Cochlear Implant Pros and Cons for Children
Most assistive hearing devices work by amplifying sound. Hearing aids, for example, help boost auditory signals – allowing more information to reach the brain for processing. And with proper fitting and training, these devices can help with the user’s hearing ability.
Cochlear implants work a little differently.
These electronic devices bypass the ear’s infrastructure entirely – stimulating the auditory nerve responsible for transmitting sound.
In other words, information is sent directly to the brain for processing.
Suitable for both children and adults, cochlear implants are ideal for those with severe or total hearing loss. Sound amplification via traditional hearing aids isn’t usually an option for those who meet this profile.
However, it is important you understand some of the potential drawbacks and considerations – particularly when outfitting children with cochlear implants.
What Are the Cons of Cochlear Implants?
Arguably the biggest consideration is that cochlear implants require undergoing surgery. Fortunately, the procedure is very safe. But as with all medical interventions and treatments, there are certain risks.
The most common side effects include:
- Facial paralysis
These side effects manifest on a case-by-case basis. And they’re almost always temporary. In addition, some patients have negative reactions to the anesthesia used during the procedure.
Below are additional considerations worth weighing before moving forward.
1. Cochlear Implant Results Can Vary
Because each cochlear implant wearer is unique, every child does not receive the same benefit:
- For the majority, cochlear implants provide a much larger range of sound processing and auditory awareness.
- For others, the change is minimal – providing very little direct benefit.
2. Hearing Improvement Isn’t Automatic
Although cochlear implants can improve a child’s hearing ability, it takes time and training for the brain to begin connecting “new” sounds with their significance. This process can be especially difficult for children who lack the vocabulary, experience, and context to make sense of auditory information which is why it’s important for the child to be enrolled in a program with trained professionals like CCHAT.
However, it’s possible to speed up the acclimation process through:
- Aural habilitation in which users are guided through training and therapy exercises after the procedure is complete.
- Full immersion in auditory-rich environments – complete with new sounds, situations, and challenges.
3. Cochlear Implants Are Sometimes Stigmatized
Not everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing views their condition as a “disability” that merits medical intervention. Instead, they identify as a minority cultural group for whom hearing doesn’t play a central role in their daily lives.
They often regard cochlear implants as an elective, non-essential surgery that betrays these cultural values.
4. Cochlear Implants Can Be Pricey
This type is assistive hearing technology isn’t cheap – with average costs ranging from $30,000 to $50,000.
However, most insurance providers and government-sponsored plans cover the full cost – including any ongoing therapy.
What Are the Pros of Cochlear Implants?
Before diving into the benefits, it’s important to establish that cochlear implants can never fully replace normal hearing. These assistive devices can only help improve one’s hearing – not restore it completely.
But any improvement – even a mild one – can still make a huge difference especially when the child is enrolled in a committed hearing program like CCHAT.
Most users report some or all of the following benefits:
- Increased hearing capabilities, which makes it easier to follow conversations and communicate with friends and family members.
- An ability to pick up on different types of sounds – including signals in both the softer and louder regions of the auditory spectrum. In fact, many users report hearing doorbells, car horns, and other “everyday” noises for the first time in their lives. Others are able to make and receive phone calls.
- Enhanced opportunities to participate in a broader range of learning environments – without requiring outside assistance.
- A deeper appreciation of music – with some cochlear implant wearers eventually learning how to create music entirely on their own.
- An ability to understand speech through active listening – without relying on lip-reading or other visual cues.
Because of these potential benefits, cochlear implants continue to grow in popularity worldwide. In just the United States alone, an estimated 96,000 Americans currently rely on this assistive hearing technology.
Are Cochlear Implants a Good Option for Your Child?
Although this technology can help improve hearing, not everyone is an ideal candidate for cochlear implants.
During the diagnostic assessment and throughout our programs, your child and family will have access to our team consisting of highly trained speech language pathologists, audiologists, teachers of the deaf, audiologists, and other medical professionals. Our team’s shared commitment to providing a complete network of services to help your child use their cochlear implant(s) allows them to achieve their greatest potential.
If you’d like to learn whether cochlear implants can help improve your child’s hearing, schedule an evaluation with us today.