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 R.E., New Jersey

My son is 5 yrs old & HOH and we are hearing parents. my wife and I have been debating if we should get a Cochlear implant for our son. I have been looking to speak with a hearing parent that has a HOH child that didnt go with a cochlear implants. We have spoken with hearing parents that choose to get a CI for their child. As a parent, this is one of the hardest decisions to make and we want to make an informed one. If you know anyone that can fulfill this request, it would help our family come closer to a decision. Are there kids in Deaf schools that have cochlear impants? If so, did they go mainstream initially and still had problems adapting? thanks

Question from R.E., New Jersey. Posted February 13, 2012.
Response from Marc Marschark - NTID

From your question, it appears that what you really need is to talk to some other parents who have been in your situation with their own deaf children. I am going to put you in touch with someone “off-line,” but you also might look into checking out an organization that supports families with a deaf or hard-of-hearing child (see our Partners tab). In the meantime, let me provide a few facts:

Sure, there are plenty of deaf children in schools for the deaf who have cochlear implants. Deaf children vary widely, and whether they use spoken language and/or sign language, have hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, and are in a mainstream classroom (with or without support), a school for the deaf, or something in between will depend on the characteristics of the individual child. None of these is mutually exclusive. For example, some children with cochlear implants use sign language, some children without them use spoken language, and choosing the right school placement is often a difficult decision for parents.

If your son is really hard of hearing and not deaf (or has less than a severe to profound hearing loss), he is not going to qualify for a cochlear implant. If he has not had a recent evaluation by a pediatric audiologist, that should be the first step. Implants do not magically turn deaf children into hearing children and, in fact, most children with cochlear implants function like hard-of- hearing children. So, a mainstream classroom may or may not be appropriate. What you need is a careful evaluation by a full IEP team to make sure that wherever your son goes to school they can build on his strengths and accommodate his needs.