controversy on cochlear implants

mwoodsApril 20, 2008

A TV movie being shown tonight reminds me once again of how totally one sided I am on the controversy of cochlear implants. I think we all really try to see two sides to an issue,looking at the best and worst from both and then making a decision but on this issue I can't seem to wrap my mind around any other side than having this procedure when it involves your child . If you aren't familiar with the issue, it pretty much is about those in the non hearing world,not wanting their children to have a cochlear implant,which would restore their hearing. It isn't because of any risk,or because of the cost but about their children entering the world of the hearing. Activists insist that "deaf culture," complete with its own language -- American Sign Language, or ASL -- is no different from any other ethnic or linguistic culture. For the life of me I can't come to grips with the idea that a parent would never want his or her child to hear a bird sing,hear the wind blowing or listen to music. By the time this same child is old enough to decide for himself whether hearing would be beneficial or not, would his speech already be permanently impaired to a hearing world? To me it basically boils down to denying your child one of the 5 senses given to most humans on the planet, because you think you can get along without it.

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lindajewell

I am with you! I think they are being very self absorbed and not thinking of the welfare of the child, after all it is not their fault they were born deaf. I remember one of those "extreme make-over" shows where the woman got cochlear implants as part of her make-over. She was thrilled beyond words, cried and cried as she was hearing sound she never heard before.........like the symphony that was played just for her!

what a shame that a parent would be so selfish as to not explore this for their child.

Linda J

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:08AM
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Pidge

I'm with you on this one, Marda. I don't want to demean the deaf community by saying it's always to one's benefit to move beyond it, but it has always seemed to me that correcting a correctible physical disability is what most of us would opt for. We'd try to repair eyesight or birthmarks or hairlips, etc.
But there is a strong element among the deaf community that is determined to make the case for the deaf as a distinct culture. Yet that culture is by its nature outside the mainstream and practically invisible to it. I had a deaf student once who became deaf at around 17, so her speech was only slightly impaired. She was not a candidate for a cochlear implant because the damage was due to a virus. She went on to grad school to study dealing with deaf students and is now teaching. But how many are as lucky as she is to have come late to deafness and to have the opportunity to get a good job?
I know that people can make decisions for their children that are none of my business and I guess this is one of them. But I can't help but wonder why.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:09AM
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endorphinjunkie(z7bAlabama)

I just wonder how long it will be for the government to step in am make the decision for the parents using the "moral" reason that it is good for society. Kinda like they are doing so in Texas right now. Of course, since the population of deaf people is mostly decentralized, it may make the gubbermint's job a bit more difficult.

Dad is a candidate for a cochlear implant, but at 75, doesn't want to or see the need to go through the surgery. I'm not sure if the VA admin will pick up the tab.

Also, debb'l advocate here,

[edit........edit.....too damn political ...edit.....delete......]

That's how I feel about that...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:28AM
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mwoods

I agree with you, Michael, about the government stepping in and hope they keep their nose out of it. It's one thing to disagree with an issue like this but quite another to legally try to prevent it,when eventually a person can make up his or own mind whether to have the surgery or not. Wonder why those activists don't allow their children have the implant and then let them choose later on whether to have it removed or not?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:40AM
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endorphinjunkie(z7bAlabama)

Didn't mean to delete this part.

The average cost of this procedure is $85,000. Not all insurance will pay for this, though. That's not pocket change, and most modern miracle medicine is not affordable, even to the upper middle class.

Link to info on cost, cost effectiveness, and such.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 10:45AM
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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

After taking several ASL classes and moving within the deaf community, I understand it.
Most of the hearing world view it as a disability, or something that needs to be "fixed". Those who stand on the side against the implants don't see it as an impairment, but simply part of who you are. By getting an implant, you are essentially saying that being deaf is not a good thing.

It is somewhat like being gay. I don't want to be fixed, I don't need to be fixed, I like who I am.

Also, the implants do not restore your hearing to the level of a person who hears. It is computerized sound, so the idea of hearing birds sing like we do, isn't the reality.

I am sure there is a lot of this world I miss because I am busy listening rather than seeing...

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 11:25AM
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mwoods

I was surfing around to see the info on this surgery and children and it said that the average cost is 40,000 with most insurance companies and Medicaid paying for it..which of course leaves out a big chunk of our society.

Here is a link that might be useful: costs

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 11:25AM
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agnespuffin

I had a DIL that became deaf in her 20s. She later had an implant. She told me that far too many of of the born-deaf group simply do not understand what they are missing. They grew up knowing only the 400 or so basic words in the American Sign Language vocabulary and think that this is all that is needed. For them, this is true. They don't understand the point of hearing sounds or knwoing more words, any more than most of us would understand the point of speaking an ancient Eskimo language.

It's difficult to explain to someone that has very little vocabulary what being able to hear and learn in order to earn a good income, or to communicate with the hearing world, is better than welfare, disability checks and misunderstandings. It's what they know and they are happy with it.

They have all they need. They don't see the need for their children to be different. Naturally, I am speaking about some, but not all, of the born deaf. There are many very successful born-deaf people, but they are few and far between.

We rented a house to a deaf couple. She was convinced that men were looking in the window at her and insisted on moving. What happened was that the electric and gas meters were by the kitchen window and when the readers came by, she thought they were looking in. She didn't understand the concept of reading meters. The born-deaf usually don't read well either unless they were brought up using Signed English instead of the American Sign Language.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 11:27AM
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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

WOW, some mis-guided idea. As far as the meter readers, you don't have to be deaf to have that happen.

second, there are FAR FAR more than ~400 signs in ASL. My ASL dictionary has over 700 pages and that doesn't include body language used to convey "inflection" of a word.

ASL is three dimensional, and is very much an art form

As far as them not knowing what they miss, that is like saying that someone who lives in another country are there because they don't know what they are missing in the US.

I may not have children but that doesn't mean I don't have less of a wonderful life, it's just different.

Deaf are not victims, they are simply deaf. Most are very comfortable in their skins and proud of who they are. Why should they change?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 1:17PM
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calliope(6)

Here is the dilemma in my mind. This procedure should always be done based on choice, and require informed consent by the party to which it is done, or by the person/s who has/have the authority to have it done to another in their keeping based upon their opinion of what is best in that particular case.

I am looking at this in an historical context. Once upon a time the profoundly deaf were usually also mute. The government, based on the advice of the "experts" of the time lumped those people into the same category as imbeciles/idiots and it was typical to have the deaf/dumb committed to what amounted to an insane asylum.

I have a friend who became deaf in childhood after an illness destroyed her auditory nerves. She was denied access to learning sign language because the "experts" at that time felt that it would disable her in the hearing world. She was forced to learn lip reading instead. When she reached the age to attend university, she was enrolled in one for the deaf. Sign language was taught and used there, and she said it was at this point she felt liberated and joined a world of fluent communication. In this case the 'expert' opinion of the day was a hindrance to her, and not a help. Expert opinions change over time, and it's likely that our experts of today shall also be looked back upon by future generations as misguided in many respects. It doesn't surprise me at all that the deaf community looks upon pressure from the experts with trepidation. To many in that community the disability doesn't come from not being able to hear, but results from the preconceptions and prejudices society imposes upon them.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 1:30PM
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mwoods

Weebus,do you feel the same way about blindness?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 2:15PM
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agnespuffin

We insist that children go to school to learn how to be self-sustaining adults. It would be wonderful if all communities had programs that could teach the deaf to be able to get along in a hearing world. But that hasn't happened yet. About all we can do is see that they get adequate disability payments. An implant would at least give them a better chance.

The situation is particularly bad for those raised in communities with little or no resources for the hearing impaired. What's the solution? I have no idea.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 3:08PM
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Pidge

I was wondering about that 400 words in ASL because it seems to me that even if one can only communicate that many words in sign, reading would automatically enlarge the vocabulary exponentially. So I am glad to hear via weebus that the limit in ASL is much higher. Also--and this shows how little I know--does sign only work in words but could it also be used phonetically?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 7:09PM
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agnespuffin

The 400 figure that I gave is more or less what the average ASL person understands or uses. There are more words, with more being developed. A child that comes from a family that doesn't use many, doesn't learn many. ASL also has a grammar of it's own.

The new, Signed English, has a much larger vocabulary and is based on the standard english grammar. This makes reading much easier for the deaf in that a book does not have to be "translated" to be understood. SE is based on ASL signs.

I am not as knowledgeable about the two as I wish I were. I only know what we learned as we worked to be able to talk with my DIL. In her opinion, SE was much better than ASL. This could be because she had once been able to hear and the SE followed what she was used to. The interesting thing that followed her implant was that while she could understand a lot of people, those with a raspy voice (like me!) or a bad southern drawl, were not understandable. The crisp, northern accents were easily understood. I think it was because she could hear and distinguish the final consonants better.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 7:54PM
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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

Weebus,do you feel the same way about blindness?

I really haven't thought that far to be honest. I guess if I moved within a blind community I would have a better understanding of the situation. I do know a couple of people who are blind, it doesn't slow them down much. I do think I would rather be deaf than blind.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 2:07PM
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weebus(Z8 Sunset 5 WA)

ASL is truly a fascinating language. It is much more commonly used than signed English, and does not follow grammatical rules. Actually I think it makes far more sense than spoken English, and easier to learn.

If you ever get a chance, watch an interpreter sign singing. Absolutely amazing. Also, FWIW, there are several languages of ASL. The ASL used in the US is based on French ASL but Spanish ASL is a whole different matter.

One last tidbit. It was Gallaudet University is where the football huddle came from. The football players would sign the plays to each other, and eventually the other schools would learn the signs. In order to be able to communicate without the other school knowing what they were going to do, they started Huddling...and so it goes

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 2:17PM
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ell_in_or(z8 OR)

I work for the City government,and one of our seasonal (taxtime last year) employees was deaf, did not read lips and only used ASL and writing to communicate. He was quite interesting, but conversations were definitely slow. He was working on his bachelors degree and wanted to be in public administration/advocacy. I remember wondering how that would work if he refused to try to learn anything besides ASL, and didn't come off as particularly friendly to us. (It was explained to us that this was deaf culture.) During training sessions, an ASL/translator was brought in. After the training, he was on his own. It seemed lonely to not be able to 'chat' in the hall. Perhaps it wasn't for him. It would be for me. A few of us learned (and have now forgotten) some signs - mostly to say Good morning or Hi. Most were not that interested. Perhaps a separate culture IS easier - particularly if most of the world ignores you.

Sociologically though, and generally speaking, small insular cultures tend toward not being very economically successful unless they figure out a good way to interact with the dominant culture, or are large enough to be self-sustaining.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 2:21AM
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Gymgirl44

Deaf people have a strong sense of pride. They donâÂÂt feel they are disabled and they are not. And deaf people are not less bright. You say that they wonâÂÂt get jobs or wonâÂÂt succeed, there are MANY deaf people who easily get jobs and succeed and not even in just signing areas. There are ones extremely successful, live and work in hearing areas. Being deaf does not drag down a person. I can see how hearing parents would âÂÂwant whatâÂÂs best for their kidâ But even with the cochlear they wonâÂÂt be able to hear normal and it can just cause them confusion on who they are, whatâÂÂs going on around them, and cause then to struggle some. Plus most with the implant at young donâÂÂt learn to sign so they donâÂÂt get introduced to that culture and it may make them feel less complete and can have many psychological results. But for someone who has been hearing for many years then lose their hearing I can understand why they would want one. Getting it as an adult or older, they would be fine because they would have already known the language. They should learn some sign thoughâ¦just in case. I know parents want to put in the copular when the kids young because thatâÂÂs when they will have the best transition. The cochlear implant is good in theory, but the problem is when a kid is a baby, the parents donâÂÂt know what the child will want in the future; which is why the decision should be made when the child is old enough to understand the pros and cons between the two.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 7:50PM
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Pidge

How astonishing to open Garden Party and find a thread started by my dear friend Marda. Sorry, gymgirl44, to deflect from the comments you made, but I miss Marda a great deal--she died the same year my son did, 2012--and it feels eerie to see her post and my comments on it at the time all this time later.
Back to topic.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 8:42AM
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