Disability versus Culture

Cochlear Implants in the Hearing and Deaf World

What is a cochlear implant?

"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. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin." (NIH)

Deaf Culture

  • “A group of individuals, generally born-deaf, who communicate with American Sign Language (ASL)… [who] believe that deafness opens them up to membership in a community with its own rich history, language, and value system rather than a disability that condemns them to a world of silence.”
  • Rely on the next generation to continue their way of life
  • Feel threatened by cochlear implants and the desire to "cure" deafness
  • Do not view themselves as disabled, just "different", yet still want the benefits of disabled people covered by the ADA
  • Believe that born-deaf children belong in their culture, but hearing parents rid them of that possibility when implanted

Reasons to Implant

  • Give a deaf child more opportunities for an "open future" as an implanted child
  • Allow for more communication and language opportunities
  • The disability can be altered, and hearing people think that being able to hear is the norm, so they try and allow their child to be hearing
  • Unaware of the Deaf community and culture that could aide a deaf child and family

Reasons not to implant

  • Child is no longer part of the "deaf" community, and not really a part of the hearing community, so they are always an outsider
  • Child will likely not know ASL or deaf history, not fulling appreciating themselves
  • Potential that once a child gets older, they may not want the permanent device that was installed in them as a child
  • Not many children are accepted as candidates for the implant
  • Implant may or may not work, hearing parents can be disappointed in the child's language and developmental growth