Recently, I saw a video of a child hearing their mother’s voice for the first time. The amount of joy on the child’s face was indescribable.
Many hearing people cannot imagine a world without sound. The absence of one of the five senses would be detrimental to their quality of life. For hearing parents that have a deaf child, the use of a cochlear implant may be the best option for a “cure to deafness.”
The cochlear implant is essentially an electronic device that takes on the processes of the inner ear. It mimics the inner ear’s role and sends sound signals to the brain that the function of the inner ear in a deaf or hard of hearing individual cannot do otherwise.
With the cochlear implant, parents wouldn’t need to learn sign language and the child would fit in with their mostly-hearing peers. The use of cochlear implants, however, has generated controversy in the deaf community regarding the child’s rights.
Many deaf individuals do not see their deafness as a disability, as many “hearing” people tend to classify it as. Members of the deaf community aren’t concerned with the actual implementation of a cochlear implant, but instead the fact that hearing people may insinuate that the deaf population needs to be “fixed,” according to dailykos.com.
The exact number of deaf individuals in the United States is difficult to pinpoint, according to Gallaudet University. Deafness comes in varying degrees and can be defined differently depending on who is providing the definition.
In the U.S., Gallaudet estimates that less than one out of every 1,000 people become functionally deaf before 18 years of age, not including those categorized under severely hearing impaired or those experiencing hearing trouble, especially in old age.
The deaf community has a rich culture, consisting of its own language and social dynamics. In the U.S., American Sign Language is an optional language requirement in grade schools and is offered at many colleges.
The deaf population doesn’t need to be fixed. Many deaf people have rich lives that their deafness helps enhance.
Along with learning the language, students are also introduced to many of the social aspects of deaf culture, including eavesdropping and the use of facial expressions to enhance emphases. The use of a cochlear implant can deprive a deaf child from this deaf culture.
Therefore, both parents and the children need to be informed of the positive and negative aspects of using a cochlear implant before deciding whether or not to use this device. There are complications to any surgery with differing results, which depend on the individual’s biology and their type of hearing loss or deafness.
While that shouldn’t be the deciding factor in choosing to use this implant, it’s a factor that must be considered.
Deafness isn’t a disability and it isn’t detrimental to one’s quality of life. While some praise the technological advancements that make the cochlear implant possible, technology has also helped make the lives of deaf individuals easier.
For example, while they might not be able to talk on the phone, the use of video chatting capabilities has expanded social interactions in the deaf community. Technology grows and we grow along with it, through all cultures and peoples.
The cochlear implant is a simple choice of bodily autonomy: parents shouldn’t choose for the child. Ultimately, it should be an individual’s personal decision to receive the implant—especially because children could be deprived of the opportunity to be a part of an entire culture.