Why won’t my child wear his cochlear implants?
As parents of a child with cochlear implants, the answer to this question shocked us and made us feel as if we were torturing our child.
Our child was first implanted at about a year old and was seeing an Auditory Verbal Therapist (AVT) on a weekly basis. Our son could definitively hear with his implant and responded well after activation. As the weeks went on, our therapist would tell us that our son was not hearing certain vowels or consonants sounds and recommended we see our audiologist to have his map adjusted.
We went to our audiologist and told her that the AVT said our son was not hearing the /p/ or /s/ sound (for example). The audiologist plugged our son’s processor up to the computer and began saying /ba/, /ba/, /ba/ over and over at different voice levels watching to see how our son responded then she would make changes to the map.
We made this trip to the audiologist constantly over several months because the AVT kept telling us that our son was not hearing different vowels and consonant sounds. We were remapping our son’s processor so often that we were starting to hear /ba/, /ba/, ba/ in our sleep. Then one day, our son just refused to wear his processor. He would throw off the headpiece as fast as we stuck it back on his head. Unfortunately, He didn’t have the language ability to tell us why he wouldn’t wear the processor. Our AVT suggested we go back to see the audiologist to check the equipment to make sure it was working properly.
We set-up an appointment with the audiologist and she brought in a representative from the manufacturer to help go through diagnostics of the equipment to see if anything was wrong. After a thorough review, everything seemed to checkout. Sadly, our son still refused to wear his cochlear implant processor. Our audiologist’s recommended that we do our best to keep his headpiece on at all times, maybe use a headband, noting that maybe this was more of a behavioral issue.
Over the next couple of weeks, we did our best to keep our son’s headpiece on, but he wouldn’t have it. The AVT was starting to have problems working with our son. He started to have new behaviors and was not responding to therapy. We were feeling that something was wrong with our child other than hearing loss.
Eventually, our AVT recommended we see another audiologist to get a second opinion about our son’s equipment and map. She sent us to an audiologist who is an expert working with cochlear implant pediatric patients. This new audiologist was known for fixing issues children may be having with their implants.
I remember how distraught my wife and I were as we shared our story with the new audiologist and showed her how our son was resisting wearing his processor. She assured us that she would look at everything and see what she could do to help. After running diagnostics, the audiologist turned to us and said, “There’s nothing wrong with your child or his equipment.” After a massive sigh of relief, the audiologist told us our son’s map was over-stimulating and probably the main reason why he is resisting wearing his processor.
The audiologist used the analogy of driving through the mountains with the radio volume turned all the way up with bad receptions. “That’s how your son’s processor is mapped,” she told us. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to wear it.
We felt horrible, as if we had tortured our child for weeks trying to make him wear his headpiece all the time.
What happened next truly shocked us. This new audiologist began mapping our son using different consonant and vowels sounds, no more /ba/, /ba/, /ba/. With her partner, they elicited responses from our son using different vowel consonant sounds like /s/, /oo/, /ah/, /p/, /t/ etc. After they were done, our son seemed very happy and joyous about the sounds around him. From that moment on, our son never had a problem wearing his processor again.
I share this story because too often I hear similar stories and the recommendation to the parents is always try to keep your child’s processors on. A behavior, such as refusing to wear a processor, is generally a symptom of a problem that a child can’t necessarily express. A behavior becomes the only way to communicate. If your child is refusing to wear their processor(s), find out why. Your child might not like the feel on their ear or the magnet strength is to strong, etc. If the physical comfort of the processor is not the problem, check with your audiologist about the equipment and map. If you walk out of your audiologist office and they have not resolved the issue, get a second opinion.
Don’t torture your child like we did by making them wear a poorly mapped processor. Every day, when putting on your child’s device, do a simple check to see if your child can repeat or respond to different speech sounds or words. If you feel there is a problem, talk to your speech or AVT therapist at your next visit or schedule an appointment with your audiologist. Finally, if your audiologist doesn’t map your child using different speech sounds, it might be time to find a new audiologist.
More about the author
Eric Sherman is the inventor and founder of Ci Wear, the patented specialty shirt designed to secure and protect cochlear implant processors. Ideal for sports and water activities. No need for added accessories or clipping processors to collar. Shirts are manufactured in the USA and are available in youth and adult sizes at CIWear.com