One of the things which struck me, when I recently read a story by a hearing mother of a baby born deaf, was ‘We wanted him to have a life like ours.’
By this the mother meant – as hearing parents they wanted him to enjoy music, hear speech and communicate through speech. They wanted to communicate with him in ways which were familiar to them. They wanted him to have a mainstream education without disadvantage and, as he grew older, the opportunities for a good job – things which can be limited if you are deaf. They knew nothing about deafness and saw it as disadvantage in a hearing world, limiting to their child’s future.
90% of children born deaf are born into hearing families and it is a brave decision to let that child remain deaf. It means taking him into a different culture, learning a different language, and understanding all the obstacles in education, employment and relationships the child is likely to encounter in a world based on hearing.
While it isn’t an easy decision to give your child a cochlear implant operation, it is probably easier when parents believe that by doing so their child will have, what they see as, a normal chance in life.
- But what about when a deaf child is born into a deaf family?
So it takes a brave Deaf parent to choose to give their child a cochlear implant. For them this is a similar situation, although opposite, to that of a hearing family taking their child into the Deaf community. No doubt Deaf parents who choose a cochlear implant for their child feel they, like their hearing counterparts, are giving their child a better chance at life. At the same time, they have to step outside their own community and familiar territory, and their child must learn two languages if he is to cross the hearing and deaf community boundaries. The parents will have to communicate with more hearing people than perhaps they otherwise would and this can be confronting.
The outcomes for hearing and communication in children implanted very young are extremely good – well in line with the development of their hearing peers, but it is a difficult decision to give a small child a cochlear implant no matter whether you are a Hearing or Deaf parent. Parents have many considerations to weigh up beyond the actual operation because heir decision will affect not only their child’s but also their own future.