November 27, 2010

Cochlear Implant: Mom Not Sure, Dad Says Yes

Years ago, I met a young mother in an art store I worked part-time in. She looked tense as she stared at the large wall of paint brushes before her. She was wringing her hands; her jaws clenched. She looked tired. I thought that perhaps she was concerned about choosing the best brush. I went over to her and asked if she needed any help. She looked at me and then her eyes grew big. Apparently, she spotted my hearing aid, and she immediately bombarded me with questions about cochlear implants and deaf children. I learned that she had just found out that her infant is profoundly deaf. Like most parents just finding out that their child is deaf, she was terrified and overwhelmed.

I had just graduated from college. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do career wise. I was involved in art, but decided that a career in art did not look so promising. However, I had just started taking ASL classes, and little did I know that it was the start of me making a career out of working with others who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The mother was told by the doctors that her son was a candidate for cochlear implants. She did not know anything about deaf people, sign language, or cochlear implants (other than what the professionals and doctors have told her). Even though she was given a lot of information about cochlear implants, she was very unsure about whether or not to implant her child. So far, it seemed as if everyone in her family, including her husband, were 100% for the cochlear implant, while she sat on the fence.

Unfortunately, at the time, I was unable to answer her questions. I did not know much about deaf children and cochlear implants. Of course I could not tell her what to do, even if I was an expert about the topic, because it was none of my business. I did tell her however, that from experience, it is better to seek out information from those who have actually experienced it (parents of profoundly deaf children, parents of children with cochlear implants, deaf and hard of hearing people, deaf adults who are implanted, etc.). She asked me where to get this information and where to find these people, and all I could tell her was the name of an organization that could help her.

The mother thanked me, walked away and left the store. I think it helped her to simply talk about it. Knowing what I know now, I wished I could have been able to help her more.

What I would have told her is to not only get as much information as she possibly can from a variety of sources, but to also go with her gut. After learning more about it and talking with others about it, if she is still very unsure, for valid reasons (not because others told her not to do it) she should not do it. If she is worried sick about the prospect of implanting her child, then she probably should not do it, no matter what others say. She should only do it if she is not worried sick by the idea. I am not talking about being simply nervous, everyone who is human, will be very nervous about making such a huge decision. I am talking about being actually sick with worry to the point that you can't sleep and eat or you feel nauseated. Listen to your body. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right.

It is a tough situation to be in when everyone you know seems to be 100% for an idea that you are against or unsure about. But, sometimes you have to go with your instinct and do what you feel is right, no matter what the consequences will be. However, what are you supposed to do if your spouse or the other parent is 100% for cochlear implants and you are not? You have to respect the other parent's decision and thoughts on this. You need to hear him or her out and vice versa. But, what if you really, really don't want to go through with it? What are you supposed to do?

This would be a tough, tough situation to be in. I would hope that both parents are on the same boat and can make the decision together in total agreement. But, what if your spouse or the other parent is for the idea and you are not? What would you do? This is a major decision that must be made soon for your child. I can't even imagine how difficult this would be.

Has anyone been in a similar situation? If so, what did you do to solve the problem?



  1. Well yes. When my son was 18 moths old the FDA approved implants for kids. We saw other families torn apart. I couldn't wrap my head around it. My kid is not a lab experiment. My husband agreed.

    For a reason I can't explain we decided to just go with the fact that our kid was deaf.

    I remember a Deaf man at a book store. He asked me , " You Deaf?" I was that mom that you are talking about.. He gave me hope and later became my son's first teacher. If the world was a good place... Marlton Charter School would be on the map.
    That is a place where my son found home. for the first time

  2. I think "going with one's gut" is the right answer, even if all else says "go for it". What if instinct was correct and something indeed went wrong? That would have been truly destructive to the family. Sometimes a mother's intuition knows something that hasn't been noticed before.

  3. I was pro-implant from day 1 while my husband was more hesitant. A year after implanaton he came to me and said those words I never hear from him, "you were so right! It's miraculous and I'm so glad we did this."


Keep it civil.