Today - February 25 - we are shining light on the diverse group of individuals who benefit from the life-changing technology that is a cochlear implant.
This technology is available to people of any age with severe to profound hearing loss who choose to develop - or return to - communication via access to sound.
Whether or not a cochlear implant recipient identifies with Deaf culture, deafness is the common attribute among cochlear implant users.
With this technology, many are able to successfully communicate orally. There are also many cochlear implant users who are bilingual and use both New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and spoken language to communicate effectively.
For these people, a cochlear implant may not provide access to clear spoken language, but it may supplement visual communication by providing information about environmental sounds and a stream of acoustic information that makes visual cues more meaningful.
A bi-lingual and cultural approach
One of our newest audiologists, Briana Putnam, has recently graduated from the University of Auckland and published her thesis, which looks at how people who share the common attribute of deafness feel about cochlear implantation.
While not culturally Deaf, Briana’s interest in NZSL and the Deaf community led her to become an audiologist.
“I realised pretty quickly how cool and useful sign language is,” she says.
Briana says while the findings of her thesis don’t represent the Deaf community as a whole, they do provide insights from a small group of people in the Deaf community who chose to share their views.
The work of Briana and her colleagues illustrates the diversity among those who receive cochlear implants and some of the impressions and misperceptions people have about cochlear implants.
Many respondents saw cochlear implants as a useful tool but not necessarily the whole answer, and called for a more bi-lingual and bi-cultural approach to cochlear implantation in children.
The importance of identity
Briana’s research reflects what we do every day here at The Hearing House; we embrace all of our kiritaki (clients) and strive to provide the best care with the most current technology available to those who want to achieve their most effective communication, whatever combination of skills and senses required.
For a cochlear implant recipient, particularly children who may not remember life without access to sound, identity is important.
Briana’s research revealed a variety of self perceptions about life as a person with deafness.
“For some, deafness is not a disability but a unique way of experiencing life. There are some awesome things about being Deaf,” she says.
The Hearing House Chief Executive Officer Dr. Claire Green says cochlear implants are an amazing technology that opens the door for so many life experiences and communication opportunities.
“Working with the Deaf community is important to us. They are the experts and we are determined to understand their perception of cochlear implants so we can focus on doing everything we possibly can to have the best outcomes.”