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What you should know about my son’s cochlear implant

common cochlear implant questions

I am constantly being flooded with questions about Harry’s cochlear implant.

Whilst I am so happy and comfortable answering them, I know that some parents of children with hearing technology find it hard to talk about or explain to someone about them. Especially those whom have never had experience with a cochlear implant user before.

In this post I am going to cover common questions I am asked, and tell you the best way that I answer them!

It is also a good idea to help your child address and answers these questions as they get older, as they are inevitably going to face the exact same interest from their peers.

Are you still a deaf person if you have a Cochlear Implant? 

Yes. Harry is and always will be a deaf person. A cochlear implant or hearing aid is not a cure for hearing problems. It’s similar to wearing glasses for bad eye sight. It will hopefully improve your hearing, but once they are removed, the level or hearing returns to its natural level. In Harry’s case, his hearing loss is profound -meaning he can’t hear anything without his cochlear implants on.

Was it an amazing moment when his Cochlear Implant was activated?

Of course when Harry’s Advanced Bionics cochlear implant was switched on was a really special day and has been completely life changing. But he didn’t necessarily have an “amazing” reaction. A cochlear implant is turned on ever so quietly to begin with, especially for children, so their reaction is usually very subtle, if at all.

Read more: Cochlear Implants: The Big ‘Switch On’ 

Does a Cochlear Implant work immediately?

Not necessarily. When someone first has their cochlear implant switched on it is pretty much the very start of stimulating the hearing nerve and it takes a long time to “wake” that nerve up.  It is almost like training it to be able to hear which can take weeks and even months to start translating into sound. You can read more about how a cochlear implant works on AdvancedBionics.com. 

What does it sound like through a Cochlear Implant?

It is so difficult for us as Harry’s parents to know what life sounds like for him as he has nothing to compare it to.  If someone has lost their hearing previous to getting a cochlear implant they may be able to tell you the difference. A lot of those people say that at first everyone and everything sounds very high pitched – like Mickey Mouse – but that after a while their brain adapts and it sounds very similar to their old hearing.

Will he always need to wear a Cochlear Implant?

As I said, a cochlear implant doesn’t cure deafness, so yes, Harry will always need to wear his if he wants to be able to hear. Technology is advancing though, so I’m sure his devices will become smaller and even more efficient with every upgrade.

Will he have to have more surgery?

Hopefully not. The device is life-proof so the internal part will stay the same. Sometimes, like any electrical device, they can fail though, which would require more surgery.

Can you speak on the phone or listen to music with Cochlear Implants?

With Harry’s Advanced Bionics Neptune processor there is no microphone in or around his actual ears, so he can’t wear headphones or listen to the phone at his ear. He can however hear the phone or music on speaker or using FaceTime. When he upgrades to another model we will go for a behind the ear device, which will hopefully have an in-ear microphone so he can use his phone or headphones like anyone else. There are also ways to wirelessly connect phones and music devices to your cochlear implant, such as the Phonak Roger system or Phonak ComPilot. We haven’t used these yet, however.

Can people with cochlear implants travel on a plane?

Yes of course! We always make sure to carry an ID card for both processors so that the security staff know what they do and why the metal detectors will go off. They tend to already know what a cochlear implant is and will bypass him going through the body scanner in favour of a pat down search. Make sure you keep all your equipment in your hand luggage to prevent any loss or damage.

Can people with cochlear implants have a MRI scan?

At the moment with Harry’s model of implant, he isn’t able to have an MRI scan because of the magnets in his skull, which can be affected by the MRI process. Talk to your audiologist or doctors if you have health questions like this. 

Are there questions that you get asked about you child’s cochlear implant that you find it hard to answer? I’d love to hear about them in the comments or connect with me on social media!

Lucie Herridge
Lucie Herridge
Lucie is a lifestyle blogger and mother living in Hampshire, United Kingdom. She is the mother of Harry, 4 years old, who is profoundly deaf and a bilateral user of cochlear implants from Advanced Bionics. She loves to drink tea, cozy nights with her family and go on Pinterest!