Suellen B. is back to share her story of how parenting with a cochlear implant is different from her struggles with safety and connection with her children when she had a hearing aid.
“As I discussed in my previous blog, I lost almost all my hearing by the age of 30. I had my first son when I was 27 years old and by then, my hearing was almost completely gone. For me, the world was silent without my hearing aids.
Parenting before cochlear implants
With my hearing aids, I was able to hear low-pitched sounds. However, hearing the entirety of a voice involves being able to hear high-pitched sounds. Therefore, I could not hear my baby cry. I had to have the baby monitor with me 24/7 when I was not near my baby. I could not even hear if my baby was congested.
I was anxious that I would not hear my baby if he was choking. When my baby made sounds, I did not praise him or reinforce him to repeat them. My first-born did not start speaking until the age of 4; they diagnosed him with childhood speech disorder of apraxia.
Parenting with cochlear implants
Fast forward to parenting after I got a Cochlear™ Nucleus® Implant. I was implanted when I was 30 years old and had my second son recently at the age of 32. I can now hear him cry when he is in another room. I can hear when he is congested. However, can I hear if he is congested from his nose or chest? No. So even with implants, there are limits with what I can hear. I can hear him babble, yell and growl! I am able to reinforce it by imitating him and then he repeats it again! Most importantly, I do not have to watch the monitor obsessively.
Just today, he was napping in his crib, and I had the monitor on but was not looking at the screen. I heard movement and proceeded to look at the screen. I saw that he lost his pacifier and ran to give it to him. I would not have heard this before being implanted…previously, I would obsessively watch the monitor.
Many individuals say parenting is easier the second time around. In my case, parenting with hearing is easier the second time around. I am not as anxious that I will not hear my baby. I am able to contact his pediatrician on my own without waiting for my husband to call the doctor. If I have any questions, I can just call his pediatrician and get an answer. Yes, I am using the word call. Something I could not do before being implanted. However, nighttime is the same. I still rely on my husband to wake me up when the baby cries (because I do not sleep with my sound processors on).
Overall, it is a different experience. Having a cochlear implant definitely makes parenting easier.
Hearing exercises after a cochlear implant
For the first 3 months after being implanted, I attended speech therapy. I practiced the exercises the speech therapist gave me on the computer and with my family. My son is in speech therapy, and I practiced words with him and ensured he said the sounds correctly. For instance, if he had to pronounce an S sound, he would say words such as stop or snake. I would make sure I heard the S.
I practiced a lot on the phone with my father and husband, both whom have an accent. I practiced calling numbers where they had operators, so I could practice hearing what they said. In my job at a college, I am also required to use the phone to outreach to students, which my cochlear implant has helped me tremendously.
I learned that if you want something you must work for it. Practice is the key to success. You cannot just read a textbook once and then know all the material for an exam. You must study in order to pass. The same goes for hearing. Some people are lucky; they are implanted and then they hear on their first day of activation. With mine, it took a few weeks to actually hear. The initial beeping I heard finally turned into words.
Hard work and practice is what allows me to now hear. The other day I was in the bathroom and heard a loud water noise. I could not tell where the water was coming from. I called out to my husband and said, ‘where is the noise coming from?’, but by the time he reached the bathroom, I realized the showerhead was dripping a tiny bit. I was able to identify where the sound was coming from on my own!”
Are you struggling with parenting because of your hearing loss? Learn about a solution to help you better hear your children.