Should your child with hearing loss be treated differently, or the same as any other child? As a parent, you may often wonder if and how your child will cope with being “different” to their peers with a hearing implant. For Ana, she believes that her 10-year-old son with a cochlear implant should be treated no differently to any other child. Hugo is endlessly pushing the boundaries, from overcoming his hearing loss, to hitting the bitumen with his motorbike.
When Hugo was three years old, we began taking him to speech therapy as he was struggling with developing speech. We suspected Hugo had hearing loss as he wouldn’t react when we spoke to him in the car. However the doctors assured us that his hearing was normal, and it was only his speech he had issues with. It wasn’t until Hugo had a motorbike accident at five years old and subsequently got a CAT scan, that he was diagnosed with Mondini Syndrome. This syndrome is an abnormality of the inner ear which can cause sensorineural hearing loss.
“….He was getting really frustrated when he couldn’t hear us or when we didn’t understand him.”
From this point, everything with Hugo happened very quickly. We went to see a hearing specialist who said that Hugo had profound hearing loss in his right ear, and he would undoubtedly lose his good hearing in his left ear at some point too. Hugo was then given hearing aids, which helped him a lot for about a year. However we soon realized that his hearing was getting worse, and he was getting really frustrated when he couldn’t hear us or when we didn’t understand him. At seven years old, Hugo received a cochlear implant in his right ear at Gregorio Marañón Hospital in Madrid.
“I think that Hugo’s story is a testimony to show that all children are capable of doing any activity they like and achieving at it.”
We are really proud that Hugo has always attended an ordinary school and is on the same level as his peers in fifth grade. Academically, Hugo is very smart, although a little lazy! Hugo uses an FM system to listen to his teachers more easily, and he is learning the flute—he’s even not too bad at it! The best thing for Hugo is that his cochlear implant allows him to communicate with people in a natural way. He uses his processor while playing football and basketball with others, and acts just like any of his “normal hearing” friends at school.
Now to Hugo’s greatest hobby—motorcycles! Hugo always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle, and we found out about a motorcycle school through friends. Hugo’s instructor has never seen Hugo’s hearing loss as a handicap to riding a motorcycle. In his first year, Hugo learnt to ride a minimoto, and then later a KAWA 65. He now rides a MINI GP 110. Hugo doesn’t wear his processor while riding as it’s not possible when he wears the motorcycle helmet—he instead changes gears by concentrating on the vibrations. However Hugo does love to wear his audio processor when he goes to watch and cheer on his friends racing on the track!
“Hugo is special, not because he has a hearing loss, but because he can do anything he sets his mind to.”
For us as parents, we believe any child riding a motorcycle is a success story, and it is even more so for our Hugo. Hugo says he loves improved hearing with his cochlear implant as he can talk with his classmates, motorcycle peers, on the phone, and understand what his teachers are saying. However, at the same time, Hugo does not define himself by being a cochlear implant user—he says he just wants to live life like the rest of his classmates and friends.
I think that Hugo’s story is a testimony to show that all children are capable of doing any activity they like and achieving at it. Hugo himself says that children with hearing loss should be able to do what they like and be treated equally to “normal hearing” children. I believe children need to learn that they are special. Hugo is special, not because he has a hearing loss, but because he can do anything he sets his mind to.
What are your thoughts? Is a child with a cochlear implant different to their peers, or should they be treated exactly the same despite their hearing loss?
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