Deaf Children Still Need Speech Therapy – Even With Cochlear Implants
Hearing loss can profoundly impact a child’s development of speech, language and social skills. The sooner a child who is hard-of-hearing or deaf begins receiving services, the more likely they are to reach their maximum potential. Speech therapy is one of the key services deaf children need – even if they receive cochlear implants.
September is International Deaf Awareness Month, and it’s important to address some misconceptions that might result in unnecessary long-term challenges for children who are deaf.
Speech-language pathologists at Therapy and Wellness Connection know that when these issues aren’t addressed early on, children may arrive at school behind on their language and reasoning skills. A cochlear implant can dramatically help children with hearing loss – but that isn’t where treatment should stop.
What is a Cochlear Implant?
In the U.S., more than 58,000 children have had cochlear implants, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As explained by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Disorders, cochlear implants are tiny, complex electronic devices that can offer a sense of sound to someone who is severely hard-of-hearing or deaf. It’s not a hearing aid, which amplifies detected sounds. Implants are partially placed under the skin in surgery, though part of it sits behind the ear. There is a microphone, speech processor, transmitter and electrodes that send impulses to the auditory nerve.
However – and this is important – cochlear implants don’t give a person “normal” hearing. Rather, they offer a representation of sounds that can be used to help process speech. They work by bypassing defective cochleae. They don’t replace dysfunctional auditory nerves, correct conductive hearing loss or help with central auditory processing disorders.
Kids who receive cochlear implants still need to undergo intensive speech therapy so their brain can learn to process and understand those sounds. The degree to which someone with a cochlear implant can understand speech varies significantly from person to person. External environmental noise can also impact whether someone can process what’s being said.
How successful are cochlear implants? It depends, but research shows that the younger children are when they have an implant, the better they score on speech and language skill assessments.
In general, we know that early intervention speech therapy and occupational therapy programs can substantially help kids who have suffered hearing loss to learn language and other important skills key to development.
How Speech Therapy Can Help Kids With Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants aren’t going to magically grant or restore regular hearing. Speech and language therapy is critical to help a child’s brain make sense of the sound information their brain is receiving.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) notes speech-language therapists who work with children who have cochlear implants need to understand the unique aspects of language development among deaf individuals. Some may recommend a child learns sign language before receiving cochlear implants to help facilitate language development after – particularly when it comes to developing new vocabulary.
Even with implants, the fact is most deaf people employ numerous methods of technological support and communication to interact with those who are hearing. Our Akron speech therapy team at Therapy & Wellness Connection provide the tools and services necessary to help them excel.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
International Week of the Deaf, National Association of the Deaf
More Blog Entries:
Receptive Language Delays: The No. 1 Overlooked Problem in Late Talkers, Aug. 6, 2020, Therapy & Wellness Connection Akron Speech Therapy Blog