Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Sound of Water

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Sound of Water

Article excerpt


It was a ritual Jillian had witnessed a thousand times before: Victor, the family's black Labrador, bounding into the kitchen after being outside and heading straight for his water bowl to quench his thirst. However, this time was different. Jillian didn't see him enter the house. Instead, she heard him. This may seem unremarkable until you consider that Jillian is deaf. The first sound she heard after receiving a cochlear implant was her dog Victor drinking water.

A cochlear implant is an electronic listening device that is surgically implanted in the cochlea (i.e., inner ear) of a child or adult with a profound hearing loss in both ears. A cochlear implant does not actually restore hearing but instead gives a person who is deaf a useful representation of sounds by bypassing damaged portions of the ear and stimulating the auditory nerve directly. While many children benefit from a cochlear implant, there is no guarantee that it will help every child. For Jillian, it made all the difference. Jillian was diagnosed with a moderate hearing loss at four years old. It was progressive in nature meaning she would continue to lose hearing. Once her hearing loss was diagnosed, she was fitted with hearing aids for both ears. She responded well to them, and this enabled her to attend her neighborhood school.

Jillian was motivated, worked hard, and did well in school. She made many friends at school, including two other students who had a hearing loss. She participated in sports and excelled at volleyball.

By the time Jillian reached fifth grade, she was almost completely deaf. As her hearing loss worsened, her world began to shrink. Increasingly, she relied upon speechreading to understand what others were saying to her. If she couldn't see the teacher's face, she was completely lost in class. The ability to follow the conversation of her friends was even more challenging because they were often in groups meaning she had to follow more than one speaker at a time. The only communication partner with whom she was comfortable was her dog. It would be Victor who helped her get through this difficult time in her life.

While Jillian's mother was interested in pursuing a cochlear implant, Jillian was not so certain. She was frightened of surgery. …

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