At three months of age, my son Jacob was identified with bilateral profound hearing loss. I was overwhelmed by the diagnosis, and felt I had so much new information to learn while also learning how to be a new parent. I had so many questions. How would he learn language and communicate? How would he learn in school? How would this impact our family? How would Jacob’s life be impacted by his hearing loss?
My husband Noah and I decided to explore cochlear implants (CIs) as an option for Jacob because we wanted to provide him with access to sound if it was a possibility. When Jacob was identified as a candidate, our next difficult decision was to choose a CI company. We directly met with representatives from each company so we could ask questions and hear from the experts how their product would meet Jacob’s needs.
The key reasons we chose Advanced Bionics were the T-mic and the waterproof options. Jacob was bilaterally implanted at 15 months old and activated a few weeks later. The day Jacob’s implants were activated, he reacted very calmly to his first experience of sound with a couple of head turns towards the adults clapping next to him.
Turning on the CI was just the beginning, and our journey continued while we did everything we could to help Jacob develop his listening skills. We worked with our early intervention and medical teams to learn strategies and techniques to support Jacob’s development.
First of all, we had to try our best to keep Jacob’s processors on during his waking hours so that he was able to have as much exposure to sound as possible. This part is challenging! My advice for other parents of newly implanted young children is to stay persistent. It can be exhausting and overwhelming to connect the headpiece over and over again on your child’s head, but the effort will be worth it.
Find a way that works for your child to help keep their processors on. Something that worked for us was to distract his attention from the things on his head by engaging him in other activities, such as playing games or dancing to music.
Finding time to practice skills at home can be overwhelming for a busy family, but it pays off.
We learned to narrate everything that we were doing so that Jacob could be exposed to as much speech as possible and start to make connections between the words he heard and the world he experienced. We worked at home helping Jacob identify and produce the Ling Six sounds (ah, ee, oo, m, s, sh).
Our next step was to think about schooling options. We could see the value of at-home and in-therapy sessions, and Jacob’s listening and verbal skills were starting to develop. We wanted Jacob to be immersed in this type of environment to support his language development.
We did some research and decided to move so that Jacob could attend a Deaf and Hard of Hearing preschool classroom. At age two and a half, Jacob started attending school five half- days a week where all activities incorporated auditory and verbal learning. He attended this specialized program for three years. During that time, he was able to build the skills needed to catch up to his typical-hearing peers.
We feel that our choices to commit to therapy, early intervention, working on skills at home, and sending Jacob to a specialized education setting led to Jacob’s success in developing his auditory and verbal skills. Finding time to practice skills at home can be overwhelming for a busy family, but it pays off. Small changes to your daily routine can have a large impact on your child’s development.
At kindergarten, Jacob transitioned to his home school district. He was ready to be with his hearing peers with a few accommodations such as access to the Roger system (a microphone that the teachers wears so that their voice is sent directly to Jacob’s sound processors). Jacob has been very successful in a typical classroom. He has developed friendships and is happy. He is currently finishing third grade.
Hearing success to me is that Jacob has access to the world around him. He can communicate with his peers and family. He loves to read and listen to music. He has an active lifestyle riding mountain bikes, skiing, and playing soccer. Jacob is happy and loves the access that his cochlear implants provide to him. He is proud of who he is and he is willing to educate others about his hearing technology and needs.
I want you to know that you are not alone. Meet other parents who have traveled this journey ahead of you through local and online communities such as HearingJourney. The first year of this journey can be overwhelming. There are so many medical and early intervention appointments, decisions to make, and so much to learn.
But you don’t have to be an expert. Find balance and remember to love your baby and know that you will figure everything out. The medical and early intervention appointments will eventually slow down and you will find the path that works for your family.
Learn everything you can about your child’s cochlear implant. Learn how it works, how to troubleshoot when there is a problem, and find others that you can lean on when you have questions about the equipment.
Advanced Bionics was a great partner for us in navigating success for Jacob, so don’t hesitate to reach out. There are lots of resources and activities to support your child’s development that are free to you and your early intervention team. Some of our favorites are listed below.
I did not know what Jacob’s life would be like when he was first identified with a hearing loss. I had not met a deaf person before I met my son. I was unsure what his life would look like and how he would navigate the world. Now I see him as a successful student, a strong reader, and a child who loves to learn and explore the world around him. Jacob does not have any limitations and his future is bright. His current dream is to attend college to become an author and I know he will be able to succeed if he decides to make that his goal.
Amanda lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Amanda is an Advanced Bionics parent mentor. She is also a program coordinator with Michigan Hands & Voices.