Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block and Dancing with the Stars fame share his family’s story of hearing loss in the latest issue of People magazine. His youngest son, 3-month-old Rhys, has been diagnosed with a severe loss and is wearing hearing aids. According to the article, the family is working with an auditory-verbal therapist and might consider cochlear implants.
Many of the comments on the article are insulting, rude, and just plain ignorant. While I have no problem with a family wanting to immerse their hearing-impaired child in Deaf culture, I do have a problem with those same people spreading lies and accusing other families of abuse because they made a different choice.
I’m going to address 20 things posted in the article’s comments and clear up a few misconceptions about cochlear implants. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section or share this post with others.
1. Cochlear implants DO NOT require additional surgeries as a child grows. The only reason additional surgery would be needed is if the device failed. CIs have a 1% failure rate.
2. Cochlear implants ARE NOT implanted into the brain. It IS NOT brain surgery.
3. If parents want their child to use spoken language, they CANNOT WAIT until the child is old enough to “make the decision for himself.” Most language learning occurs before the age of 3, so waiting would put the child at a terrible disadvantage.
4. Sign language is great, if a family wants to learn it. My family, for instance, is HUGE. I didn’t expect all 100 of them to learn ASL. Even if they wanted to, it would be nearly impossible, and Riley would’ve had no way to communicate with cousins, great aunts, and I didn’t want that.
5. My daughter knows a few signs, for those times when she doesn’t wear her CI processors, but she doesn’t “rely on” ASL and doesn’t need to.
6. Speech is available at birth. How do you think typically hearing children learn language? It seems that Rhys is benefiting from his hearing aids, so using spoken language is appropriate.
7. The implant is NOT DRILLED into the skull, like a screw is drilled into a piece of wood. A pocket for the implant is carved into the skull and a small hole is drilled into the mastoid bone so that the electrode array can be inserted into the cochlea. Read more on cochlear implant surgery at Tampa Bay Hearing and Balance Center.
8. Cochlear implants don’t “fix” hearing and don’t claim to. They offer users access to sound. Just like you have to learn to speak, you also have to learn to hear.
9. AG Bell is a proponent of listening and spoken language, but that doesn’t mean the organization is against sign language. It’s not either/or.
10. Auditory-Verbal Therapy focuses on teaching a child to use her hearing and learn to speak. It DOES NOT “forbid” all gestures; in fact, a hand cue is used during therapy. It signals the child to listen.
11. If deafness is not a disability, why do so many Deaf people use hearing aids? What are you trying to “fix”?
12. Riley’s CIs don’t hurt when she puts them on.
13. Riley is a special-needs child. Any child who has an IEP or who has special accommodations at school is a special-needs child. It is not a bad thing.
14. Riley’s CIs help her hear, but she is and will always be deaf.
15 A deaf child DOES NOT belong to the Deaf culture. She belongs to her parents.
16. Riley’s hearing aids and cochlear implants and speech therapy ARE COVERED by insurance.
17. You CAN have X-rays if you have CIs. Riley has had them done at the dentist.
18. You CAN swim if you have CIs (you just take off the processors.) No, you can’t do deepwater diving, but how many people do you know who are deepwater divers?
20. I respect Deaf families wanting to immerse their child in the Deaf culture. Why can’t they respect my wanting to immerse my child in the hearing culture?