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Cochlear Implant Social Worker Addresses Entire Family's Needs

December 12, 2016

The diagnosis of hearing loss can be fraught with enormous worry and stress for the child's family. While every member of Lurie Children's Audiology and Cochlear Implant programs is dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for each child, social worker Christine Berg, LCSW, focuses on the entire family's needs.

"I tell families I am here for them, and they are so grateful," says Christine who, thanks to support from the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation, provides crucial services for these families.

Being present when a child is diagnosed with hearing loss enables Christine to form lasting partnerships with families. She develops a psycho-social assessment of each family to understand the strengths and stressors they are dealing with. This assessment is an essential tool in determining how to best support and work with each family.

"Having a professional who is knowledgeable about hearing loss and social services, and is professionally trained to help families manage stress and become advocates for their children, is invaluable," says Medical Director, surgeon Nancy M. Young, MD. "Parents are often devastated thinking that the future they had envisioned for their child might not be possible. But the good news is, that future may very well be possible after all. Christine does a great job of providing resources, as well as emotional support, for families."

Chicago is a very culturally diverse city. Understanding cultural differences may be crucial in gaining parents' trust. Trust is often the key to parents following through on their child's treatment plan. For example, one patient's mother, who came from a country where hearing loss is stigmatized, had great difficulty accepting the diagnosis and the need for her child to wear hearing aids. With Christine's help, she gradually became more comfortable – which translated into consistent device use with improvement in listening and spoken language, as well as more joy in their relationship.

"It took a long time, but it was a huge victory," says Christine. "I am an eternal optimist, and I always look for the hopeful. But to see that this family finally was so invested in their child's care and taking our recommendations was just wonderful."

Support for Lurie Children's Cochlear Implant Program is provided by the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation.