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Who uses a cochlear implant?

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Would a cochlear implant be right for my child?

Every deaf child and young person who wears a cochlear implant is different. They come from different cultures, communities and backgrounds and from families who communicate in many different ways – some use speech only, some use sign language, and some use a combination of speech and sign language. However, they all have one thing in common – a permanent severe to profound hearing loss. In general, a child would be considered for an implant if:

  • they have shown little or no benefit from their hearing aids after several months
  • they have no medical conditions that would prevent them from having surgery
  • the family can attend the implant centre for essential tuning and follow-up sessions
  • they have local support from professionals and family members who are committed to using the implant system.
Is my child too young for a cochlear implant?

Most newborn babies now have a hearing screen performed shortly after birth. This means that children who are born deaf are being identified and fitted with hearing aids at a very young age. In general, the evidence suggests that the younger a child is when they receive their cochlear implant, the more likely they are to get the most benefit from the device. It is important to remember that it takes some time to find out the exact level of a child’s hearing loss and the benefit received from their hearing aids. The cochlear implant team and surgeon will discuss with you the potential risks and benefits when deciding when to perform the surgery. It is now common for children under the age of two years to have a cochlear implant and, increasingly, babies under six months of age are now implanted in Australia.

Older children and teenagers may also be candidates for cochlear implants. This includes those who have become deaf after learning to speak, for example following meningitis. It also applies to those who have a hearing loss that is getting worse and who now receive less benefit from their hearing aids. Some older children and teenagers may have been assessed for a cochlear implant when they were younger but found to have too much hearing when assessed against the guidelines in place at the time. As the guidelines have evolved over time, those children who use hearing aids consistently and mainly use spoken language to communicate may now be considered suitable candidates for reassessment.

Most young people who were given cochlear implants as young children, rely on and continue to use them into adulthood. It is important that teenagers are given up-to-date information about their cochlear implant system so that they can become independent in their understanding and care of the system and make informed choices about their own care.

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Information supplied by the National Deaf Children’s Society. Reproduced with permission.
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