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« A dirty business | Main | Overconfident »

May 30, 2010


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I saw this a day or so ago someplace, and learned that some members of the deaf community oppose the use of Cochlear implants. That seems odd to me. We have a limited number of sense, and the senses we do have have limited range. If we can use technology to restore one of those senses, what's wrong with that? Our survival as a species depends on our ability to invent and use tools, as it always has.

I don't see any real difference between a Cochlear implant and a measles vaccination. I hope one day we have tools that can do even more.


While I'm not going to pretend to understand the ins and outs of being deaf and the (full?) utility of Cochlear implants, I do know a little something about the demands that parents enforce the perceived dominant culture on their children.

It can lead to disturbing places even among the most well-intentioned and loving parents.

Having technology or pills or chemicals or surgeries "fix" something that isn't "right" is always a path to walk carefully.

The scales can get out of balance on a personal, communal, and societal level.


I am the parent of a child with cochlear implants. They are the best thing in the world. I've never understood the people who are against them. The quality of life my son enjoys is amazing. He is 8 years old and you can't even tell he is deaf. No special classes, totally mainstreamed, he does not even know sign language. The average cost of a cochlear implant is $75,000. The average cost of educating a deaf child from grades K - 12 is much, much more than that. Cochlear implant technology is amazing and wonderful, and I am thankful for it, as is my son.


I've heard people talk about the 'deaf culture' and they say that people who are deaf should stay unable to hear and stay with that culture. What the heck? I'm not deaf. Nobody, except my son, in my family is deaf. If we were to raise him in the 'deaf culture' we could have had to have learned an entire new culture. Crazy. Do you know what the illiteracy rate for deaf adults is? Pretty damn high. My son is way above his grade level in reading. If my son had not been implanted, he'd be unable to make hearing friends without an interpreter. What kind of a childhood is that? Now he's like everyone else and can make his own friends. He listens to music, he dances, he's wonderful. Do you know what the income level of deaf adults is? The great majority live below the poverty level. Why would I subject my son to that when I had another option? If I were to lose my hearing today, I'd have an implant tomorrow. I love cochlear implants.

Sorry...this subject gets me going.


Don't apologize, Kim. You offer a poignant story that is illuminating to those of us without your first-hand experience.


i will agree 100% with Roch , don't apologize let us know how you feel . This has enlightened me on this subject just with your post


Deaf folks should be cured just like with measles?

Screw learning other cultures -- and even just some ASL?

Income levels? Really?

This thread is too far down the "different is inherently bad" path already.


Thanks, Roch and triadwatch.

designation, different is good. But hearing, if possible, is ideal. Why not give your child every advantage he or she can have if you can? I did. And I am a strong supporter of cochlear implants. Although, I will say, my son has long hair. Why? Well, the main reason is because he wants long hair, and the second reason is to cover up his processors. Why would we want to do that, you might ask? Because we've been attacked by 'deaf culture' people who think we're pure evil. If they want to stay deaf, fine, but if we chose to raise our son in the hearing world and give him every opportunity anyone else would have, that is our choice, and they need to respect that. If I had to do it all again, you better believe I'd have my son implanted. If it didn't work, great...we'd learn sign. But, it did work and life is good. :) I have no regrets. My son loves hearing and would have it no other way.

Brandon Burgess

Designation, help me understand how a child who would benefit from a CI would benefit similarly from total surrender to their condition.


Kim, I'm genuinely glad you're happy and can live with a healthy degree of certainty in the choices you had the opportunity to make.

But you've just now admitted that this is not a "mainstream" (disgusting term) case at all. The person wants to hide that which makes him different, but the difference isn't ever truly hidden.

My intersections with "mainstreaming" aren't in the deaf community, but in other areas where you've still got to learn to handle the situation you're in, no matter the tools you've got. You didn't get rid of the difference, you're just using other tools to work with it.

Don't other others. That's the part that is offensive, and dangerous, about this discussion.

Ed Cone


I didn't know anything about deaf culture until the Gallaudet succession controversy in the '80s. Even now, I struggle to understand some aspects of it. Thanks for speaking your mind.

That said, Kim spoke from her heart, as a mother, about a decision she made for her young child. Putting a statement like "screw learning other cultures" in her mouth is unfair.

For a lot of people, yes, deafness is something to be cured, not a difference to be valued.

I don't think those people would argue that deaf people, or deaf culture, are not to be valued, or that adults should not be free to make their own decisions.


What? I have no idea what you are saying now. All I know is my son is 8 years old, healthy, smart and happy. He is going to go on to have a great life. His cochlear implants are no different than my glasses, just a different sense.

Are you implying that my son wants long hair to hide his processors? No. He wants long hair because it looks cool and he likes skateboards. I go along with it because it hides his processors which saves me from being assaulted by people who think we're evil. My son loves his processors.


Thank you, Ed.


If Ed, Justcorbly, Brandon, Roch and I all agree, I'd hate to see what's on the other side.

Ed Cone

I'm interested in hearing more about a point of view I don't fully understand.

I think I grasp some of the concepts, but I don't follow them all the way to the place where parents are criticized for getting cochlear implants for their children.

Brandon Burgess

I'm genuinely interested in why some feel that CI's are a choice that should be made later in life after the child has grown up. How is that different from me making the decision to keep a disabled child bedridden instead of allowing them to utilize a wheelchair or prosthetics?

Des, I to loathe the idea of "mainstream" because the way I see it, "deaf culture" is simply one facet of the society we all live in. Deaf folks live in the same world as me. If I were facing the same decision as some of these parents and had the means, convince me why it would be better to let the child grow up without CI's.


Ed, I have heard all the arguments for not having a child implanted and I still don't understand them. Unless, of course, the entire family was deaf, then maybe I can understand that. I'm not sure, though...I think if my husband and I were both deaf I'd still would have had my son implanted, but being that we're not deaf I can't say for sure. If it were medically dangerous for the child, I understand not doing it as well, but in the case of my son, there was nothing medically to indicate that it should not be done. For us, it was the best choice.


Making that choice to have a cochlear implant later in life, to me, makes no sense. The earlier the better. Before language is generally acquired is ideal, after that it is much more difficult to learn the spoken language. If a 20 year old, who had been deaf all his life, wanted an implant, I'd advise against it. It would be very hard for that person to learn spoken language and it would probably be annoying to them. A baby, though, is different. A person who has heard all their life and suddenly loses their hearing is also different. In my opinion, cochlear implants are best for the very young (before age 2) and people who lost their hearing after having learned speech.

I agree...if my son had been born with one leg, I would not have hesitated in getting him a mechanical leg.


And deaf people DO have to live in the hearing world. Give them every tool available, including cochlear implants.

Ed Cone

The issue of deaf families is raised in the Metafilter thread linked in the post, which contains a lot of interesting viewpoints.

A certain part of the larger argument, as I understand it, is that deaf culture is as valid as any other culture, and its loss or diminishment would come at a cost. I don't doubt that, but costs sometimes purchase benefits, and it seems to me that the benefits should be part of the equation.

I can see how "mainstream" raises hackles, and it may in this context be beyond reclamation, but might it be used at times in a fairly neutral, quantitative sense?


Maybe. could I raise my son in a culture I know nothing of? Would that not be like me trying to raise my son as, let's say, a Muslim, when I am not a Muslim and really know nothing about it? I don't understand the whole deaf culture idea. You're deaf, fine, you're deaf. It's not a big deal, really. I have a thyroid condition that I take medication for and that is different from the mainstream. I don't only associate with people with a thyroid condition, though. I'm not going to not take my daily medication so I will continue to have the effects of the condition. I am going to take my thyroid meds so I can live a normal life.

Btw, I have no problem with sign language. I would love to learn it as a back up and as a neat thing to know. I, however, am horrible with languages. I took Spanish in both high school and college and can only count to 10. If my son had been forced to learn sign, I would have done all I could have to learn it, but I would have had trouble. A lot of trouble. Our relationship would have been very different if I had to learn an entire new language (and culture) and teach it to my son in order for us to communicate. His grandparents, in their 70's and 80's. would have been unable to talk to him fluently. His cousins, his would have been an entirely different life, and it would not have been the life any of us wanted. It would have been very, very difficult.

As I said before, if my husband and I had been deaf, it might have been a different story. But we're not, so it isn't. And, of course, even if we were I think we would have had our son implanted to give him a fighting chance.

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