When we were first told our son Cooper was profoundly deaf, we were presented with an overwhelming amount of information, including the various options for long-term communication. 

As any parent in that position can attest to, it’s a lot to take in. In the midst of processing an unexpected diagnosis, you also have to begin making difficult decisions about what your child’s future will look like and how you would like them to communicate. That’s an enormous decision to make for another person, and one we didn’t take lightly. The medical professionals on our team did a great job providing us with all the options and educating us about them. These options included going over the details about cochlear implants for babies and using sign language as a primary form of communication.

What is a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices allow people with severe hearing loss the opportunity to have a renewed sense of sound. While not everybody is eligible for the surgery, the technology has provided a breakthrough for millions of people with hearing loss who wish to hear again. Implants have come a long way in terms of technology and acceptance by the hearing loss community since their debut in the 1980’s.

A main difference between a hearing aid and cochlear implant is that the latter has both internal and external components. It’s an electronic medical device for children and adults. Instead of using amplification like a hearing aid, CIs bypass the damaged part of the ear, and electrical stimulation is used to help you hear.

When we were deciding how to address our son’s hearing loss, we saw three options:

  1. Learn sign language and choose that as the primary way of communication with your child. 
  2. Determine if your child is a cochlear implant candidate and if they are, go that route with spoken language as the goal.
  3. Choose cochlear implants and spoken language but still incorporate American Sign Language (ASL).