If your child has a cochlear implant, you might know tha going to sleep with a cochlear implant can be challenging. For many children taking off an audio processor or “turning off” hearing can be an uncomfortable time. And this is especially true for children whose minds are still growing—they’re only starting to understand that their audio processors connect them to the world of sound around them, and will be there for them in them morning.
There are ways that you can help your child overcome this anxiety: the foundation for a good night’s sleep is a routine. By establishing a series of activities that you and your child go through each night, just before bed, you can help ease them into their sleep in a comfortable and predictable way.
Falling asleep isn’t often an instantaneous process, so it’s best to work towards bedtime gradually. In the few hours before your child’s bedtime avoid over stimulating your child: try not to run around too much, don’t cause any surprises, and if you’re playing music or games it’s best to keep them quiet and calming. If you love a good late-night snack, wait until your child has gone to bed because they’ll often fall asleep easier if they’ve eaten a few hours before and not right before trying to sleep.
Routines, routines, routines. The goal here is to be predictable and do the same things each night, in the same order, and at the same time. This is so your child can recognize for themselves that it’s coming up on bedtime and know what they should be doing in the next few hours or minutes.
Here’s an example routine that you could use with your child’s bedtime routine:
- Start with a bath and teeth brushing. Let your child know it’s time by saying “Now it’s night time, so that means bath time!” And after the bath don’t forget to put your child’s processors back on.
- Getting undressed and putting on pajamas. You can make a game out of this by asking your child what they want to wear that night, and then having them go out and fetch each piece one at a time.
- When you’ve tucked your child into bed, then you could sing lullabies or read a book together.
Sleeping While Wearing, or Not Wearing, a Cochlear Implant Audio Processor
Now it’s time to take off your child’s audio processor for the night. I can tell you some of the reasons why an audio processor might need to come off—like running batteries low, making sure your child won’t pull their processor apart while settling to sleep alone, giving the skin around the implant a rest from the coil, or the uncomfortable feeling of sleeping on top of a processor—but I know that it might be difficult for your young child to understand these.
Some children are happy with taking their audio processors off when it’s time to sleep: this is the routine that makes them feel secure and leads to a peaceful night’s sleep. And because some children don’t want to turn their hearing off each night, they like to sleep with their audio processors on. This is okay too, and it just means that you’ll want to build a routine that fits to you and your child’s preferences.
If your child is very young and you’ll be taking the audio processor off each time they have a sleep, let your child know in advance by saying to them something like “now it’s time to be quiet. We’re going to put your pajamas on, read a book, and then we are going to take your audio processor off your ears“
When it’s time to take off their audio processors, you might say “Now it’s time to take your audio processors off your ears, and put them in their special drying box.” Then let your child see that you’re holding their audio processor and put it in a designated safe spot like on their bedside table in the drying kit. This way he or she can start to recognize that the audio processor is there and it will be there in the morning.
If your child is a bit older, give him or her the independence to take off the audio processor. Then together you can put the audio processor into its designated safe spot like on a bedside table in the drying kit.
In both cases, reassure your child that they’ll be able to hear once they put the processor back on—you could say that the sound is off just while their sleeping and it will be there for in the morning, when the audio processors go back on.
Any time that your child’s audio processor is off, you can balance any anxiety by offering as much comfort as is possible. A special blanket, a stuffed animal, or a soft toy are all things that your child can hold on to each night and know that they’ll wake up with it in the morning. Nodding, smiling or giving a gesture like a thumbs-up, to indicate to your child that it’s okay, can also be helpful. That’s because these gestures are comforting, and can be seen and understood by your child even without hearing
Does your child prefer to sleep with the light off, or with a night light? Asking them and letting them decide each night can give them a feeling of control and security. If you want to turn the light off after they’ve fallen asleep that’s okay—just let your child know beforehand ond that you will turn it off, so they aren’t surprised if they wake up to a dark room.
And if your child is really showing difficulties falling asleep, offer to stay while they drift into sleep. Let them know that you’ll be there for your child and reassure him or her that nothing bad will happen to them. Over time, gradually reduce the amount of time you’re in the room until he or she can fall asleep independently. And if sleep, or lack of sleep, ever seems to affect your child’s everyday functioning make sure to talk with your child’s audiologist or medical professional.