Research has shown that babies start to hear in the womb, and they can respond to sounds even before they have been born into the world. So, if a child is born deaf or with any sort of hearing loss, they are missing out on these vital early inputs of sound. This is why babies and toddlers are fit with hearing aids and cochlear implants at quite a young age.
But when is the best age to get a cochlear implant?
My son, Harry, is profoundly deaf and received his cochlear implants at 14 months old, so for the first year of his life he had no access to sound at all. This means he is technically slightly behind with his speech and listening skills compared with his peers. However, he was still very young when he received his AB cochlear implant, and his brain has seemingly adapted well to sound. This has allowed him to develop auditory pathways that are necessary for him to understand sound signals, just as a toddler of his age would.
Harry is now almost three and can now say more words than I can count! He strings together simple sentences and instructions and understands most of what we say to him.
Children begin learning to speak from the day they’re born, according to research by Hart B. Risely.
“By the age 3, they need to hear approximately 30,000 words a day to develop the language skills necessary to succeed in school and everyday life. This need to hear language early strongly reinforces the importance of early implantation in children with deafness or hearing loss who would benefit from cochlear implants. – Hart B, Risley TR. (1995) Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Brooks Publishing Co, Inc. Baltimore, MD. “
I personally believe there is no way Harry would be at the speech and listening level he is at without his cochlear implants being activated at the age he was.
Of course, having your child implanted in the first place is an extremely personal choice, which I have written about in a previous post. But we decided the earlier we could get sound into Harry’s brain the better. We wanted him to be able to communicate with his hearing peers at the same level they communicate with each other.
And so far, he’s had no problem being able to do that!
To learn more about whether your cochlear implants are right for your deaf child, please ask your audiologist or visit Advanced Bionics website.