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Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choices

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On the drive home after the [initial] mapping I was sitting in the back seat and could hear the music and the music was beautiful and I was just going off, This is so awesome, this is so beautiful, and I could carry on a conversation with my mom and she was sitting in the front and I didnít have to read lips.

Young woman implanted in 1996 at age 17

I was driving on the freeway [after the first mapping session] and [my daughter] started screaming in the back seat . . . [because] the magnet had fallen off. She was upset [and] I put it back on. She laughed and laughed and laughed; she loved it. From the . . . very first moment she was so upset to have lost it.

Mother of an 8-year-old girl implanted at age 2

When I came in with him, and they turned it on, and gave him his first sound, he started saying, I hear that, I hear that. And that day he heard me tell him that I loved him for the first time. And he turned around and he told me back what I had said . . . . The first day it was turned on he understood that.

Mother of a teenager implanted in the late 1980s

Many of the parents we talked with said that the stated or unstated policy of the cochlear implant center where the activation occurred was to start slow and try not to overburden the child with too much sound all at once. This often involved activating only some of the electrodes at the first mapping session and, even for those electrodes that were activated, setting threshold levels that would allow the child to become gradually acclimated to the new sounds. Although parents sometimes expressed frustration with this policy, since they wanted to see more dramatic, immediate, results, they also understood that it would take time for their child to adjust to the implant.

One of the first things that many parents tried to do was to get their child to respond to his or her name.

After 3 days, when I said [her name] she could turn around . . . . And within a week she would turn her back to us and we would say [brotherís name] . . . and she would say, [brotherís name], you said [brotherís name].

Mother of an 8-year-old girl implanted in 1996

A few families said that after a while they noticed that their child was able to respond to sounds in another room. Sometimes this occurred within a few months or even sooner, but sometimes it took several years to reach this plateau.

We started with noisemakers [after a month or so]. You know, we would make noise and he would turn one way or the other, and then we started getting further and further away. And I would say within the first 2 months we could go to the bedroom and we would play a game. He would sit in here and listen and we would go to the bedroom and shake it and he would come running in, and my [deaf] mother was like, she was shocked to see that.

Mother of a 2-year-old boy implanted in 1998