them.
Bilateral Cochlear Implants
Bilateral cochlear implants are officially a disruptive technology since wearers can hear simultaneously with both ears.
When parents are fully informed, the sky is the limit with bilateral cochlear implants, and it’s worth remembering children with implants progress over several years.
Several videos show teens and young people talking about their implants, like these siblings, plus these two sisters – and a boy, who proves speech-making is viable for born-deaf children. To learn more, have a look at these videos.
Living With Cochlear Implants
Press reports give real insights to life with cochlear implants. Two pieces from The Guardian are “Bionic Ears (for children) – Let’s Hear It For Cochlear Implants” and “Adult Cochlear Implants: Experts Call For Review” (March, 2014).
Life for one family with two cochlear implant-wearers is profiled in this piece, “New Windows on The World” from Ireland’s Sunday Business Post, in February 2014.
Cochlear implants are appreciated by their recipients and as the world learns about cochlear implants, bionic hearing will open to more children and adults.