This is a guest blog post written by the parent of an Advanced Bionics cochlear implant recipient, Cody McLean.
Choosing a cochlear implant for your child is not a light decision.
The doctors told us we could move ahead with cochlear implants. We just had four small steps: Decide if our child would have cochlear implants, fill out a few forms, pick a surgery date, and select which cochlear implants our son wanted.
Step four – just pick which cochlear implants? The doctor was really saying: just make a decision in the best interest of your child, that will only impact them for the next 80 years, that will dictate the quality of life they can have, create the boundaries for their full potential, that will impact their ability to socialize with people, peers, future friends, their loved ones, a future partner, and maybe one day their own children. Make a decision that will in some respects define who they are. Here is how we went about choosing cochlear implants (CI) for our son and how they have changed his life.
Grayson was born with full normal hearing in both ears. He started to lose his hearing at age two. While most parents and the hearing loss patient are confronted with the news of hearing loss over just a few quarters of a year, Grayson had a slow gentle hearing loss over five years. When his loss was at the threshold of the hearing aids, we had the CI surgery.
Choosing a brand of cochlear implants is tough because it is an area where you have no information and no experience. It is as familiar to you as the space on the dark side of the moon. It is difficult to differentiate marketing hype from genuine concern and care for your specific child. Most of the time, you don’t know even what questions to ask.
That is the real choice parents face when making a decision about an implant for their child.
Our family dug into the material. We read scholarly articles for months, a few each night. I made charts and graphs to try to make sense of it all and shared it with my wife. We read about where the industry was going. We looked at three companies’ websites, interviewed each company, and carefully compared the answers, then conducted a second round of interviews. I physically looked at each product, and all the accessories, asking how they work, and get put together.
Our conclusion is that all manufacturers of cochlear implants are reputable companies who genuinely want to help people. But for our son, only Advanced Bionics has the products that will provide the greatest flexibility of who he might one day become.
With so much time to prepare, we were able to make arrangements with dentists (getting x-ray images), and other specialists (getting full-body MRIs) so that we could prepare for the future and have information on hand for those people as needed.
We were also able to spend more time practicing with Grayson for vocabulary, annunciation, and pronunciation, all well before his surgery. Also, we spent a lot of time reading. In fact, he has a wonderful vocabulary and fairly decent annunciation. Based on his current handwriting, we are proud to say he will be a doctor – handwriting is something we had to forego while working so much with reading and speaking.
The surgery went exactly as we were told.
The recovery period went exactly as we were told. We had high expectations for the Advanced Bionics implants. We were lucky with his physical and emotional recovery.
Through this entire process, we were able to work closely with Grayson’s school. We had read horror stories about teachers and principals not being accommodating, but we were lucky again. The elementary school that Grayson attends had 750 students when he was in kindergarten. We put noise dampening bottoms on all chairs and many tables not only in Grayson’s classrooms but on all chairs and tables at the entire school. There are now noise-reducing baffles in the gym and hallways. And two of the noisy motors for the school’s environmental controls were changed out.
We’ve worked with the school to add speaker systems in Grayson’s classroom. The school liked them so much they added them to many other classrooms as well. The focus has not been on helping one handicapped child, but to raise the standards for all children by creating a better learning environment. The focus is on better hearing for a better hearing environment.
This doesn’t address the highs and lows of the emotions we had. Or the emotions my wife and I hid from him and his sisters. There was excitement, fear, want, and hope, sometimes all at once. There were tears of worry and finally tears of joy.
We couldn’t be happier with the way that the cochlear implant surgery changed our son’s life.
Learn more about Advanced Bionics cochlear implants here!