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Dad Upsets Parents By Refusing Their Offer To Pay For Deaf Infant Daughter To Get Cochlear Implants

Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Parents generally try their hardest to do what is best for their children.

But when it comes to medical needs, sometimes it’s really hard to decide what the best choice would be, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor tryingtomakeitwork34 was torn after doctors explained that his infant daughter was profoundly deaf and the subject of Cochlear implants.

When his decision threatened to divide his family, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if he had made the wrong one.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for not accepting my parents’ offer to pay for my daughter to get Cochlear Implants?”

The OP and his wife educated themselves on the Deaf community.

“My wife and I (34 Male) had our daughter a year ago. 5 months ago we found out she was profoundly deaf.”

“At first, we immediately considered a cochlear implant as our next course of action for her.”

“My wife and I are both hearing and assumed it would be best to at least give her a chance to be ‘hearing’ in a predominantly hearing world.”

“But a friend of mine suggested getting some perspective from a few hard-of-hearing individuals before we made our decision.”

“We joined a few Facebook groups and also met with a few representatives from a local school for the deaf and just tried to learn about the deaf community and deaf culture.”

Educating themselves impacted their decision for their daughter.

“It opened our eyes, and my wife and I both came to the decision to hold off and wait until our daughter could choose for herself whether or not she wanted the surgery.”

“In the meantime, we have started learning ASL (American Sign Language) in preparation for when our daughter is ready.”

The OP’s parents made a special offer regarding their granddaughter.

“It was towards Christmas when we made our decision, and around the same time, my parents asked to meet with us before Christmas.”

“We were out to eat just the 4 of us when my parents handed us a card.”

“Inside was a beautiful and heartfelt letter explaining that our parents wished to pay for our daughter to have the surgery with some of their saved retirement.”

The OP’s parents were confused by his response.

“We were touched by their offer, but then I had to explain to them that we had decided not to go forward with the cochlear implant, which we had told them and the rest of our family by then.”

“My parents said that they assumed we had put off the surgery due to the cost because we had mentioned that our insurance wasn’t covering it fully. It was still covering a good amount, but we would still need to pay around $10,000 ourselves when it was all said and done.”

“I again thanked my parents but told them that it wasn’t due to the money and explained our process for how we came to the decision.”

The OP’s parents were concerned about their relationship with their granddaughter.

“My parents were very upset. They feel like they won’t be able to connect with our daughter as well if she were to get the implants.”

“They don’t want to sacrifice the time they have with their granddaughter and also said we were putting the entire family in difficult positions by expecting them to learn ASL rather than to let our daughter get the surgery.”

“I told them that our daughter could still choose to get the surgery when she was older.”

“I admit it would be more difficult for her then than it would be now before she has started to really develop, but she could still learn.”

The whole family was tense after that.

“This whole thing has caused a substantial rift in our family.”

“A lot of our relatives understand my wife and I’s reasoning but also see it as selfish to completely disregard our parents’ generous offer.”

“I haven’t seen much of my family, and it ruined our holiday, and even now my parents are holding out and insisting every time we see them to take them up on their offer.”

“I’ve tried to explain to them that the cochlear implants won’t make our daughter hear like how we hear, but ‘hearing,’ and she also deserves to know and be around those like her.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some said the OP should absolutely give his daughter a chance at hearing “normally.”


“I’m profoundly deaf and understand the dilemma you are facing. The deaf community can be amazing, but unless you’re willing to move to where there is a large deaf community, then you really need to consider how much you’ll be depriving your daughter.”

“Cochlear implants aren’t perfect, but they’ll give her a chance at having a ‘normal’ life where she’s not isolated to only interacting with people who know ASL.”

“This is a very personal topic for me and I feel for OPs daughter.”

“Although I’ve said NAH, I still feel very strongly that OP seriously needs to reconsider waiting, and that they should just move ahead with the CIs. They should also still learn ASL and communicate with their daughter both verbally and with sign.” – thatdoesntseemright1

“Pardon my ignorance… but wouldn’t it just be like wearing glasses, in theory? Like… why go through life missing an integral sense of the human experience, if there’s an option not to?”

“If someone was blind, or even colorblind, yes, they will adapt and can move perfectly great lives… since they wouldn’t know what they were missing… but if you could provide them a tool to experience what they were missing, what are the downfalls of this?”

“I will wholly admit I don’t know much about how cochlear implants work, so I’m sure it’s more nuanced than I am making it.”

“Just trying to understand.” – Lorien6

“There are multiple perspectives on this, and lots of valid points to be made. But I will say there is a major drawback to not getting the implant early, and it is related to neuroplasticity.”

“The human brain goes through massive changes early in life, related to hardwiring the sensory experience in the brain.”

“By giving a young child access to a given modality and exposure to stimuli, they become more proficient at making use of the modality to cognitively process the stimuli. Basically, the more we see, the better we get at seeing; the more we hear, the better we get at hearing.”

“The lack of exposure at a young age can’t just simply be made up for later in life. The formative years are just that: formative.”

“I’m not advocating one way or the other, just pointing out something worth considering.” – Echoplex99

“I have taught profoundly deaf students and had an interpreter in my classroom and have had this conversation with deaf teachers many times. And now, ironically I have become deaf myself from a virus.”

“There is a small window of time in a person’s life when their language acquisition skills are primed like a race car, ready to roll. And this is before they turn 18.”

“Unless you are planning to surround yourself with the deaf community, send your child to your state deaf school, and university at Gallaudet, you are choosing to limit them in a hearing world.”

“I know you are trying your best to make the right decision for your child, but you should be aware that along with your choice comes severe academic difficulties.”

“If I had a deaf child, I would choose to get them CI in a heartbeat, and also get them fluent in ASL, so then they truly have the choice as an adult. They would have so much difficulty learning an oral language if they got CI as an adult.”

“NAH – I know you are giving this so much thought.” – Difficult_Dot_8981

Others disagreed and said the OP was right to get consent from his daughter later.

“I personally am beyond grateful my parents held off on a cochlear for me.”

“Hearing aids technology at the time wouldn’t have worked for me and doctors said it was unlikely to ever be possible for me to hear without an implant. Well, they were wrong.”

“Modern hearing aids let me hear fine when wearing them and my ability to hear wasn’t destroyed completely by getting an implant. Having the agency over that decision helped me so much.” – MountainBean3479

“It’s freaking elective brain surgery, twice, on an infant.”

“It’s not the same as therapy or hearing aids, or surgery that will help her gain independence.”

“It will permanently silence any natural hearing that she has (if any) and will leave her dependent on technology to communicate. There will be times daily that she is completely cut off from her ability to hear, since you can’t wear them while sleeping.”

“They need to be charged, they break rather easily if kids are rough on them, and you can’t get them wet, so no hearing during bath time or any form of water play.”

“The kid still needs alternate ways to communicate.” – Glittering_knave

“I was born with congenital cataracts. I had my lenses removed as a baby. Luckily, glasses worked. Without glasses, my world was like looking through an unfocused camera lens but to a larger degree.”

“They had to wait until my eyes stopped growing to get lens implants. I didn’t want them. At all. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. I was fine with having glasses.”

“Well, when I was 17, my mom made me get the implants.”

“And I see worse than I did with glasses. By a lot.”

“I can hardly see the TV screen from sitting on the couch. I have to sit on the floor to play Mario Kart with my friends and fiance. I have a harder time reading. I have halos in one eye and reflections of light in the other. Like, as I look at my phone, I can see my phone screen twice in one eye.”

“It f**king sucks. I know it’s a LOT different than OP’s situation, but in my opinion, unless it is life-threatening, always get consent from the person getting the operation.”

“This wasn’t the only surgery that I was forced into, and the other one has literally made my life h**lish as it was botched and my leg is broken. It will never heal until I can afford surgery to maybe fix it.”

“Please. Get consent.”

“The people in this kid’s life will love them either way, whether they talk funny or not. People who make fun of them can p**s right off anyways.”

“I was made fun of for having glasses (because they made my eyes look HUGE because they were super strong) before I went to a school for the blind. I never had that problem again. If you enroll your kid in a school for the deaf, no one will make fun of her there.” – kittyidiot

The subReddit absolutely appreciated the OP’s thoughtfulness and his desire to make the best decision for his daughter. That being said, the sub was divided on what that meant.

For some, consent was a leading concern, as the surgery is invasive, and an infant would have no means of objecting. But if she were to want the implants later, their effectiveness would have been arguably diminished, since she would already be beyond the age of greatest effectiveness.

No one should envy a parent needing to make a decision like this one.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit