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 Heather P., Sarnia, Ontario

We are thinking of getting our deaf 10-month-old a cochlear implant, but I have read on several online blogs that our child will be ostracized by the Deaf community. I don’t think that’s a problem because with the CI she will be mostly hearing, but what if later on our daughter wants to interact with other deaf people do you think that they will not accept her because of the CI?

Question from Heather P., Sarnia, Ontario. Posted May 11, 2009.
Response from Marc Marschark

Since you didn’t ask, I won’t address your point about her being “mostly hearing.” I should point out that the evidence is not yet in on the extent to which children with cochlear implants generally are socially integrated with hearing peers. There are anecdotes covering the full range of possibilities, but data are hard to come by.

With regard to interacting with Deaf people (the capital D indicating those who see themselves as part of a linguistic-cultural minority), two points: First, by the time “later” arrives, cochlear implants will be so common that it will not be an issue. Second, even now, the Deaf community is far less scandalized by cochlear implants than they were 10 years ago. Many Deaf adults are now getting cochlear implants themselves as well as for their children. With the surgery now far less risky than it used to be, insurance companies (and socialized medicine in other countries) covering the costs of cochlear implantation, and the wealth of evidence indicating that most deaf children to write some benefit from cochlear implants, they’re coming to be seen much more as just high-tech hearing aids.

It’s true that there is still strong opinion out there on blogs although, interestingly, much of it is coming from hearing people, not Deaf people themselves. The first priority is your child’s personal and academic success. You might want to get in touch with the parents of some older kids who have had their cochlear implants for a fairly long time and get their perspective (see our Partners page), but my experience is that the Deaf community is welcoming and very comfortable with diversity.