Reflections on Growing up with Bilateral Cochlear Implants

By Regan Brady

I was born into a silent world. My profound bilateral hearing loss went undetected for the first nine months of my life. I received my first pair of high-powered hearing aids at the age of one. My parents had decided early on that the best thing to do for me would be to cultivate the remaining hearing that I had using the auditory-verbal approach to teach me listening and spoken language. Although I was doing well with my hearing aids, my parents and the professionals working with me thought that I could do even better if I had better access to sound through the use of cochlear implants. I received my first cochlear implant when I was 20 months old. At that time, it was common practice to only implant one ear and save the other for future technology. Years later, my parents felt that waiting any longer would diminish any chances of my left ear ever responding well to stimulation, so I received my second implant the summer after second grade. I am happy to say that I have done extremely well with my cochlear implants, and I simply cannot imagine my life without them!

I have attended mainstream schools my whole life, and I am currently in eighth grade. I have excelled academically and have held high honor status for all four years of middle school. I participate in many extracurricular activities such as Junior Model United Nations, Mock Trial and school musicals. Recently, I was chosen as one of 15 recipients of the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, a prestigious national scholarship awarded by the Institute for Educational Advancement. I enjoy playing sports and have served as the captain for many of my school teams including volleyball, swimming and lacrosse. Currently, I am serving as class president. None of my friends are deaf or hard of hearing, but they all accept my cochlear implants. Everyone knows that my hearing loss is just one part of who I am.

I realize that I am very successful with my implants, which is why I want to share my story with others. A few years ago, I wrote a book titled “Listening to the Waves,” which is about my life growing up with cochlear implants. My book has advice for implant users and parents, anecdotes about living with hearing loss, experiences I have had with my cochlear implants, and some funny stories. The main purpose of the book is to show parents who are thinking about an implant for their child that their child can lead a successful, normal life with cochlear implants. I have had the opportunity to travel to promote my book and have met with so many great families at AG Bell conventions across the country. I enjoy being a mentor for the Advanced Bionics Corporation and meeting with families considering cochlear implantation. I also maintain a website to share information with others about hearing loss.

I feel that it is important to share my story with others, and I enjoy teaching families about hearing loss and the power of cochlear implants. I hope that by providing unbiased information to others I can help a parent make an educated decision for their child’s future. Most importantly, I want to give parents hope and a sense that everything will be just fine! Hearing is just a small part of who we are. Dream big!