By: Emily Loveless
Parents pray and hope that when their baby is born that the baby will be “healthy.” Many parents are heartbroken when they find out that their baby is deaf. Naturally, they go to a specialist to see what they can do to make their child “normal”, to fix their child’s handicap. Within the first month of the baby being born, their hearing will be checked. If the baby fails the test, they are referred to an Audiologist. (NICDC, 2001). From there an Audiologist will determine if the baby is a candidate for a Cochlear Implant. (UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, 2010).
So what is a Cochlear Implant? “A Cochlear Implant is defined as “a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing” (NICDC, 2001). It is defined by the FDA as “ an implanted electronic hearing device, designed to produce useful hearing sensations to a person with severe to profound nerve deafness by electrically stimulating nerves inside the inner ear.
By April 2009, approximately 188,000 people worldwide had received cochlear implants; in the U.S., about 30,000 adults and over 30,000 children are recipients. -U.S. Food and Drug Administration” (Park, 2010).
A man by the name of Dr Graeme Clark invented the Cochlear Implant. When Dr. Graeme was a young boy, his father became deaf. As a result, he had a dream which then became his life goal. Driven by the experience that his witnessed his father go through, Dr Graeme became a Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, but then left this practice so he could achieve his goal. He left his “practice in Melbourne in 1966 to study at the University of Sydney how the brain would respond to electrical stimulation for coding sound. He had the opportunity to continue this research when appointed as the Foundation Professor of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat surgery) at the University of Melbourne” (Anderson, 2007).
Dr. Gaeme Clark called his invention the Bionic Ear (it later developed into the Cochlear Implant ). Dr. Clark and his team discovered that “for the first time the nerve cells in the inner ear can be made to respond back into the inner ear. They also discovered that nearly normal sound could be reproduced by sending fine patterns of nerve fibers through to the inner ear. His early research met much opposition from most scientists who said that it was impossible to reproduce the sound made by the brain with a small number of electrode wires in the inner ear, and that it could be dangerous” (Anderson, 2007).
In 1978 Dr. Gaeme did his first operation on a man named Mr. Rod Saunders. The FDA finally approved the Cochlear Implant in 1985. It was the first Cochlear Implant ever approved by the FDA (Anderson, 2007).
Most people who get a Cochlear Implant average from ages two to six years old, although the FDA has recently approved it for children as young as 12 months. (NICDC, 2001).
A Cochlear Implant has the following parts: A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
1-A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
2-A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
3- An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collect the impulses from the stimulator and send them to different regions of the auditory nerve.” (NICDC, 2001).
There are many misconceptions about Cochlear Implants. One of them is that a Cochlear Implant restores normal hearing. In reality, the Cochlear Implant sounds very unnatural and machine-like.
People have argued different points for the Cochlear Implant’s success. To some, it is allowing a child to hear their mother’s voice for the first time (Park, 2010). To others it may be for a Deaf person to function as a hearing person. Not everyone who gets a Cochlear Implant finds it successful.
In reality, only 4.4% of all people who receive a Cochlear Implant are able to perform like a hearing person (Johnson, 2006). But the problem is that doctors do not tell the parents these statics. Parents think that once there child receives a Cochlear Implant, their child is no longer considered deaf. Deaf adults and children that get a Cochlear Implant are still deaf.
After the Cochlear Implant, the child is sent for “extensive training in listening, speech, and lip-reading—at the expense, inevitably, of time devoted to academic subjects” (Lane, 1992). The sad thing is that with all this training at home, at school, and with therapist, it will most likely not be effective, and the child will be behind both academically and ih language development.
Some people believe that once a person gets a Cochlear Implant, they will be able hear right away and be able to talk on the phone. In reality, it takes time to train your brain to use a Cochlear Implant, even for those that lost their hearing at an early age because it is not a natural sound. A person who lost their hearing late in life will have to learn to recognize certain sounds again through the device. A person who became deaf at an early age or was born deaf will have to learn all the different kinds of sounds and what they are. (Powell, 2009).
If I had a good friend that had a deaf baby, and my friend was debating on getting her child a Cochlear Implant, I would highly suggest against it. One of the reasons is that the child would not be able to play sports with the other children his or her age. “People who have Cochlear Implants are cautioned against contact sports because there is some worry that a blow to the head may damage the housing of the internal portion of the cochlear implant” (Powell, 2009) I believe that a part of their childhood is taken away from them once they get a Cochlear Implant. That child would have to sit out when all of their other friends are playing a game. It is unfair to the child.
Another reason is why not let a child be happy with who they are? Just because they are deaf does not mean that anything is wrong with them. “If the child grows up with their family thinking the deafness is a stigma, then the child is likely to have low self-esteem. A high percentage of deaf children have low self-esteem profiles, which researchers think may be tied to lack of communication” (Desselle, 1992). If the focus is on something they cannot do, instead of all the things they CAN do, of course the child will have a bad self-esteem.
Another reason I would suggest against a Cochlear Implant is because of the lack of communication that will most likely occur. One of the requirements of getting your child a Cochlear Implant is not teaching you deaf child any form of sign language. Doctors and therapists invested in the success of the Cochlear Implant want parents to focus on teaching their child lip reading and speech (Cochlear War, 2010) . By doing this, a parent is taking away their child’s language. They are forcing something on the child which is very unnatural to them. And they may or may not master it.
In my opinion this is abuse! Taking language away from a child is wrong. Parents need to learn their child’s language, not force something upon a child that the child may never be able to master. Parents who limit their child’s language while gambling on the success of lip reading and speech are then only able to communicate with their child in a superficial way. Parents may be able to tell their child to sit down, or clean their room, but how are they going to teach them to think? How are parents going to teach their child about important issues like sex, abuse, politics, etc?
Another reason I don’t like the Cochlear Implant is if a child is going to an Oral school because of the device, the school will mainly focus on teaching the child how to speak and to lip read and to recognize sounds (Lane, 1992). They do not focus on the important subjects that hearing children their age are learning; math, reading, writing and history. They may start on a subject, but then focus on the speech part of it more than the actual subject, so the child gets further and further behind in school.
Compare that now to a deaf child who did not get a Cochlear Implant. They are able to communicate with others around them, not just their teachers and parents. They are able to play with other deaf friends. They go to school, and are learning the actual subjects in school that school is intended for.
I think it is hard for a parent of a deaf child who knows nothing about Deaf culture or American Sign Language to make an informed decision. Hearing parents who find out their child is deaf want to make the best choice for their deaf child, and naturally, they go to a doctor and to experts in an effort to find out the best possible way to help their deaf child. Most people would think that an audiologist or experts in deaf related fields would know what deaf culture and the deaf community are. One would think these family’s would hear from these “experts” what the statics of successful communication are for kids who use ASL as their main form of communication versus kids that learn how to lip read and talk. But in reality, “Otologist and audiologist are often poorly informed about the deaf community and its language; that knowledge is not a required part of their training” (Lane, 1992) page 24. Otologist and audiologist usually recommend to parents the oral method of teaching their child. The best way in their opinion might be a Cochlear Implant.
Another reason I would highly suggest against a Cochlear Implant is because it would be so scary for a deaf child, and they would not understand what is happening. The book “The Other Side of Silence”, tells a story about a lady that had conduction deafness. She had a surgery done, and she was able to hear. It talks about the first thing she heard was herself swallowing a cup of water, and how loud it was for her. How she thought people were screaming when the talked to her normally, and how it was hard to sleep with all the noise. Reading this made me think of children with Cochlear Implants. Here a grown adult is having a hard time with it. It was something that she had to get use to, but she chose to do it, and she understood what was happening. Now imagine a deaf child getting an implant, and not understanding what in the world is going on. No one can really explain to the child what is happening. They cannot communicate with the hearing world, they do not know English. Maybe if someone were to sign to them before and after, they would understand more of what is happening, but they are still young and confused. But most deaf children getting the cochlear implant have NO IDEA what is happening. That can cause a lot of psychological problems (Neisser, 1996).
Cochlear Implants are wrong. There is no reason for a deaf child to get them. Statics show they will most likely not be successful anyways. We need to do what is best for our deaf children. Having the attitude that we must fix them will cause psychological problems in the end. We need to accept that they are deaf, and because of that deafness they can open up a whole new and wonderful world to us. We need to love them for who they are and the beautiful package they come in. Deaf children need to learn American Sign Language and embrace who they are, not demand they try to be more “normal” and teach them Oralism.
Anderson, J. (2007, 05). Professor Graeme Clark. Retrieved 11 2010, from Quazen: http://quazen.com/reference/biography/professor-graeme-clark/
Cochlear War. (2010). For Parents Only. Retrieved 11 2010, from Cochlear War: http://www.cochlearwar.com/for_parents_only.html
Desselle, D. D. (1992). Self-esteem, family climate, and communication patterns in relation to deafness. American Annals of the Deaf , 322-327.
Johnson, R. E. (2006). Cultural constructs that impede discussions about. Washington DC: PERSPECTIVA.
Lane, H. (1992). The Mask of Benevolence. New York: Vintage Books.
Neisser, A. (1996). The Other Side of Silence. Washington DC: Gallaudet University Press.
NICDC. (2001, May). Has Your Baby's Hearing Been Screened? Retrieved 11 2010, from NICDC: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/screened.asp
Park, S. (2010, 09). Cochlear implants allow baby to hear mother's voice for the first time. Retrieved 11 2010, from KSL: http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=12414372
Powell, K. (2009). Cochlear Implant Myths & Realities. Retrieved 11 2010, from The Listen Up Web: http://www.listen-up.org/ci/ci-myths.htm
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. (2010, 07). Cochlear Implant. Retrieved 11 2010, from UCFS Benioff Childrens Hospital: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/treatments/cochlear_implant/