When we were faced with the diagnosis of Landon, we had not idea what a cochlear implant was, nor did we care at the time. When we were introduced to the concept, it was to have a single implantation at one year of age. Still in many cases the current medical standard of care for profoundly hard-of-hearing individuals that qualify is a unilateral CI (UCI), the implantation of one ear only, saving the other ear for future medical advancements. A substantial body of research has demonstrated that pre-lingual hard-of-hearing children are able to develop significant speech production skills through the use of a single CI (Geers, 1997; Geers & Tobey, 1995; Miyamoto, Kirk, Robbins, Todd, & Riley, 1996; Tobey & Geers, 1995; Tobey, Geers, Brenner, Altuna, & Gabbet, 2003). For example, some of the advantages observed in a case study of a single CI user included an increase in speech and eligibility, an increased receptor vocabulary, a decrease in production of non-words, and increased response to questions (Ertmer, Strong, & Sadagopan, 2003).
The implantation of a single CI does present the student with significant benefits and access to sound for language development. But, does it can be said the idea of hearing through one ear solve the problem for a hard-of-hearing student medically, but what about academically. For a moments, lets remove the idea of cochlear implants from the stage. What do we know about student with unilateral hearing loss as compared to their normal hearing peers?
Children with unilateral hearing loss are at 10 times greater risk for academic failure that children with normal hearing in both ears (Bess, Dodd-Murphy, & Parker, 1998; Tharpe, 2006). Specifically, students who experience a degree of UHL are at a higher risk for educational, speech–language, and social–emotional difficulties than that of their normal hearing (NH) peers (Bess & Tharpe, 1986; English & Church, 1999; Oyler, Oyler, & Matkin, 1988). UHL contributes to a significant risk for reading difficulties and as previously stated. Some studies have shown that high school graduates with hearing loss fall between the fourth and fifth grade reading level (Carney & Moeller, 2003; Easterbrooks, Lederberg, Miller, Bergeron, & McDonald-Connor, 2008; Traxler, 2000). Given this relationship between unilateral hearing loss and academic performance, it stands to reason the assessment standards for UCI recipients should be measure against peers with the same condition.
As previously stated, the research shows that students with a UCI can do well with obtaining access to speech and sound, but can still be at a disadvantage academically. The decision to implant a single CI or bilateral CI goes far beyond the risk presented during the procedure. We know that even individuals with dual CI do not have the same access to sound as an individual with no hearing loss.
My reading of the research influenced my wife and I’s decision to have Landon bilaterally implanted. As an educator, I wanted to give Landon every advantage possible although I knew that he would always be a academic disadvantage in comparison to his peers. Although Landon can hear medically, he still needs a strong support system and service to reach his full potential.