*** This blog is dedicated to those who believe in using their listening and speaking skills. It is NOT an audist point of view, stating that deaf is bad or those who have hearing loss are broken. So, if you believe that is who I am, I ask you to stop reading now. I am soo not that way. I believe in people's choices for communication and amplification. Soap box message done.**
Are two ears better than one? Does having a unilateral (one ear) hearing loss make a difference in your child 's life? Does having one cochlear implant vs two make a difference? For many years, the medical world has been telling families that if a child has one ear with hearing loss, it is "no big deal" in regards to the child understanding language, learning to speak and processing information. I am here to tell you that we in the school world disagree. Funny to me, actually, that the medical field would promote this view. We are made with two ears for a reason. We use both ears to localize sound, find out where the sound is coming from, help process information quicker and block out background noise.
I often relate people with unilateral (one ear) hearing loss to someone listening to a dinner party with one microphone. If I put a mic in the middle of the next party you went to, it would pick up all the conversations at the same time,at the same volume. Mics can't process out or ignore background talk,. You would hear Danny and his wife talking about their 3 year old,but then the next minute, it might sound like Danny and Suzie are talking about the same son and how he is on a date with a 22 year old, as Suzie was relating her story of her son's dating. Our brain and ears help us to filter out conversations and background noise. When one part of that system is not properly functioning, we can't do that. Therefore, it gets information confused inside our brain. The messages are unclear.
Kids with unilateral hearing loss physically can't process out that info or hear spoken language through the ear with the hearing loss. There are some people who can benefit from a hearing aid on that side. Others, however, have a large enough loss that sound will not turn into understandable language even through a hearing aid. We don't then just throw in the towel. Teachers need to accommodate the child by placing his/hear better ear towards the teacher and students. Teacher will need to repeat information presented by students to ensure the child understands. The teacher will need to allow increased wait time for the child to find the speaking source and process.
In the last few years, the medical field has introduced bilateral cochlear implants. The surgeons see a benefit to putting CI's on both ears, helping the child to process and localize. Some people, however, only implant in one ear. When a person has a cochlear implant , all residual (left over)hearing is destroyed. Some families dont' want that. They want to keep any option of hearing left,in case of another invention down the line.
Everyone has their own opinions and reasons. I think it is valuable that we all respect each other and more over, find out why someone has made a decision that they have made. I do believe that if done in a respectful way, we professionals, or friends, can suggest reasons why 2 are better than one. There are still many pediatric ENT's telling parents that their children have hearing loss in one ear, but there is no need to do anything amplification wise or educationally. I respectfully and strongly disagree.
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.