Being an adolescent with a cochlear implant in the world of hearing people: Coping in school, in society and with self identity

Shanit Rich, Miriam Levinger, Shirli Werner, Cahtia Adelman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: The cochlear implant has revolutionized functioning with severe-to-profound sensori-neural loss. A deaf child implanted at an early age with good habilitation may have good language abilities and function well in daily life. As the implanted child grows up, managing in the world of hearing people may become more complex. During adolescence, the teenager copes with many issues, including identity, socialization with the peer group, and managing in the school setting. These issues may be even more challenging for the adolescents using a cochlear implant. This study was designed to shed light on how adolescents with cochlear implants experience coping with the issues mentioned. Method: Twelve teenagers (14-18 years old), fairly similar to the entire adolescent implanted population at the center at which the study was conducted, participated in the study. They had been unilaterally or bilaterally implanted at differing ages. The participants filled out a questionnaire dealing with their functioning in the educational setting, their social preferences and functioning, and their identity as hearing or deaf. The results were analyzed using the principles of thematic analysis. Results: At school, some reported better achievements than others but they all expressed some difficulty functioning in class mainly in situations involving several speakers. From a social point of view, some reported a preference for association with normal hearing peers, whereas others favored hard-of-hearing friends, and one had no preference. Of those who touched on the topic of self-identity, one referred to herself as deaf, eight defined themselves as hard-of-hearing, and two consider themselves hearing. Conclusions: From the responses of these teenagers, it is clear that adolescents with cochlear implants are a heterogeneous group. Parents and teachers should be aware that adolescents with implants, even when successful academically, may experience difficulties in the classroom setting. Most of the participants in this study learning in a mainstream setting, preferred social relationships with hearing peers (to hard of hearing/deaf). The responses of these adolescents with cochlear implants support the conjecture that they have both a hearing identity and a deaf identity, which may be expressed at varying intensities depending on the situation at the time.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1337-1344
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Adolescence
  • Cochlear implant
  • Educational functioning
  • Hearing-deaf identity
  • Social functioning


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