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My daughter was born with profound hearing loss in one ear. We decided not to go through with a cochlear implant.

Alexis Vogelzang   

My daughter was born with profound hearing loss in one ear. We decided not to go through with a cochlear implant.
  • When my daughter was 3 months old we found out she had significant hearing loss in one ear.
  • We chose not to go through with a cochlear implant because there were no guarantees.

When my partner Chase and I became parents, we were unprepared for the emotional turbulence and tough decisions that awaited us. Our world shifted when we received the diagnosis that our 3-month-old daughter had significant hearing loss in her right ear.

Questions flooded our minds as we struggled to comprehend why this had happened and what it meant for our daughter's future.

We faced a maze of choices, each laden with their own complexities. The prospect of a cochlear implant seemed promising, yet doubts lingered as it was strongly encouraged we make our decision before she turned two years old.

Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sounds, cochlear implants are an electronic device that bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve, allowing users to perceive sound signals. It was only in 2019 that the US Food and Drug Administration approved cochlear implantation for children with single-sided deafness (or SSD).

After careful consideration, we opted against the cochlear implant for our daughter at this moment in time due to a few key concerns.

It's a permanent surgery

Firstly, the permanence of the surgery weighed on our minds. With recent approvals for SSD and only a 10-year warranty, the prospect of subjecting our daughter to multiple surgeries throughout her life seemed daunting.

The risk of infections or device deficiencies added to our concerns about the long-term implications of the procedure.

There was no guarantee that the cochlear implant would restore our daughter's hearing to normal levels. Some individuals with unilateral hearing loss experienced a muffled or distorted auditory perception with the implant, potentially causing confusion and frustration.

Other individuals who received cochlear implants as children reported hearing loss in their better ear following the surgery.

We want her to choose

One of our foremost concerns was the ethical dilemma of removing our daughter's power of choice. By opting for a cochlear implant at such a young age, we would be making a permanent physical alteration to her body without her consent.

We grappled with the notion of denying her the opportunity to decide for herself when she was older and potentially had access to more advanced technologies or alternative solutions.

The rapid pace of technological advancement also fueled our apprehensions. While medical professionals assured us of compatibility with future devices, we remained skeptical about the unknown possibilities that could emerge in the years to come.

We pondered the prospect of advancements rendering current implants obsolete or inferior, leaving our daughter at a disadvantage.

We talked to adults with the same condition

In our deliberations, we sought insights from adults with unilateral hearing loss who had never had the choice to have an implant when they were children. These individuals had then opted out of receiving the implant as adults.

They reported they had successfully adapted to their condition, leading fulfilling lives without significant developmental delays or speech impediments.

Ultimately, we chose to empower our daughter with the autonomy to make her own decisions regarding her hearing health in the future.

The main challenge she will face is directional hearing loss. This means she will have some trouble in noisy and complex environments. Occupational therapists will provide support to her in her early school years to help her navigate classroom life.

In addition, we purchased a top of the line hearing aid to ensure we are keeping her nerve stimulated so that she can choose a cochlear implant in the future.

While the path ahead may be uncertain, we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting her in every facet of her life, allowing her to chart her own course and make her own permanent decisions about her health when the time is right.

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