Does a cochlear implant ‘fix’ a deaf person?

7 08 2011

Charlie wrote a very good article on the issue of giving a cochlear implant to a deaf person to ‘fix’ their hearing loss. Reading through the comments left by the public, I am shocked at some of the bigoted views, sad to see the ignorance displayed, but pleased to read some excellent views put forward (usually by cochlear implant users themselves).

At the end of the day, it is the individual’s decision to accept a cochlear implant and make it work, no one else’s. I didn’t consider myself ‘broken’, until I reached a point where I couldn’t cope any more, and looked for other options to help me manage my ability to communicate. My choice was the cochlear implant, as I wanted to start living my life again – right here, right now. Other people’s choices might be learning / using sign language, resignation and acceptance, or waiting for effective drugs, stem cells, nanotechnology, neural implants or infra-red light based cochlear implants. Everyone’s personal choice is just that, and should be respected.

The Guardian: Not all deaf people want to be ‘fixed’.

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15 responses

7 08 2011
Catherine

The question that drives me buggy are the babies born deaf. For those who would benefit from CI’s, what to do with the parents that say no?

7 08 2011
Andy

There is nothing WRONG about bringing up Deaf kids. There are plenty of them and always will be. The fact is that when children are implanted with CI’s at an early age they need far less help and support later on. This is because they absorb speech and language at the same rate as hearing children.

The point about CI’s and children is that it makes them less dependent on outside support. They don’t need special conditions in order to learn and they have equal opportunities of success alongside hearing kids.

What I don’t like about objectors to child CI’s is that they FORCE their views onto other people in the belief that they are doing good. The evidence is quite the opposite.

7 08 2011
Catherine

And I am almost in the position of wanting to force my views on the
reluctant deaf parents of a deaf child. I had a very intelligent deaf man tell me he and his deaf wife were expecting and hoping for a deaf child. This young and very nice man was using a hearing aid and was feeling depressed in the middle of the semester. In spite of knowing him from sitting in classes with him and thinking well of him, I walked away from him open mouthed with a very judgmental disgust. I am not proud at all of my behavior at that moment; none the less I still fervently hope their baby was born hearing. My only excuse was never ever having thought anyone could wish their child to be deaf. Never saw him again, of course, so I don’t know what happened–one of the disadvantages of being so judgmental. Not around at all for that kid, whom I might have gotten to know.
I heard from another deaf person else who was rabidly against CI’s. She is/was very much immersed in the deaf community and told me that hearing children tend to migrate away from their deaf parents. I know of one beautiful woman, born hearing to deaf parents and was forbidden to speak. She ended up in a relationship with an abusive man. I don’t know how she is doing now; I very much wish her well.
I myself had and still have many personal problems, being born profoundly HOH and expected to be normal, no sign language. The only way I was able to begin recovering was to learn to accept myself as a deaf person.
I must accept the fact that some deaf parents will not have their deaf babies implanted. I can’t force my views on them, for that would give them the right to force their views on me.

15 08 2011
Arnt Joakim

What you describe here is an ‘idealist’ view of how CI’s works. I’m not denying that for some CI children the implant works so well it makes them functioning apparently almost as well as hearing children. And in that case, very good for them.

But two things to keep in mind. For the first, children with CI are still hard-of-hearing children. They will never hear as well as hearing children due to the limitations of the technology. This mean that they will still have issues with their limited hearing abilities that needs to be addressed. Children are individuals, and so the assistance they receive must also be individual. It will be important to follow-up with intensive auditory training during their up-bringing to ensure they use their CI fully.

The problem with hearing difficulties (also the kind of hearing difficulties that are common among implanted children) is that they’re much more ‘invisible’ and harder to discover and manage than full-on deafness. In the case of deaf children, you see right away that they’re deaf and depend on sign language to communicate. While hard-of-hearing children are much better at “hiding” their communication difficulties, especially if they’re among hearing children. They may nod and pretend to be understanding, when in fact they are not. There is nothing inherently wrong about it, it is a common ‘survival’ strategy among hard-of-hearing people. But it is an issue that must be kept in mind. They may appear to be functioning well when observing them in classes, while in reality they have serious issues functioning socially with their peers, issues that may cause serious problems for them later on in life if not addressed correctly.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the benefit of the implantation can vary hugely between implanted children. Some children function almost as well as normal hearing children, while others function so badly they could almost be called deaf. You never hear about this in the ads published by CI manufacturers, but I know there are professionals who observe this on a daily level.

In my opinion CI children should be followed-up with both auditory training and sign language education. The sign language is to ensure the children have opportunities to express themselves and communicate even in situations where the CI falls short. Some people say that teaching children sign language will stun their language development, but this is a myth. Sign language will stimulate and boost even their spoken-language development.

Lastly I want to note that I am very CI-positive, and that I believe that children will benefit from being operated with CI. But I also believe strongly the following:
– It should still be up to the parents whether they want to operate their children or not. The sign language and deaf culture are full and rich, and comparable to the hearing language and world. They will still be able to have a rich life growing up as deaf as long as they have the appropriate community support (preferably all-deaf school).
– CI operated children should be followed up by professionals with a deep understanding of the issues that CI children face, which are different from the issues that hearing, deaf, and hearing aid children meet. If this expertise is not accessible in your area, chances are the child would be better off growing up as a deaf child in an all-deaf school.

7 08 2011
Andy

Ah yes! That will be the usual suspects again. There is a small group of Deaf people who go around making an awful lot of noise for such a small number. They are basically anarchists who use Deaf issues as a means of bullying and oppressing other Deaf people. For example they have popped up in various forums over the years, trying to manipulate people round to their extremely narrow-minded views of how Deaf people should be.

I’m as Deaf as they come, having had an education mostly in Deaf schools and ending in a stay at Mary Hare. These people consider themselves above all that, as if they are some kind of elite. They repeatedly attack other Deaf people, especially those who dare to disagree with them and they seem to thrive on feeding misinformation to hearing people about deafness.

The last article I saw in the Guardian about deafness had numerous articles, all of them based on signing Deaf people. The word lipreading did not appear ONCE in several thousand words.

More recently there was a lecturing article on the front page of Hearing Times to the effect that Deaf signers are not miming. As if we needed telling that! Again the word lipreading was not mentioned. The hypocrisy of this is that I know all of the people concerned are dependent on lipreading but they make a political issue out of using sign language.

And of course because I dare to speak out about freedom of choice and the right to make one’s own decisions about Deafness and Deafhood that has brought me into the firing line. You’ve heard the lies about me. I’ve been banned from about 5 forums for telling the truth!

However people are waking up to the fact that we as deaf people are being misrepresented by this tiny group. They have manipulated themselves into a position of some authority about deafness and then used that to feed inaccurate information to hearing people. It’s no wonder the Deaf world never moves on with people like this trying to paralyse the advance of technology that will assist us.
I’ve told then to their nasty little faces “With friends like you we don’t need enemies”. And I stand by that.

7 08 2011
sarah

Someone once said to be ‘there are different ways of being Deaf/deaf’ I totally agree. I don’t need to say any more than that.

7 08 2011
Admin

I like this! 🙂

8 08 2011
Andy

If there is ONE message that we need to get over to hearing people (and many deaf) it is that deafness is a different experience for everyone. There are many causes of deafness, many forms of deafness and following on from that the experience of being deaf is different too.

The logical conclusion to be drawn from this line of thought is that deafness is a very complicated issue and no one person knows all about it. It is therefore wrong for one particular group to dictate standards to the rest based on their own experience! Yet this is what we see over and over again. Deaf people telling others what to do based on their own lifestyle and experience. It’s just absurd.

More importantly it is destructive.

7 08 2011
mm

If it is about choice then why are people annoyed at being offered them ? As Andy stated there is this ‘hard core’ of disaffected and deaf people who hate anything to do with choices that are alternatives to what they use, and want in fact to determine choices for other people’s children too. They are offered opportunities to suggest its great to be deaf, but then angry when some reject this suggestion and attack parents as abusers too, none of this does anything to promote their option. In fact probably suggests to parents of deaf children they are better off out of that.

MM

7 08 2011
Admin

You’re asking the wrong person 🙂 I suspect some Deaf people see a choice such as a CI as taking them away from their deaf culture. When they come to understand a CI won’t do this, they still will be deaf, they realise a CI is not such a bad idea after all. Just needs a bit of knowledge and logic applied.

8 08 2011
Andy

The problem with this is that the people responsible for all the negative propaganda use emotive not logical arguments. That’s one way in which you can tell they are cooking it up. Look at the background of some of these objectors and you will find lawyers and computer programmers. These are people for whom logic is second nature and yet they follow this course of presenting disturbing emotive arguments to get their own way.
It’s a quite deliberate attack on other deaf people and I think the reason is because the people concerned are privately unhappy with their deafness and take it out on others. It’s the only rational explanation I can find for the behaviour of this group of people. One of my old time Deaf friends tells me we had exactly the same when hearing aids were first invented in the 1950’s.
There was a group going round preaching gloom and doom about hearing aids. Didn’t happen.

10 08 2011
Spencer

Hearing Aids were invented before the 1950s, Andy. My parents remember using them in elementary school, so they were around, at least, in the 1940s.

8 08 2011
mm

How can it be seen as that ? all they have to do surely, is… refuse and say, thanks but no thanks, sorted. yet they persist on attacking others that support or choose CI’s. Without the CI user, deaf culture will die anyway, so biting the hand that feeds seems suicidal. They base culture on an definition that was devised BEFORE CI’s, before more enlightened educational approaches, and before better hearing aids and more deaf schooling was around, they just refuse to move on. They see integration and access as undermining culture, because they cannot control that, but nobody can.

11 08 2011
Andy

Dude please don’t be pedantic. We are talking about >modern< hearing aids here. The original hearing aid was a piece of tubing with a funnel and invented in Victoriam times.
However the hearing aids we use today were invented along with many other miniature gadgets when the transistor came into use.
In the 1950's the Government introduced the Medresco transistorised aid on the NHS and there was a huge outcry from certain sections of the Deaf community. Just as there is now about CI's. People were being told that hearing aids would harm their health, sour the milk and cause the end of the Deaf community. Didn't happen.
(Medresco was a research department funded by the Government. Medical Research Company)

22 09 2011
The One Way Street « Bilaterally Numb

[…] Does a cochlear implant fix a deaf person? […]

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