The Social-Emotional Impact of the Cochlear Implant on Children

Cochlear implant impact on children

Challenges Deaf Children Face

This article provides an overview of the emotional impact of cochlear implants on children. Also, it discusses the social impact and the subsequent effects it may have.

According to a study by Janna R Stein at Pace University in 2007,  deaf children have difficulty socializing with a group of hearing peers. In addition, deaf children have lower self-esteem than their hearing peers.

This study examined whether deaf children with cochlear implants differ in perceived acceptance and competence compared to their peers with normal hearing. Participants in the study included eight deaf children, ages five to six years old. Each of the children received a cochlear implant at the New York University Cochlear Implant Center. They received it at least one year before participation.

Also, the study’s findings suggest that “children with cochlear implants do not differ from hearing children on self-perception scales.” Children with cochlear implants who perceive themselves generally interact more positively. In addition, they have more verbal exchanges and initiate new topics when engaged in a social relationship with a hearing peer”.

Deaf Community Reaction

The deaf community objects to the “forced“ lack of continued exposure to American Sign Language (ASL), and a resulting “cultural genocide” attitude in the Deaf world. The Journal of the American Medical Association Medical News (JAMA), in the May 2012 issue of the archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, reported that the objection to implantation of deaf children is diminishing. There is still much opposition today, but the attitude is softening.

Effects of the Cochlear Implant on Children

As the trend for cochlear implants in children grows, deaf community advocates have tried to counter the “either/or” formulation of voice versus sign language to a “both/and” approach. Some schools are successfully integrating cochlear implants with sign language into their educational programs. However, some opponents of sign language education argue that the most successfully implanted children are encouraged to listen and speak rather than overemphasize their ASL skills”.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery consider the cochlear implant viable, even standard treatment for profound deafness in children.

The concern after the implant in children is the unknown territory of the best training routine for the child. Whether simply “mainstreaming with other children” with oral training in the average population or is a strict, specialized routine required.  The reality is somewhere in between, considering the “developmental age” of the child and whether the child has become proficient in sign language or other means of communication.

All new implantees require monitoring by professional trainees (teachers) and significant involvement by parents. Many children will not have access to other deaf children. Also, they don’t have exposure to sign language and eventually acquire “normal” levels of education and learning rates.  Others require ongoing special education and assistance.

University Stance on Cochlear Implants on Children

Gallaudet University is considered the “Harvard “of the Deaf community. It is watched closely by all sides in the debate for its position on cochlear implants. Mercy Coogan, Director of Public Relations at Gallaudet, says the university doesn’t have a stand on cochlear implants. “We try to be a forum where people can look at it objectively,” Coogan says. “A university is where you debate issues and then make judgments based on that debate.”

Gallaudet faculty members John B. Christiansen, PhD., and Irene W. Leigh, Ph.D., led a study (published 5/17/2004). The study showed the changing attitudes of parents of the deaf community and parents of deaf children regarding pediatric cochlear implantation.

“Clearly, many people in the deaf community, including faculty, staff, students and alumni at Gallaudet University are much more open-minded about cochlear implants today than they were five or ten years ago, although some still question implants”, the authors explain.” To ensure optimal use of the cochlear implant, parents need to remain involved in their child’s social and educational development”.

Nancy Bloch, The National Association of the Deaf, said, “The NAD takes no position on adult implantation. This is believed to be an individual choice.” The NAD recently released a new position statement on cochlear implants, found on the NAD website. ”The NAD recognizes the right of parents to make fully informed decisions on behalf of their deaf children about implantation.

Implants are seen as the panacea for deafness, which only perpetuates the devaluation of societal attitudes towards deafness and deaf people. Simply put, while the device provides the ability to receive auditory signals, the ability to make sense of and use these signals for meaningful dialogue varies significantly from person to person”.

Opposing Views

Donna Sorkin’s Rebuttal: Donna Sorkin, Fmr. Executive Director, The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf And Hard Of Hearing:

“I disagree that cochlear implants are viewed as a panacea. AG Bell, implant centers and professionals in the field always emphasize that families that pursue this option for children must be prepared for the work that follows to make full use of the technology.

Additionally, those familiar with cochlear implants (and I count myself as a cochlear implant user and someone who has advised hundreds of families) know that the implant is a communication tool and does not provide regular hearing.

I don’t understand why some deaf people feel that because individuals and families have pursued the cochlear implant option, their choice somehow devalues others’ choices for manual communication.”

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions about the impact of the cochlear implant on children, please post a comment below.

One thought on “The Social-Emotional Impact of the Cochlear Implant on Children

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.