Cochlear Implant
May 29, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Jonathan's Cochlear Implant Activation. An 8-month-old deaf baby has his cochlear implant turned on and hears sound for the first time (SLYT). [Via]
posted by homunculus (113 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ok, I don't normally like babies but that was really fucking awesome and cute at the same time. That melts my cold, dead heart.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:49 PM on May 29, 2010 [23 favorites]


Wow, ok, that warmed even my bitter and cynical heart. Now I need to go read about politics for a while.
posted by Canageek at 12:56 PM on May 29, 2010


I have something in my eye.
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on May 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


The look of wonder and amazement is so touching.
posted by gomichild at 12:57 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jezebel did a glurgy post on this that, interestingly, had a bit of serious discussion of the deaf community's pros and cons view of implants inbetween the SQUEE!!!11!!
posted by availablelight at 1:05 PM on May 29, 2010


Wow, ok, that warmed even my bitter and cynical heart. Now I need to go read about politics for a while.

If it makes you feel better, deaf activists would say that the smiles of that baby are the result of cultural genocide...
posted by hellx at 1:06 PM on May 29, 2010 [19 favorites]


Jezebel was where I saw this first too. I was surprised to learn about the argument that this kind of thing shouldn't be done on a baby who has no agency, just like circumcision or getting their little ears pierced. And the idea that the video is "culturally insensitive". Sometimes you just have to say "I don't know.."
posted by amethysts at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2010


"rah rah, ah ah ah
Roma, ro ma ma,
ga ga, ooh la la"
posted by fuq at 1:10 PM on May 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


If your eyes don't water up at this, you might be a robot.
posted by schmod at 1:14 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was surprised to learn about the argument that this kind of thing shouldn't be done on a baby who has no agency, just like circumcision or getting their little ears pierced.

You know, while I can empathize with this argument, childhood is essentially 18 years of parents making choices on behalf of their children; usually to serve their children's best interests. While I can see waiting on circumcision or ear piercing because there aren't (to my knowledge) major drawbacks to waiting, letting the kid decide on an implant when he's an adult would mean that if he chooses the implant, he will likely struggle with problems like speech development as an adult. Also, choosing to raise the child in the deaf community is choosing his culture for him in the same way that deaf community advocates say that implants force non-deaf culture on children (although, of course, one has social privileges and dominance that the other doesn't, so there are different implications to each choice). Parents make decisions every day that will impact their child's future and hope for the best; I'm not sure I can find fault in that.
posted by emilyd22222 at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2010 [89 favorites]


If your eyes don't water up at this, you might be a robot.

INITIATING...OPTICS...MOISTURE...SEQUENCE...
posted by longsleeves at 1:22 PM on May 29, 2010 [38 favorites]


I could probably put this more delicatly, but that particular strain of advocacy just seems indefensibly vile and selfish. That baby was not born without hearing to be part of your special fucking club.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on May 29, 2010 [154 favorites]


I love the video, and, if it were my kid, I would make the same choice with no regrets.

That said, I think the reaction of (some) deaf people is inevitable. There's a very real deaf culture in America. In a way, you could argue that it's more real than black culture and gay culture, because it has it's own language (ASL). It's not a bunch of random deaf people. It's a CULTURE. People have grown up in that culture. They've lived in it all their lives. It's their identity!

And once people have formed into a culture, they naturally become protective of that culture. That's just GOING to happen. If they don't feel protective of it, the culture won't be able to sustain itself.

What was done to that baby will be seen, from those within, as a threat to their culture. It's a threat for two reasons. First, because it sends a message that "your culture is based on something broken and we're fixing it." Second, because if all deaf people DO get "fixed," there will be no more deaf culture.

What's interesting to me -- and disturbing -- is that I don't think there's any way to be fair and respectful to everyone, unless you're okay with leaving deaf babies deaf when there's technology available to give them hearing.

Whether you think this is rational or not, many people ARE going to feel that you are disrespecting their culture if you do what these parents do. Anyone who has experienced prejudice knows how terrible that feels. (You might say, "But being deaf ISN'T like being black. Being black isn't a disability. Being deaf IS." But I'm talking about inevitable feelings, not logic.)

If you make your deaf child into a hearing child, you ARE going to cause some people to feel something along the lines of how gay people would feel if they heard you gave your child a pill to make him straight.
posted by grumblebee at 1:32 PM on May 29, 2010 [21 favorites]


I'm not sure where I fall when it comes to the Deaf community's debate on CIs. On the one hand, yes, as far as able-bodied people are concerned, this is a handicap that impedes participation in mainstream culture. On the other hand, Deaf culture has existed for a long time, and it is as vibrant and unique as any other culture. I'm a huge fan of ASL; I find it a beautiful, expressive language that differs from spoken languages in ways that those who have no experience with it can't even fathom. The anti-CI contingent are fighting to keep their traditions and language from extinction. I don't know that hearing folks (though we are an overwhelming majority) have the right to tell them what they should do--or even (and yes, this is probably a contentious thing to say) share their opinions, because we simply cannot come close to imagining what it is like to belong to this community; thus passing judgment on their choices can only come from ignorance.
posted by tzikeh at 1:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The thing is, tzikeh, that if CI technology (or something similar) becomes good enough, we will destroy that culture. It can't exist without Deaf people.

Like I said, I would give my child an implant without pause, but I'd be aware that this is a side-effect of my actions.
posted by grumblebee at 1:43 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The hearing impaired community is justifiably concerned about the prospect of treating deafness with cochlear implants -- it was not too long ago that deafness was considered by the public at large a mental disability. I just need to remind everyone the source of the word "dummy" to make my point.

However, though many opponents of providing children cochlear implants would consider it to be "cultural genocide" the fact simply remains that deafness is a disability. It is a tragedy and still a serious cultural problem when disability is equated with lower personal value, but the problem isn't solved by withholding treatments that can partially or completely restore hearing.

I assert that "making a gay child straight" or "making a black child white" is a false equivalency. Unless the world were in dire underpopulation crisis, there is no functional reason to favor heterosexuality over homosexuality, and barring even more bizarre sci-fi circumstances, there is no functional reason to favor one skin color over another.

But favoring a full complement of sensory apparatus over an impaired sensory apparatus has profound functional consequences. Hearing impaired people navigate through their life very well, thank you very much, but they have learned coping mechanisms for interacting with a world that is very much sound-filled, and have learned to function well despite the disadvantage of being unable to apprehend a large portion of the data stream of life that surrounds them. It is not merely acculturation that values hearing over deafness. It's a nurse being able to hear when a patient's breathing is labored. It's a pedestrian hearing a vehicle around a blind corner.

Hearing impaired people have a rich social and cultural subcontext in greater society, and for their having been discriminated against (and worse), it would be a shame to lose those subcultures forever. But ultimately, it's more of a shame that the subculture has to exist in the first place.
posted by chimaera at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010 [19 favorites]


if CI technology (or something similar) becomes good enough, we will destroy that culture. It can't exist without Deaf people.

But it's ultimately not up to the hearing. That's why I'm wary of responses like Artw's. We can't force deaf people to give their children CIs; it's not our place to decide that. The Deaf community is not a "special club." I think that's a nasty, condescending, and prejudicial remark. It's akin to someone who ascribes to one belief system telling someone who holds to a different set of beliefs that, if they teach their children to adhere to their own belief are "making a choice" to keep their child in their "special club." Parents want their children to be a part of their culture. It's a natural response.
posted by tzikeh at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Jezebel thread:

But do these amputees and blind people own a distinct cultural and linguistic identity and participate in a cultural community? Do they share a common language and have cultural traditions and values that are passed down generation to generation?

When you list the reasons why your minority should be taken more seriously than other people's minorities, that's kind of when I stop listening.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Filled me with joy to see the baby get it, the wonder of it, and immediately shape his mouth as if to form words. Happy for him to have options in dealing with deafness. I was surprised he wasn't shocked, unhappy or fearful coming out of silence into the affectionate din.
posted by nickyskye at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The funny thing is that I see your point and agree completely with you grumblebee, but I would favorite Artw's post a thousand times if I could.
posted by dubitable at 1:52 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that should defrost/soften/melt just about anyone's heart. I just spent the better part of an hour watching CI activation videos. I liked this one, too.

I had never thought of the CI vs. anti-CI argument. Thanks MeFi (again!)
posted by Lukenlogs at 1:53 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


The funny thing is that I see your point and agree completely with you grumblebee, but I would favorite Artw's post a thousand times if I could.

Me too. The baby's smile obliterates everything else for me.
posted by grumblebee at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was initially sympathetic to the deaf culture arguments when CI's were really not very good and when they couldn't be done early enough to bring the child full speech and verbal language.

Then, you could argue that rather than raising a deaf person who could flourish in deaf culture, you were creating a misfit who wouldn't do well in the hearing or non-hearing worlds because the CI wouldn't allow very good hearing or speech but would take away energy that could be devoted to signing etc.

However, I think that if you can do this at 8 mos, before the child's sensitive period for language development is anywhere near over, you should. The child will be pretty much like any other hearing child-- he won't be someone with great difficulty with speech and language as this video shows so movingly (he's already almost saying hi).

I don't think it's right to make a choice for a child at that age not to have him develop auditory speech and hearing because you want to preserve a culture. Plus, by denying him hearing, you are denying him music-- I think that's a true loss, no matter how great deaf culture is. People need to work to preserve culture for themselves, not by imposing it on people when they are too young to make a choice.
posted by Maias at 1:57 PM on May 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


Btw, the reason that deafness used to be associated with cognitive impairment was that if you didn't teach signing early enough, you missed the sensitive period for language and by doing so, you *would* create intellectual impairment that could last a lifetime.

Babies' brains are uniquely plastic and made to soak up language. If they get no exposure to language, it is infinitely harder (though not impossible) for them to learn it. Basically, you need zillions of repetitions more than you would have needed to learn when you were a baby and few have patience for this so it doesn't happen often. Consider how easy it is for babies to learn to speak compared to adults trying to learn a second language.

Some babies who miss this critical exposure may never gain full grammar. So, by teaching sign early, you are actually making kids smarter-- and the intellectual disability that once was associated with deafness is a thing of the past due to early intervention.
posted by Maias at 2:03 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw that the other day. Clicking on the related videos I ended up with some other baby firsts such as Baby Eats his first Pop Rock and A baby eating a warhead
posted by delmoi at 2:06 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I could probably put this more delicatly, but that particular strain of advocacy just seems indefensibly vile and selfish. That baby was not born without hearing to be part of your special fucking club.
Yeah...

That said, what do cochlear implants actually sound like? I remember an online Cochlear implant "simulator" years ago, it sounded like some implants only did one frequency, enough to make out words, but not enough to appreciate music or anything. Has the technology improved at all?
posted by delmoi at 2:10 PM on May 29, 2010


First, because it sends a message that "your culture is based on something broken and we're fixing it."

Not to put too fine a point on it but, uh, isn't this kind of true?
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on May 29, 2010 [21 favorites]


To me, the only question that matters is who should decide whether a child undergoes a medical procedure: the parents or a group of unrelated people who happen to share a physical trait with the child.

I'm sure that there are many deaf parents out there who would choose not to have their child undergo a CI procedure and there are hearing parents out there who would. That doesn't make one group wrong and one group right; both groups are acting in what they perceive to be the best interest of their child.
posted by hellx at 2:13 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


First, because it sends a message that "your culture is based on something broken and we're fixing it."

Not to put too fine a point on it but, uh, isn't this kind of true?


Yes, and...?

Realizing that it's true might be important, depending on what your goal is.

- if your goal is "to be right," then it's important.

- if your goal is to make a choice about your child and feel morally justified, then it MIGHT help.

- if your goal is to have a debate with a Deaf-culture person and score points which are awarded by a third-party judge who is keen on logic, then it will probably help.

My point -- the reason I posted the thing you extracted the quote from -- had nothing to do with truth or falsehood. My point is that REGARDLESS of what's true, when people form into a culture, they are GOING to feel a certain way.

I am not saying, "And therefor, because they feel that way, we should cater to them." I am just pointing out that we -- those of us who give our kids implants -- are going to have to share a planet with people who are deeply offended by what we're doing.

I don't have a solution. I don't think there is one.
posted by grumblebee at 2:32 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here is Metafilter's previous discussion (2002) regarding two deaf parents specifically attempting to breed deafness into their child.
posted by NortonDC at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always felt symptathetic on the deaf culture idea too, but I have a hard time believing that any culture, however rich, is worth denying your child the right to use one of their senses. The baby's delight at his mother's voice--sweet Jesus. It's like a million Christmases in one. How could I deny my child that, or birdsong, or music, or the sound of the ocean, or access to the wider world, in the name of protecting my culture? It's unimaginable to me. The standard parental dream is wanting your kids to have it better than you. And since you'll probably be dead before they are, isn't it best to give them all the tools of survival that you can?
posted by emjaybee at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [12 favorites]


The Deaf community is not a "special club." I think that's a nasty, condescending, and prejudicial remark. It's akin to someone who ascribes to one belief system telling someone who holds to a different set of beliefs that, if they teach their children to adhere to their own belief are "making a choice" to keep their child in their "special club."

I think part of the problem here is that this culture, considering that you're born into it, is much harder to disaffiliate from than most ethno-cultural examples. One can change religions a lot more easily than learning to hear at a late age. I believe there IS a club, and deaf people are worse off for it.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 2:38 PM on May 29, 2010


Jonathan will never hear the waves that live inside seashells. He will never hear a friend's voice call his name from a crowd. He will never hear the tears in the voices of those he loves (though he might in their words and will see them on their faces of course.). He will never hear music in the way most people do. He won't learn to reproduce sounds the way most children do but will need special help to learn language. He won't, unless he is very lucky, be able to sit in a huge room and listen to a lecture. (At least that is my understanding. If it's dated please tell me.) Of course all of those could change, but making an implant capable of perfect reproduction is a long way off and dependent on lots of different fields

It isn't so much that those with CI are removed from 'deaf culture', as that they are put into a subset of that group, one that has not had the chance yet to develop their on identity. Is some one with an artificial limb no longer an amputee? And that is all CIs are, a prosthesis, and not as good as the hands and legs that now exist. Nor are all deaf people, or deaf babies, helped by them. So the society and language that the deaf have built isn't really in any danger of disappearing yet, and those with CIs could use their help because they might be able to swim in the mainstream a bit better, but they still aren't a part of it.
posted by Some1 at 2:39 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


What prevents deaf parents from getting their children CIs and teaching them to sign?
posted by atrazine at 2:42 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Realizing that it's true might be important, depending on what your goal is.

- if your goal is "to be right," then it's important.

- if your goal is to make a choice about your child and feel morally justified, then it MIGHT help.

- if your goal is to have a debate with a Deaf-culture person and score points which are awarded by a third-party judge who is keen on logic, then it will probably help.
What difference does it make? The people who are all up in arms about this are not the ones who will be getting the implants put on their children.
I am not saying, "And therefor, because they feel that way, we should cater to them." I am just pointing out that we -- those of us who give our kids implants -- are going to have to share a planet with people who are deeply offended by what we're doing.
There are people deeply offended by premarital sex. Or by all kinds of things. Who cares?
posted by delmoi at 2:43 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the thing about "fitting into the mainstream" that makes me a little uncomfortable. Some kids are never going to be able to fit into what many consider "the mainstream" either due to mental or physical challenges; this doesn't mean they don't have the potential to be happy kids and they deserved to be just as celebrated as Jonathan.

Deaf Chinese Children Talk About Their Dreams
posted by Wuggie Norple at 2:46 PM on May 29, 2010


If you make your deaf child into a hearing child, you ARE going to cause some people to feel something along the lines of how gay people would feel if they heard you gave your child a pill to make him straight.

I think I'm more in Artw's camp here. As chimaera says, being gay still lets you do anything that a straight person can do. If you're a gay man, you may not WANT to have sex with women, but you can if you choose. You can still have children, although you''ll usually have to make compromises in your desired sex life, or adopt. There's nothing functionally wrong with you at all, and a theoretical technology that would change sexual orientation strikes me as a giant ethical issue.

But curing deafness? There are so many things that you can do as a hearing person that are much more difficult or outright impossible if you're deaf. How could anyone, anyone advocate permanently leaving a function like that off, simply to promote a social group? The fact that there needs to be 'deaf culture' is the strongest possible sign of just impairing it is. You can live a perfectly happy life if you're deaf, but you're socially isolated from the hearing, to the point of needing that kind of group for fairly normal levels of social interaction.

I wish no ill to anyone deaf, and I hope they have long and happy lives. But I, for one, would love it if deaf culture dried up and blew away, purely because we didn't have any more profound hearing impairment. I don't want old, lonely deaf people, sad because all their non-hearing friends have passed away and there's no new ones coming up, but I think the harm done by deliberately keeping children deaf dwarfs that problem by a couple of orders of magnitude.

In essence, I see that argument as forcing children to become part of a community and serve that community's needs, when that community may no longer be necessary. Fighting to keep kids deaf so that you have people to hang out with on an equal basis is so profoundly selfish that I'd call it very nearly evil. I think maybe it comes out of denial... one of the strongest ideas in the deaf community is that being deaf isn't an impairment, but anyone that has experienced hearing knows better. Hell, just having clogged ears from a sinus infection is a big deal, and you can still hear!

A grown child can always opt to turn off his implants and join the deaf community, but a kid raised deaf will have a hell of a time learning to place sounds in 3D space, and will have to struggle with speech. Even if they can learn it well enough to cope, it takes a hugely disproportionate effort.

It does strike me that it would be a good idea to teach sign language to implanted kids if possible, to keep their choices open. They might really prefer the company of the deaf. But permanently leaving one of their five senses disconnected because they're supposed to join a particular social group? That's just awful.
posted by Malor at 2:47 PM on May 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


Oh, and by the way, thanks for posting that video. No tears here, so I guess I'm in the robot crew, but this mechanized intelligence thought that was pretty goddamn wonderful.
posted by Malor at 2:51 PM on May 29, 2010


I've been involved in a minor way for many years with a charity that works with families of people undergoing cochlear impant surgery. So I've met loads of kids and adults with the implants. There's definitely a case for early implantation; the kids who get them early go on to speak and hear really well, even if that hearing would sound kind of like a vocoder to someone used to 'normal' hearing. For adults it's much harder to 'learn' hearing; I know one woman who had the implant in her 60s, and although she's really happy with the improvement, it can still be challenging for other hearing people to communicate effectively with her.

Initially here in the UK there was a lot of hostility from the deaf community towards cochlear implants. There were protests. Parents were accused of mutilating their children. Even 'See Hear', the BBC's magazine programme for deaf and hearing-impaired people, took a really negative stance. It's important to undertstand that the deaf community is much more than just a group of people sharing a disability - it's a distinct cultural group in many ways. Having your own language does that, and that language was seen to be under threat of extinction. Politics ensued.

The good news, at least to my mind, is that people in the deaf community are, on the whole, getting much more understanding towards parents who are choosing to have their children undergo implant surgery. Yes, cochlear implants are a threat to the continuity of deaf culture, but so are ordinary hearing aids, and so was the ear trumpet. Once the message got through that no, this is not a cure-all for all types of deafness, this is a high-tech hearing aid that can, in some cases, give an otherwise completely deaf person the ability to hear on a basic level, and that just like any other hearing aid, there's an 'off' switch, people started to relax a little. Probably the biggest factor in this softening of attitudes has been the emergence of a generation of young people with cochlear implants who coexist happily in both the deaf and hearing communities.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:54 PM on May 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Some1: Is some one with an artificial limb no longer an amputee? And that is all CIs are, a prosthesis, and not as good as the hands and legs that now exist.

Do those of us with two working arms or legs have the right to tell parents of a child amputee that they *must* fit their child with a prosthesis, because otherwise they are encouraging their handicap, and how dare they?

That's the basic point of contention.
posted by tzikeh at 2:56 PM on May 29, 2010


The good news, at least to my mind, is that people in the deaf community are, on the whole, getting much more understanding towards parents who are choosing to have their children undergo implant surgery.

I'm sure the parents are grateful that a bunch of strangers with a perverse identity-politics agenda approve of their decisions.
posted by jason's_planet at 3:06 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having seen a colleague go through CI treatment it is the closest thing I've ever seen to wonderous magical medical cure. Like a lightswitch.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:10 PM on May 29, 2010


If a deaf couple had a hearing child, could they have its hearing surgically disabled (probably a simple operation, safer than a CI procedure) so it could grow up a part of its parents' deaf culture? Probably not without causing a riot.

But there's not a huge difference between that and willfully letting your child grow up deaf when there is a relatively simple and affordable fix available.
posted by pracowity at 3:31 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do those of us with two working arms or legs have the right to tell parents of a child amputee that they *must* fit their child with a prosthesis, because otherwise they are encouraging their handicap, and how dare they?

That's the basic point of contention.
It seems like it's the other way around, amputees demanding that children without limbs not be fitted with prosthesis, calling children who are "robots" and so on.
posted by delmoi at 3:36 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a simulation of the quality of a modern 24-channel cochlear implant. (NB: If you're deeply offended by Garrison Keillor, you might to give it a miss).

I think anything more than incremental improvements in quality might be fairly difficult, since it's probably not feasible to implant the thousands of electrodes necessary to duplicate normal hearing.
posted by jedicus at 3:39 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


This vid made my day. Also, Garrison sounds like a monster in that clip.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:48 PM on May 29, 2010


If it makes you feel better, deaf activists would say that the smiles of that baby are the result of cultural genocide...

Some Deaf activists. Not all. (I'm Deaf; I didn't grow up Deaf, but I am Deaf now.) A lot of the young adults I know who sign fluently - beautifully, even - have CIs or wear hearing aids. And in our generation, it's not a big deal. Even among the older generation, there's still a bit of tension, but less than some have depicted in the thread above.

That said, I'm annoyed at the people here - on both sides - with no actual experience with CIs proclaiming that they Get It and know how we should feel. I got my implant as an adult, having grown up hard of hearing and then lost most of what was left during college. I love my implant; I would make the choice to get it again in a heartbeat, and in fact, I'm hoping to go bilateral and get a second one someday.

The quality is pretty damn good. I can listen to and enjoy music, I can hear my name called from behind me, I can hear emotion in voices (to use a few of the examples from above). But. My hearing is not perfect. Dealing with speech, especially in a large room or a crowded environment, is very tiring, and sometimes not possible at all. So I sign, and read lips, and use interpreters, and decline to use the telephone except with a very small group of people I already know.

Personally, if I had a kid who was born deaf, I'd probably give them an implant and then ensure that they grow up using ASL as well; to me, covering all one's bases is the way to go, and allows kids to have the choice as they grow up of which language they wish to use. But given the history of abuses and coercion by oralists and hearing people - and even statements by some contemporary medical professionals - suspicion of CIs is not at all surprising. Those of you who don't know that history, and don't know what a CI actually gives a deaf person? You can stop acting like you have the answers.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:54 PM on May 29, 2010 [48 favorites]


Technically, this post has two links, only one of which is to youtube.
posted by noahpoah at 4:02 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


In essence, I see that argument as forcing children to become part of a community and serve that community's needs, when that community may no longer be necessary.

I think Malor's hitting on what appears to me to be the fundamental question: do people exist for communities or do communities exist for people? The anti-CI people seem to be coming down on the first side.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:13 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm offended that doctors are going around treating childhood leukemia, instead of letting those kids grow up with the cancer culture that is their birthright.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 4:15 PM on May 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


jedicus: If you believe Wired magazine, it's getting a lot better. They had an article (five years ago) about firmware upgrades that simulate 120 "virtual" channels without additional implantation. There's a lot going on in the space. We'll see what happens.
posted by The Bellman at 4:17 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


do people exist for communities or do communities exist for people?

My guess is that most people think both. Depending on how you worded the question, you might be able to sway people towards one or the other, but I'm betting you could bring most people around to either by giving specific examples.

"Should John have to conform to community standards? If the community hates John's long hair, should he get a haircut?" I bet most people would say no.

"Does everyone have a responsibility to the community? Should we all agree to stop littering?" I bet most people would say yes. "It takes a village" and all that.
posted by grumblebee at 4:29 PM on May 29, 2010




I'm partly deaf and grew up that way. I'm not part of deaf culture, because I communicate verbally. But as a child, I sometimes felt excluded from "hearing culture", because of the difficulty I had with understanding people in normal situations. I have experienced total deafness for short periods. You know what? Hearing is awesome. Deafness sucks. If I had kids, you can be god damned sure that they'd get the treatment they needed to stay the fuck out of deaf culture.

On the other hand, If the technology was clunky, or disabling in other ways, and didn't really enable normal hearing, I wouldn't be so gung ho about it.

But this video makes me happy, and I don't even like kids!
posted by klanawa at 4:34 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I say we level the playing field: hearing parents can get their babies CI; deaf parents can jam a pencil in baby's ears.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on May 29, 2010


"A grown child can always opt to turn off his implants and join the deaf community"

I only have second-hand anecdotes to back me up, but I don't think this would be the case. My grandparents, both deaf, raised 4 hearing children. My father always said that they had a very insular community, and even if he had lost his hearing at some point later in life, he didn't think he would ever have been able to truly become part of it, despite being fluent in sign language.
posted by HopperFan at 4:46 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I couldn't help but notice that the mother wasn't really sure what to say (other than "hi" obviously). Part being overwhelmed with emotion, part having given up on being able to communicate verbally with her child?
posted by artifarce at 4:47 PM on May 29, 2010


You say "hi" to babies rather a lot.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on May 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


Or how about this compromise: when the baby is grown, it can decide to have the CI removed. If the deaf community is all that and a tin of biscuits, it'll all work out in their favour.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, I see that's already been suggested. Great minds &c.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:52 PM on May 29, 2010


But favoring a full complement of sensory apparatus over an impaired sensory apparatus has profound functional consequences.

One argument against it is that it is an invasive operation, using a technology that is being actively improved, and that there are no longterm results yet. I would want my baby to hear, but I wouldn't want him among the first generation of Lasik patients, some of whom were seriously damaged.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:06 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was born with a very severe hearing impairment. CI's didn't exist as an option back then, and my parents opted for hearing aids, lip reading and speech therapy over ASL and involvement of the deaf community. Like little Jonathan, this choice was made for me, but there is NO FUCKING WAY I would give up my hearing aids now. I would be very, very surprised if anyone with a CI or aid(s) gave them up as an adult. I can't think of a single advantage to doing so.
posted by desjardins at 5:31 PM on May 29, 2010


grumblebee: First, because it sends a message that "your culture is based on something broken and we're fixing it."

Justinian: Not to put too fine a point on it but, uh, isn't this kind of true?


Um, sorry, but I am not broken, tyvm.
posted by desjardins at 5:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow. Can't believe no one's brought this up, but for an amazing documentary on the issue of CIs in kids and how it plays out in a deaf family (and the extended hearing family) check out the Oscar nominated:

Sound & Fury (2000)
-------------

Trailer


The PBS Portal for the Film


A clip featuring a hearing grandmother and her deaf son arguing over whether to get a CI for the hearing impaired grand-daughter (warning: weapons grade sad)
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:46 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Deaf culture is spelled with a capital 'D'.

For more about why, as well as an explanation many of the differences between Deaf and hearing cultures, including politeness strategies (like how 'Ask' vs. 'Guess' might work in this community), hi-context vs. lo-context social structures and other aspects beyond the purely linguistic, Anna Mindess' book Reading Between the Signs is quite accessible and excellent.

That baby's smile was delightful and pretty much made my day.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:49 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


i came here to say what spaceman_spiff and klanawa said. Being deaf sucks bigtime. Not being deaf is about the best thing that happened to me. My switch on experience was quite different to young jonathan's: at thirty one i was too big for my mum to hold so she sat there really bored whilst i listened to some crummy beeps. The revolutionary stuff came later :D
posted by prettypretty at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow. How can anyone be against a happy baby?

Yay for science!!
posted by inturnaround at 5:54 PM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. How can anyone be against a happy baby?

What makes you think the baby was unhappy having never known hearing?
posted by mendel at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2010


Mom's voice is nice, now get that boy some Led Zep for those ears.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:14 PM on May 29, 2010



What makes you think the baby was unhappy having never known hearing?


The kid is obviously pretty happy now , and that's the point!
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The title of the Jezebel post ("Once-Deaf Baby Hears For The First Time") reminds me of this:

I have a dear friend who got the cochlear implant 10 years ago, in her early 20s. (Seattle PI story here.) In an email conversation, I referred to her as "formerly-Deaf."

She wrote back a very firmly worded email: "I'll always be Deaf," she explained. "I just have a Cochlear Implant now." It was enlightening, to say the least.
posted by arielmeadow at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Deaf parents who choose not to cure curable deafness in children are like religious whackjobs who watch their kids suffer because they can't give them modern medicines (or decide to lop off bits of their kids' genitals, for that matter). Your 'culture' is nothing more than selfish, egotistical arrogance, the ultimate spin on 'well, I turned out fine'. There, I said it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:45 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


The baby is a hipster! It is being ironically happy about its new sensory experience.

Instead of adding a sense, they should have removed one. Why should the deaf-tasteless crowd be denied their culture?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:03 PM on May 29, 2010


wow thats incredibly sweet! just sent it to a bunch of my baby-havin' friends :)
posted by supermedusa at 7:19 PM on May 29, 2010


I knew a gal who was born deaf and got her cochlear implant much later on. She described it as "irritating" and found that she was just too late to properly assimilate the device. Everything was a bothersome noise to her.

Sweep the issue of not giving implants aside. Hell, let's go whole hog, let's try to ensure that the child is deaf to fit in with the rest of the family. On a personal note, were that to occur to me, it would not be beyond me to cut out my parents' eyes in their sleep with four strokes of an Exacto. I intensely dislike having a disability. It's bad enough as a medical "whoopsie;" the news that it was chosen for me as some kind of family solidarity thing would likely send me into a psychotic rage, not that I am ever far from one.
posted by adipocere at 7:22 PM on May 29, 2010


Every time I hear about a deaf community opposing CI, I think of Scanners Live in Vain.
posted by phooky at 7:28 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


This reminded me of My Bionic Quest for Bolero, which is probably quite out of date by now but is still a fascinating look at what it's actually like to live with a cochlear implant.

Not as good as the video, though.
posted by Epenthesis at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2010


tzikeh: But it's ultimately not up to the hearing. That's why I'm wary of responses like Artw's. We can't force deaf people to give their children CIs; it's not our place to decide that. The Deaf community is not a "special club." I think that's a nasty, condescending, and prejudicial remark. It's akin to someone who ascribes to one belief system telling someone who holds to a different set of beliefs that, if they teach their children to adhere to their own belief are "making a choice" to keep their child in their "special club." Parents want their children to be a part of their culture. It's a natural response.

If this were Deaf parents wanting to bring their child up in Deaf culture you'd be right. But this is a case of completely unrelated Deaf people (on Jezebel) complaining that someone else's child isn't being brought up in a culture that is presumably (I don't see any background on the family, but I'm guessing they are hearing) foreign to the parents. Although the video does not show whether the family is also teaching Jonathan to sign or exposing him to Deaf Culture. These people are labeling the parents as "culturally insensitive" because they gave their son a chance to hear that he wouldn't have had otherwise. Deaf Culture may indeed be a wonderful thing - but condemning these parents for giving their son the implants with no additional information is much more "nasty, condescending, and prejudicial" than Artw's comment.
posted by Dojie at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd like to interject a couple of points, if I could. I don't have terribly close knowledge of cochlear implants, but one of my father's best friends has a son who was deaf from birth and got an implant that cured his deafness when he was in his 30s, and if my memory isn't total ass, I'm pretty sure I can answer a couple of questions raised in this thread:

While I can see waiting on circumcision or ear piercing because there aren't (to my knowledge) major drawbacks to waiting, letting the kid decide on an implant when he's an adult would mean that if he chooses the implant, he will likely struggle with problems like speech development as an adult.

I believe this is absolutely true. Caveat: it's been years since I've had an update about him (I've moved several hours' drive away, and he and I were never at all close), but the last I heard, Jason had terrible difficulty picking out words in spoken language if he didn't have lip reading to fall back on, despite rigorous language training. The last update I had about him was that he could recognize and instinctively respond to his name, could pull a few words out here and there if the speaker wasn't going too fast, and was working on reading children's books aloud with a speech therapist to try to develop that skill, but if you held your hand in front of your mouth while talking to him, he'd totally lose what you were saying.

That said, what do cochlear implants actually sound like? I remember an online Cochlear implant "simulator" years ago, it sounded like some implants only did one frequency, enough to make out words, but not enough to appreciate music or anything. Has the technology improved at all?

I had a copy of an e-mail he sent out some time after he'd gotten used to living with the implant that I sadly cannot find, but I remember him pointing out lots of non-speech things he remarked hearing. He wrote of going for a bike ride (dude's seriously into fitness) and hearing the wind in his ears. IIRC, he said he stopped biking for awhile and just sat on the ground listening. I remember he wrote of going to see "The Perfect Storm" for his first movie and being nearly overwhelmed.

The one thing I always remember about him from my childhood was that the dude always talked LOUDLY. He was encouraged to use his voice while signing, and it was room-stopping LOUD, because of course he couldn't hear it.

So the story I heard was that after they activated his implant, they asked him to speak. He did, at his normal volume, and immediately stopped, wincing at the sheer volume of it. At which point one of his brothers said "YEAH, NOW YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING LOUD YOU ARE."
posted by middleclasstool at 7:55 PM on May 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


Malor: How could anyone, anyone advocate permanently leaving a function like that off, simply to promote a social group?

Well, this strikes me as an overly simplistic straw-man.

The argument made by the Deaf community (at least as of 10 years ago) is that Non-ASL education for the Deaf was a dismal failure by the standard of any of it's goals. For most students, it failed to make them fluent in verbal communication in spite of quixotic hundreds hours spent on lip reading, vocalization, or the use of bad hearing aids for the lucky. It deprived them of active socialization with their peers because grammatical ASL was discouraged in favor of signed English. And it failed to meet most of the other curricular standards of K-12 education making it much harder for Deaf students to get jobs or pursue higher education.

So there's a shitload of history and a lot of bad blood surrounding well-intentioned but patronizing and failed efforts to push English in some form as a prerequisite for educational achievement in Deaf education. ASL advocates argue that giving Deaf people a language in which they are first-class citizens, a language that's extremely capable of handling high levels of complexity and abstraction, can be a stepping-stone to art, math, science, literature, history, etc..

Mainstream medical and educational institutions need to shoulder the burden of evidence after a century of failure and patronizing crap.

(And you know, the other half of why Deaf people are culturally isolated is that Americans in general are too stubborn and jingoistic to bother learning how to communicate outside of their sandbox.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:02 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter (post-implant): "YEAH, NOW YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING LOUD YOU ARE."
posted by five fresh fish at 8:08 PM on May 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Truth is, the "deaf community" is defined by its loudest, most obnoxious members, kind of like every other community. "Too stubborn and jingoistic" is exactly right.

That said, there is an inappropriate tendancy to try no-holds-barred attempts at teaching spoken English, instead of just accepting the reality of the situation and focusing on developing alternative languages. The same thing happens in every "non-normal" community: most parents are very reluctant to admit the truth of the situation and label their child with a disability, even if doing so would be of overall benefit in terms of services and integration into the greater community.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:12 PM on May 29, 2010


CIs are not a cure. They are a treatment that potentially reduces some of the negative effects of clinical deafness. Each person who gets one still needs to be carefully evaluated to see if an ASL- or English-dominant approach is the best one for him or her.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:32 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


As someone who has been considering taking ASL college courses, this thread has been fantastically challenging and interesting. MetaFilter, I thank you.
posted by hermitosis at 9:06 PM on May 29, 2010


I can entirely sympathize with deaf parents choosing not to treat their deaf child's deafness. The kid will probably have a better childhood as a deaf kid in a deaf family than a hearing kid in a deaf family. But people deigning to dictate how other people should treat their child's deafness -- this is just mind-boggling.

And these arguments about preserving cultural diversity are irrelevant here, because even a hard-multicultural system of ethics can only really operate when we take "native culture" to mean "the culture in which a person was raised, shared with their childhood caregiver." Claiming that a child should be forced to enter a culture that differs from that of their caregivers because of a congenital physical trait is just ridiculous. It's like claiming that all red-headed babies should be given one-way plane tickets to Ireland. (Okay, maybe not quite like that, but it's nearly as offensive.)

The same logic by which you can justify deaf parents failing to treat their child's deafness -- and, as I said above, I think this is entirely defensible -- requires you to allow non-deaf parents to treat deafness in their children.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 9:21 PM on May 29, 2010


I love science.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2010


As someone who wears glasses to correct his vision, I'm furious at doctors and parents who treat childhood myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism by fitting children with glasses instead of letting them be a part of the Squinty Blurred Vision Culture that is their birthright.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:02 PM on May 29, 2010


PIITM's link is indeed not to be missed. I saw the premiere of that documentary in 2000 and I still today remember it as a visceral experience.

Note that a followup film was made in 2006.
posted by intermod at 10:03 PM on May 29, 2010


mattdidthat, those links are for YOU.
posted by intermod at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2010


As someone who wears glasses to correct his vision, I'm furious at doctors and parents who treat childhood myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism by fitting children with glasses instead of letting them be a part of the Squinty Blurred Vision Culture that is their birthright.

There's not much argument that moderately or severely deaf people should not get the benefit of corrective technology.

But I don't think the question in regards to CIs is quite so clear-cut. You have an extremely expensive procedure that costs as much as a family home and may or may not provide enough information to allow a person to fluently understand spoken English under limited conditions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:33 PM on May 29, 2010


But people deigning to dictate how other people should treat their child's deafness -- this is just mind-boggling.

That's right. Because children are chattels whose well-being should be at the whim of their parents. I look forward to your spirited defence of preservation of culture via female circumcision and the right of Seventh Day Adventist parents to deny their children blood transfusions.
posted by rodgerd at 11:11 PM on May 29, 2010


That's right. Because children are chattels whose well-being should be at the whim of their parents. I look forward to your spirited defence of preservation of culture via female circumcision and the right of Seventh Day Adventist parents to deny their children blood transfusions.

That's right. Because parents should have no role in the raising of their children and their well-being should be at the whim of the state or other unrelated indiviudals. I look forward to your spirited defense of mandatory government creches and the right for the state to create obligatory organizations like the Hitler Youth.

Your argument is poor and in bad faith.
posted by Snyder at 11:29 PM on May 29, 2010


adipocere, your link reports the same story that was intensely discussed in the Metafilter thread I linked above.
posted by NortonDC at 11:54 PM on May 29, 2010


As someone who wears glasses to correct his vision, I'm furious at doctors and parents who treat childhood myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism by fitting children with glasses instead of ...

... drilling into their brains and wiring up the speculative circuits we built, knowing full well that the design is a work in progress, but still wanting to get our product out there. Not exactly my take on it, but something to consider.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:01 AM on May 30, 2010


emilyd22222: "Parents make decisions every day that will impact their child's future and hope for the best; I'm not sure I can find fault in that."

Exactly. The baby's face tells us everything we need to know.

Because the decision to try the implant isn't harmful, outside of the immediate family, it really is no one else's business.
posted by bwg at 1:07 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


i came here to say what spaceman_spiff and klanawa said. Being deaf sucks bigtime. Not being deaf is about the best thing that happened to me.

That is not what I said. In fact, I'm arguing for a far more balanced perspective than most people here seem to be recognizing. (Except KirkJobSluder, who I'm favoriting really hard.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:20 AM on May 30, 2010


The CI-switch-on video that Lukenlogs linked to above is of a friend of mine. She was also recently interviewed for an article on cochlear implants.

The tears in the video are not happy tears. She had lost her hearing over a number of years, spent a lot of time wondering and researching if CIs were right for her, and spent a lot of money on it. When it was switched on, she said that everyone sounded like robots and was very distressed.

With time, she adjusted to it and her previous knowledge of how people actually sound allowed her brain to interpret the CI sounds better. She loves her CI now, and I'd be very surprised if she were to ever give it up. I still remember her blog post about how she'd just cracked open a can of Coke, and for the first time in many years she could hear the bubbles fizzing away.

But it's not an easy issue to resolve. Every individual case is different - what if my friend had lost her hearing earlier and learned Auslan at a young age? what if she couldn't have afforded the CI? I don't like to dictate to people about what the 'best' thing for them to do should be. And I would never judge the entire Deaf community based on a few ranting arseholes on a Jezebel post.
posted by harriet vane at 1:35 AM on May 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


spaceman_spiff - apologies for misquoting you - i was posting on my mobile in a taxi en route from the airport and those two posts were the ones that stood out to me (and grumblebee's). I'm really aware that everyone's experience is different - i'm really lucky to have had the outcome i've had (and clearly this topic is one that hits a few buttons for me).
posted by prettypretty at 3:51 AM on May 30, 2010


I'm coming up for my first year working as a relay officer for people who are Deaf or hearing and/or speech impaired who need to use the telephone in order to do what pretty much everyone else uses the phone for. It's been an eye opener, that's for sure.

There was a guy who worked for my company for many years who was born profoundly deaf and had a cochlear implant when he was in his 40's. As part of our training he came in and told us about what it was like to go from almost no hearing at all to having a cochlear implant. He told us all about the process and his personal experience of it. He is fully fluent in both Auslan and speech. For him, it was a revelation, but he still considers himself a part of the Deaf community and always will. He has a greater insight into both the Deaf and hearing community now, because of the cochlear implant, and is very happy to have had a part of life that he thought that he'd been shut off from revealed to him.

When relaying, it seems like it is pretty easy to tell who's been Deaf from a young age because of the syntax and grammar that they use when typing through, but that's not always the case.

The fact is, though, that people from the Deaf community still need to be able to communicate with the hearing community, whether it's through a relay service or writing things down or any other method, because they need to know what is going on and vocalisation is a major part of life.

There are ways around it, obviously, but it's not easy. Making life easier for people isn't a bad thing. I empathise this pretty much everyone who has to deal with this.
posted by h00py at 6:52 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It'd be super awesome if we could can the hyperbole and actually have a discussion about this.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:16 AM on May 30, 2010


Of course, like any other post with the word "deaf" in it, this thread turned into one of those "deaf culture versus the medical community" type arguments. What surprises me the most is that nobody said anything against cochlear implants to start the argument. We started it on our own without provocation. Why do we feel the need to entertain this ridiculous argument whenever possible?
posted by tehloki at 2:44 PM on May 30, 2010


What prevents deaf parents from getting their children CIs and teaching them to sign?

Yeah, I don't understand why you can't just educate a child with a CI the same way you would a deaf child if preserving the culture is so important. The spread of technology erodes cultures all over the world; this is not unique to Deaf culture. Globalization leads to people not listening to their own country's music, but rather preferring Lady Gaga or Kanye -- eating western foods and wearing western clothes. Immigrants who come to the US grapple with preserving their own culture and language through their children. I know immigrant parents here in the US who demand that their children speak their mother tongue when they are at home, but I don't know any that demand that their children not learn English at all. Learning to navigate between cultures is a really important skill, and I don't understand why parents wouldn't want to facilitate that. I don't think we should force parents to have surgical procedures that are still being developed done to their babies, but I don't understand why a parent wouldn't want to give their child hearing.
posted by bluefly at 2:48 PM on May 30, 2010


Also, on preview, I see there are some links to the history of Deaf culture and the substandard education the used to (still?) receive. So perhaps those will answer my questions on why some deaf families are wary of CI's.
posted by bluefly at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2010


bluefly: there are some - maybe even many, I don't have data on this - schools where both spoken English and ASL are used. But in many cases, parents are told (although we now know this to be untrue) that using ASL will impede their kids' acquisition of spoken language, and so it becomes a false choice. I think that's changing. I hope it's changing. But there's still a lot of doctors and audiologists and childhood education specialists who were trained under those old assumptions.

The other argument is that if a hearing parent gives their kid a CI, they may assume that this makes their kid hearing, and so there isn't any point bothering with learning ASL themselves (or even exposing their kid to ASL). This is a false assumption, but a very common one. I got my CI as an adult (well, a college student), and am theoretically well-positioned to explain to my family exactly why I prefer or need to use ASL at times, but I still occasionally run into, "wait, you don't actually need an interpreter for that summer class, right?" And these are the folks I grew up with. It's well-meaning, but it does pose a danger for young kids who aren't yet able to advocate for their needs.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:16 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


What surprises me the most is that nobody said anything against cochlear implants to start the argument. We started it on our own without provocation. Why do we feel the need to entertain this ridiculous argument whenever possible?

The provocation was the discussion of the video on Jezebel that availablelight linked to at the beginning of the thread. The arguments against cochlear implants and complaints that this video was offensive to the Deaf community came from there.
posted by Dojie at 3:25 PM on May 30, 2010


For people with Netflix, the film PostIrony mentioned is available on Watch Instantly.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:58 PM on May 30, 2010


I initially resisted looking at this video because I though I knew what it was going to be about, and I had better things to do with my time. But as usual, what I assumed I was going to see was wrong.

I think this is a glimpse into our development that we don't often get to see.

You could see that Jonathan was initially overwhelmed, but not overloaded, by the new sensations. I suppose at that time our brain is designed to take in more information than we can handle. The pacifier was no longer important and dropped to the floor.

As soon as it was turned on, Jonathan looked at momma. Even though the first sounds he heard did not come from her. And since it appeared that the implant was only in one ear, it's not surprising that he couldn't locate the source of the sound. Especially since he did not know what sound was until this moment.

Jonathan continued to look at momma. And yes, she was talking, but so were other people. And momma's smiles and calm demeanor imprinted into Jonathan that what he was experiencing was a good thing. Jonathan smiled and laughed, which is really more of an acknowledgment that a positive message was received than any judgment.

Suddenly, it seemed, Jonathan came to the realization that the new senses he had was not just caused by his mother. Perhaps he came to the realization that everything around him made sound. Maybe this was his instincts on how to locate objects in space through sound told him that those other sound he heard could not be coming from mom.

This is a reaction we all go through as we become aware of our senses, but most of the time this happens in the womb. We don't remember it and no one is around to see it. I found this fascinating.
posted by chemoboy at 4:42 PM on May 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is no guarantee that a deaf individual will be part of Deaf culture. An individual, including this very adorable one, doesn't have an obligation to participate in Deaf culture, even if Deaf culture is in danger of extinction, because cochlear implants are going to keep improving.

Technology is fabulous.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 PM on May 30, 2010


Here is a song about a woman getting a CI, and telling her story of how it felt to have it turned on:

posted by Evstar at 4:56 AM on May 31, 2010


That's right. Because children are chattels whose well-being should be at the whim of their parents. I look forward to your spirited defence of preservation of culture via female circumcision and the right of Seventh Day Adventist parents to deny their children blood transfusions.

Well, the question at issue here isn't just "When should we allow subcultures to use their own standards of well-being in making decisions for their children, even if those standards differ from our society's mainstream standards?" That's a tough question on its own, yes, and if the answer is "always" then we end up with female circumcision and children dying because their parents refused conventional medical care.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the answer should be "never." In particular, if CIs prevent a child from participating in or understanding their parents' culture, they might do more harm than good.

I recognize that that's a pretty big "if" -- hearing children are certainly capable of growing up bilingual, understanding and producing both ASL and spoken language. The situation might be comparable to that of second-generation immigrants, who often feel trapped between two sets of cultural values.

Maybe I didn't make it clear in my post that I don't claim to totally understand the situation or to actually have useful answers. That's what I meant when I said "I sympathize with the argument" that deaf parents aren't obligated to get implants for their children -- I think it's a useful perspective worth considering and not immediately dismissing (in contrast to the argument that hearing people are obligated to not get implants for their children, which is absurd), but I don't claim to side with it wholeheartedly, because it's a complicated situation that's difficult to get a handle on without being involved directly.

I don't think that baiting an argument by throwing around phrases like "female circumcision" is helping this discussion in the slightest.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 9:04 AM on May 31, 2010


Put me firmly into the non-robot crowd on this one. Having a child not much older than that myself, seeing the look of joy on that kid's face is enough to melt my heart. Hell, just THINKING about it gets something in my eye.

My mom's cousin's kid (dunno what that makes him to me, we all just call each other "cousin") got a some sort of cochlear implant when he was 3 or so... I'm not sure if he was born fully deaf or only impaired. We're not that close, so it never occurred to me to discuss to him what it's like. I know that he was never taught ASL though. A funny story about when he was a kid: he had done something bad (as 5 year olds will do from time to time) and while his mom was yelling at him, when he thought she wasn't looking he reached up and turned off his implant. She had to restrain herself from laughing at the cuteness (and boldness) of it.
posted by antifuse at 6:42 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a sequel to the Sound and Fury film referenced above that I just watched (after reading this thread). It's called Sound and Fury: 6 Years Later (I found it at my local library!). In it, we see that after the conclusion of the first film, the family had a lot of problems, and in the end decided to get cochlear implants not only for their children (the oldest was 9), but also the mother. They seem very happy now with their decision. The reason they gave for finally doing it is precisely the reason some have given in this thread. They wanted their children to be able to function in both the deaf and hearing worlds. Who knows if they would have functioned as well in the deaf world had they done the surgery earlier? Anyway, I really liked the documentary; I'd recommend it for anyone who's interested in this stuff.
posted by bluefly at 7:17 AM on June 3, 2010


An interesting reaction from an older child here. He's incredibly astounded and freaked out at first. Such a natural reaction, I thought.
posted by aclevername at 11:30 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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