Hearing loss technology and intervention are rapidly changing. Advances in cochlear implant programming, hearing aid design, and the brain science behind auditory verbal intervention continue to drive our field forward and propel children born deaf today to new heights. Children born deaf or hard of hearing in 2016 truly have a world of possibilities open to them. As leading audiologist and Cert. AVT Jane Madell says, “This is a wonderful time to be born deaf.”
And yet (because there’s always a yet…) there are the naysayers (because there always are naysayers). Though there are many successful oral deaf adults from generations past, people who persevered and learned to listen and talk with far less auditory access than today’s hearing technologies provide and spent far more time in specialized therapy and schooling than today’s AV kids, there are also significant number of deaf or hard of hearing people who reflect on their childhood experiences with “speech therapy” and old hearing technology with bitter memories. That was their truth, and they are entitled to it. But should their memories drive parents’ decisions (or, on a larger scale, legislative and policy decisions) today?
So much has changed just in the seventeen years that I have been involved in the world of hearing loss. Fifteen years ago, remaining in an oral school program until grade two or three and then mainstreaming was considered great success. Today, there are few auditory-oral schools that even go beyond kindergarten. Ten years ago, not every child who qualified was even considered for bilateral cochlear implants. Today, we know the benefits of bilateral hearing and bilateral CIs have become the standard. Five years ago, swimming with a cochlear implant was the hottest new thing on the horizon. Today, CI recipients from all three FDA-approved brands have waterproof solutions. Blink, and we’ve discovered something new about the physiology of hearing loss. Blink again, and there has been an advancement in hearing technology. Blink three times, and therapy techniques have improved because of what we’re learning every day about how children’s brains learn to listen and process language.
So when people who grew up with forty-year-old hearing technology and forty-year-old teaching methods tell us that listening and spoken language and hearing technology are not the way to go for today’s children, it’s like someone saying, “I rode down a cobblestone street in a horse and buggy and the ride was terrible, so all wheeled transportation is horrendous!” when today’s deaf children are riding down a freshly-paved highway in a million dollar sports car.
Parents, do your research. The results for children who received cochlear implants at two years old differ from those for children who received cochlear implants at one year old, and those results differ still from children who received cochlear implants at less than one year of age. Children with hearing loss can learn to listen and speak in the language(s) of their homes. Auditory Verbal Therapy is a family-centered method that empowers you to be your child’s first and best teacher, and many children are finished with therapy before they even begin formal schooling. This is not your grandmother’s deafness… it’s not even the deafness of your generation or of ten years ago.
The moral of the story?