OBJECTIVE : To determine and describe parent-perceived challenges related to the pediatric cochlear implantation process and support services received. METHOD :
A multicenter survey study across six cochlear implant (CI) programs in South Africa (SA) was conducted. The study sample included 82 parents of pediatric (≤18 years) CI recipients with at least 12 months CI experience. A self-administered questionnaire was developed for the purpose of this study, exploring parental challenges regarding the CI process, education of their implanted children and the support services received. RESULTS : The financial implications of cochlear implantation, including CI device maintenance, were identified by parents as the most prominent challenge. Financing issues were the highest scoring reason that attributed to the delay between diagnosis of hearing loss 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 support children with CIs. The presence of one/more additional developmental conditions and grade repetition were associated with more pronounced parent-perceived educational challenges. Parents considered speech-language therapy as the most critical support service for their implanted children to achieve optimal outcomes, while parent guidance was indicated to be the most critical support service required for parents of pediatric CI recipients. CONCLUSION : A greater understanding of parent-perceived challenges will guide CI professionals to promote optimal outcomes, evidence-based service delivery and on-going support to pediatric CI recipients and their families. Study results imply a call for action regarding financial and educational support for pediatric CI recipients in SA.