The aim of this study was to determine parent-perceived challenges related to the paediatric cochlear implantation process and support services received in South Africa (SA).
This multicenter survey study involved six cochlear implant (CI) programs throughout SA. The study sample included 82 parents of paediatric (≤18 years) CI recipients. A questionnaire was developed to explore parental challenges regarding the CI process, educational aspects and support services received.
The financial implications of cochlear implantation, including CI device maintenance, was identified by parents as the most prominent challenge. Financing issues were the highest scoring reason that attributed to the delay between hearing loss diagnosis and cochlear implantation, as well as the greatest barrier to bilateral implantation. Parent-perceived educational challenges included finding adequate educational settings specific to the individual needs of their child and a shortage of trained teachers equipped to deliver intervention services to children with CIs. The presence of one/ more additional developmental conditions and grade repetition were significantly associated with more pronounced parent-perceived educational challenges. The three support services that parents considered as most critical for their implanted children to achieve optimal outcomes were speech-language therapy, tutoring in the school system and counselling. Parent guidance, financial support and guidance to discipline the child with a CI(s) were the three support services deemed most critical for parents of paediatric CI recipients.
A greater understanding of parent-perceived challenges will guide CI professionals to promote optimal outcomes, evidence-based service delivery and on-going support to paediatric CI recipients and their families. Study results imply a call for action regarding financial and educational support for paediatric CI recipients in SA.