Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from G.E., Kansas

My niece received a cochlear implant at one year of age. She is nine years old now and attends school (3rd grade) in the local elementary school. she does quite well with the implant – she actually tests above grade level in reading – and is on age level with auditory and receptive language.

My question concerns inconsistent use of the implant. When visiting a deaf parent, she will go the weekend and sometimes over a week without using the implant. What would the experts advise?

Question from G.E., Kansas. Posted April 12, 2011.
Response from Amy McConkey Robbins, MS, CCC-SLP

Consistent auditory input is critical to the development of cortical connections that allow maturation of important auditory centers of the brain.  In the early months and years of CI use, a reliable signal (ie. all day, every day) has been shown to correlate with higher scores in spoken and listening communication.  Your niece is eight years post-implant and by your report, doing very well with her device. Is it possible she will regress in her listening skills during these short periods of silence?  Unlikely.  Is it ideal for her to spend long periods of time with no auditory input?  Probably not.  However, these are cases where we defer to family goals – if her Deaf parent’s goal is strong proficiency in ASL, we would respect that.  I’m not sure, though, why she can’t still wear the cochlear implant while visiting the Deaf parent.  Having the implant on and activitated doesn’t hurt her capacity to utilize ASL, and there might be safety and environmental awareness benefits for her if she wore the device during visits.  She would then be functioning much like a CODA who still hears, even when code-switching to ASL.