Sound and Fury: The Debate about Cochlear Implants

Cochleair implantaat

Photo by: Dick Sijtsma (CC/flickr)

By Raven Heroux

Since its creation in 1985, cochlear implants (CI) have been controversial for people in the Deaf community. Is it destroying the culture and lifestyle of these people, especially since it is “fixing” something many Deaf people believe isn’t even broken? I believe it depends on the individual and the family involved in these cases, which sounds like a cop-out answer; alas, that is my opinion.

The documentary Sound and Fury follows a family deciding whether or not they should provide their two deaf children with cochlear implants.

Nancy Bloch of The National Association of the Deaf spoke on the controversy to the makers of the film. She explains, “Implants are seen as the panacea for deafness, which only serves to perpetuate devaluative societal attitudes towards deafness and deaf people. Simply put, while the device provides the ability to receive auditory signals, the ability to make sense of and use these signals for meaningful dialogue varies greatly from person to person.”

It really does depend on the individual. When speaking of a late-deafened adult, the opinion is often that it is up to that individual on what they want to do; if they grew up hearing, it may be easier to get the surgery than try to adapt. However, when speaking about parents making decisions for their small children, the debate rages.

You may be thinking, “Why not just allow the child to decide when they are old enough?”

The problem: Having the surgery earlier in life, when the child is still developing and has time for the therapy that is required to help with the transition, is the best way to fully utilize the abilities of the CI.

Photo by: Bjorn Knetsch (CC/flickr)

So do parents really have the right to make this huge life-decision for their children? Let’s not forget that it is possible to not connect your cochlear implant in the morning if you don’t want to. Yes, there is a device in your skull, but you can choose not to connect the exterior extension.

Just sayin’.

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