Cochlear Celebration 2009: Session Notes


Dr. Sherilyn M. Adler, a developmental psychologist, psychotherapist, and mother of a teenager who is a CI recipient, gave an excellent presentation on the joys and challenges of parenting children with hearing loss.  Drawing from her experience as both a psychologist and a parent, she provided information from both professional and personal points of view.  I learned an incredible amount, so here’s my attempt to break it down into manageable pieces for you all to use:


  • Confusion-Anger-Sadness-Guilt-Fear.  This cycle of emotions is common to most parents when they discover that their child has a hearing loss.  Your feelings are normal, and you must take care of yourself first and process them before you can be a healthy parent to your child.


  • Parent’s ability to recognize and deal with their child’s hearing loss an those feelings surrounding it will directly influence how successful you are at supporting the emotional development of your child.These feelings will change over time and need to be dealt with in different ways as the child grows and develops.


  • It’s just like the flight attendants say during the safety speech on the airplane, “Adjust your own mask before taking care of your child”  – you must take care of your emotional needs as an adult before you can be the best possible parent to your child and help them process their own emotions.


  • Take time for yourself and for other family members – that way your child with hearing loss realizes that their diagnosis did not cause family life to come to a halt or be ruined.


  • If you don’t understand/address how hearing loss impacts you and your family, it will inevitably interfere in your ability to accept it and not addressing these issues will create conflicts and obstacles for you when raising your child.


  • “How you are is as important as what you do” – child will observe you and your comfort level/acceptance of them will be communicated verbally and nonverbally in how you interact with them and with people related to their HL – your feelings will ultimately affect your child (if you don’t talk about them directly, your child will learn that they can’t talk about THEIR feelings) (don’t make HL a “taboo topic”).


  • Helpful vs. enabling – Don’t do for them things that they’re able to do for themselves, play dumb, require them to think, allow them to figure things out – it may take longer, but it helps develop a sense of pride and builds a foundation that will be there when we are not!


  • Search for the “the just right challenge” – just beyond what the child can already do but not so far ahead that the child is overwhelmed.


  • Don’t send mixed messages – tell the child that they’re capable BUT then do things for them that they should be able to do on their own.


  • Make problem-solving visible.Often our problem solving happens in our head, but we need to narrate options, pros/cons, encourage children to consider multiple options, allow child to see you do this to role model how they will have to make their own decisions someday.


  • Encourage independent thinking not just memorization – rote learning will not generalize.


HOW’D THEY DO THAT (Jim Patrick, Cochlear’s Chief Scientist)

This session offered a “behind the scenes” look into how the Nucleus cochlear implant system was developed back in the ’70s and how it is produced today.  Jim Patrick, Cochlear™’s Chief Scientist and a member of the original team that, with Graeme Clark, led to the multichannel cochlear implant that revolutionized hearing loss.  What really impressed me about this presentation is how much care and concern goes into the manufacturing of the Nucleus Cochlear Implant system.  The 2,000+ Cochlear™ employees around the world really take their job seriously — they’re not just making any old thing — they’re making an incredible device that people are trusting with their (or their child’s) hearing.  The safety and precautions Cochlear takes with each and every one of their devices made me feel very comfortable and reassured that they are truly working hard to provide the best, safest, highest quality cochlear implant possible.  What an incredible feat!


POISED FOR GREATNESS (Graeme Clark Scholarship Winners)

This Q&A panel session with the 2009 Graeme Clark Scholarship recipients brought tears to my eyes… for about the millionth time this weekend.  These remarkable college students, all profoundly deaf, all able to hear and talk with the help of their cochlear implant(s) provided humorous and heartwarming insights into their experiences with school, sports, extracurricular activities, and social life.  There were so many funny and helpful anecdotes, but one question/answer stood out to me and will remain with me for a long time.  At the end of the presentation, one of the moderators presented a question from the audience, “How do you think your life would be different without the cochlear implant?” and one by one, down the line, each of the five incredible scholarship winners thanked their parents and expressed the enormous difference the ability to listen and talk has made in their ability to succeed in the world at large.  With that final response, they brought the house to its feet and garnered the only standing ovation of the entire convention… and it was most certainly well-deserved.



Dr. Peters, a CI surgeon from Dallas (and hero to many of our students at The Hearing School… they all want to be either Spiderman or Dr. Peters when they grow up!) gave a presentation on the benefits of bilateral (2 ear) cochlear implantation.  He opened his speech with a very telling analogy.  He asked, “How many of you are wearing contacts or glasses, raise your hand?  Now, how many of you are wearing just one lens?” It’s easy to see the benefits of binocular (2 eyes) vision, mainly in the gains it gies us in depth perception and spatial abilities.  Why, then, would binaural (2 ears) stimulation be any different?  Rachel has laid out a very nice list of reasons for bilateral implantation, as well as her (and her sister, Jessica’s) scores that show marked improvements, especially with the very crucial Hearing In Noise Test (HINT).  Check it out HERE.  Dr. Peters reiterated several of the same points.  Bilateral cochlear implants provide benefits because:

  • Head Shadow Effect: The ear closer to the sound hears the noise at between 3-20dB (decibels) louder than the opposite sided ear.  If speech is coming in one ear, and noise in the other, this +3-+20dB gain can make all the difference, and can lead to nearly a 50% increase in speech understanding in noise.


  • Binaural Summation: Hearing with ears separately vs. hearing with ears together — when the 2 ears combine the input of what they’re hearing, it leads to about a +10dB gain in signal strength as perceived by the brain.


  • Binaural Squelch: The brian can “focus” on more important signal (i.e. speech) coming from one ear, and “squelch” noise interference in the other ear by decreasing it 3-6dB in perceived loudness.


  • Though you cannot perceive it outright, the human brain is amazing and it CAN sense minute differences in timing, frequency, phase (of the sound wave), and intensity (loudness) of sounds as they travel from one ear/side of the head to the other.  When the brain hears with two ears, it is better able to localize sound (determine where a noise is coming from).  This has a myriad of benefits for safety as well as overall quality of life.

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