The question was posed on Quora: If your child were born deaf, would you get them a cochlear implant? This was my reply.
Absolutely. I speak to this issue as someone who lost the bulk of his hearing due to spinal meningitis at the age of 10 months in the 1960s. I spent the next three years failing to develop critical language skills as a result of living with hearing loss.
It was not until the medical community was finally able to test and treat my hearing loss with hearing aids that I was able to fully join the world around me at the age of four. Nearly fifty years later, I know full well the benefits of having my hearing restored.
I was fortunate to be blessed with parents who understood the importance of preparing me to live in a hearing world. Their dedicated and diligent loving care and guidance — along with the help of family and teachers — helped me make up for lost time acquiring language skills. To their great credit, the few remaining impediments in my speech are so negligible as to only be noticeable to professionals and me, despite never having had formal speech therapy.
Among the many, many lessons I learned growing up and being “mainstreamed” before “mainstreaming” was a mainstream concept, was to be thankful I was born at a time when the technology existed to help me hear. I was, am, and will forever remain grateful for that technology — and my hearing.
It comes down to this: what quality of life do you want for your child? Quality of life is critical to our happiness and success; it is enhanced by our senses and it suffers from the loss of them. There is no excuse for not providing your child the best possible quality of life.
To quote my parents teaching five-year-old me to deal with the cruelties of my peers: “Someone who can’t see well wears glasses; someone who can’t hear well wears hearing aids.” It is that simple. To that we can add today that some who are deaf may wear a CI, and we are not far from restoring sight to some who are blind.
I find the arguments against offering anyone — but children in particular — the ability to regain a critical lost sense like hearing to be driven by nothing more than ego. We have the technology to help the deaf and the hearing impaired to hear. And that technology improves almost daily.
Last year, at age 51, I acquired new digital hearing aids that transformed my life once again; surely not quite to the degree that my first set of hearing aids did, but seems to me pretty darn close, if only because I can remember this transformation. I can hear sounds I never heard before. I can hear music better than I ever could before, and I can take phone calls confidently thanks to the connectivity between my hearing aids and my iPhone. I look forward to a day when a CI might even improve on the hearing I now enjoy, but I give thanks every day for the technology I have now and the hearing it grants me.
There is no argument for denying a child that privilege. None.