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The Parents' Guide to Cochlear Implants

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Physical Activity

Beyond the immediate postoperative limitations on physical activity, a child with an implant can enjoy the full range of extracurricular events with the same degree of freedom as a child without an implant. Children with implants have successfully participated in hockey, horseback riding, baseball, football, soccer, skiing, and ice-skating, to name a few activities. Sports that require a helmet should be played with a helmet. Children who are involved in sports such as basketball or soccer should avoid a direct blow to the implant area. Parents may make an individual decision to limit participation in particular sporting activities simply because they do not wish to place their child at any additional risk.

Medical Precautions

Certain medical procedures are contraindicated when a child has a cochlear implant. These include diathermy and electro-convulsive shock treatments. These contraindications are outlined on the cochlear implant identification card that is provided to all recipients. The use of these treatments is very limited and does not present a real threat to the larger implant population. On the other hand, if an implant user requires any other type of surgery later in life, the implant surgeon should be contacted so that a complete medical history can be disclosed.

Contacting the Implant Center for Replacement Equipment or Other Emergencies

Regardless of how careful parents are, equipment may malfunction. When this occurs, the center should have a mechanism in place to exchange the equipment in a timely fashion. Implant facilities should outline their procedures so that there is no confusion or time wasted when a problem arises. Sometimes equipment malfunctions occur during times when the implant center is closed. Centers have different staffing availability during weekend or holiday hours. Parents should know what actions to take during these off-hours. Parents must decide what constitutes an emergency as opposed to an inconvenience. Implant manufacturers have on-call audiologists who can assist parents when contact with the implant center is not possible. Although some implant centers have on-call audiologists, most do not. Any medical emergency related to the implant should always be directed to the physician’s office or on-call service immediately.

Parents are in a partnership with the implant center team to ensure that their child’s implant is working appropriately each day. Parents must take this responsibility seriously since device function contributes to performance outcomes. This responsibility in the post-implant period lasts a lifetime. The implant center will do its part by assessing the child over time to monitor both external and internal device functioning. In addition, performance outcomes are assessed periodically to make certain that the implant recipient is meeting the goals suggested by the profile generated at the time of candidacy. These periodic visits will encourage continued communication with the implant center so that a child has access to the latest technological advances. Cochlear implants are a long-term commitment for both parents and children. This commitment can only be strengthened when parents and their cochlear implant team communicate on a regular basis.

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