parents really wanted my brother and I to get cochlear implants. They cared
about our opinion. It was our body…
too young to make that decision. I regret it. We were eight years old”
(Kimberly). Nineteen year-old twins Kimberly Klock and Ryan Klock went to my
high school. Kimberly is Deaf and her brother, Ryan, is hard of hearing,
although they both got cochlear implants when they were younger. When I
interviewed Kimberly about her cochlear implant, she expressed a sense of
pride in being Deaf. “There’s nothing wrong being Deaf. We embrace it, but
Ryan likes having the implant. It wasn’t
Kimberly said (Kimberly). There are several misconceptions about cochlear
implants, and to start, it is evident that the Deaf community is not all
lining up to get one.
In some areas,
especially the medical field, society has developed an ideology that if you
are without something most people have, it should be made available to you,
and not only made available, but even wanted. The medical device that
displays this opportunity for the Deaf and hard of hearing community
specifically is the cochlear implant. The first single channel cochlear
implant was introduced in 1972 as an electronic device that provides a sense
of sound to those who are “profoundly Deaf or severely hard of hearing”
Misconceptions exist about cochlear implants that should be clarified to
help better understand the Deaf community and options Deaf or severely hard
of hearing people have.
commonly-held misconception about cochlear implants is that they are only
successful on a narrow, younger age group due to the fact that their bodies
can still more easily learn and accept new information, like sounds they
would be hearing for the first time. After all, the earlier in life a person
receives the implant, the easier it is for them adjusting to learning how to
hear and speak. While not everyone is eligible for a cochlear implant, they
are not necessarily limited to a specific age group. Ear, nose, and throat
specialist, Doctor Robert C. O’Reilly,
are 12 months of age or older with profound hearing loss in both ears are
cochlear implants are successful on adults as well (KidsHealth).
states, the best candidates happen to be younger, however the eligible age
group is not a narrow one. In fact, more adults than children have received
cochlear implants in the United States. According to the Food and Drug
Administration, “as of December 2012 …
United States, roughly 58,000 adults and 38,000 children have received
From this statistic, it is clear that adults who have become Deaf or hard of
hearing later in life, or have always been, also experience successful
cochlear implants, otherwise there would not be such a large number still
receiving them in 2012.
While age is
not the deciding factor over who can get cochlear implants, there are other
reasons that can make patients ineligible. On one hand, children’s hearing
may be too good without the use of hearing aids, meaning they could still
hear some sound and speech but not a lot. Other reasons include that the
“reason for hearing loss isn’t a problem with the cochlea”
hearing nerve itself is damaged or absent” (KidsHealth). The latter
reasons are necessary to coincide with the anatomy of the surgical
procedure, and therefore, to get the desired results. Every potential
candidate is evaluated on these requirements by a cochlear implant team to
decide whether an implant should be used. The cochlear implant team is
composed of counselors and doctors. The counselors evaluate the situation to
ensure that the people trying to get the implant would be suitable for the
surgery and have the right reasoning for getting one. They also conclude if
the motivation to participate in the difficult journey afterward is present
in the family. The doctors, on the other hand, are the ones who look at the
reasoning behind the lack of hearing and their relative compatibility for
the procedure (Kids Health).
Another misconception is that cochlear implants “fix”
Deafness, which is a complete misunderstanding of how they are designed to
work. After receiving a cochlear implant, the patient is still technically
Deaf or hard of hearing. It is not a “cure”. During a two-four hour surgery,
the implant package is placed inside the skull, within the inner ear. The
microphone is worn, and hooked up to the package on the outside of the ear,
which means it can be turned on and off. In essence, regardless of having
received a cochlear implant, the patient is still considered Deaf for they
are still unable to hear sound when the speech processor is turned off (KidsHealth).
Furthermore, even when the processor is turned on, the patient will not hear
sounds like a non-hard of hearing or Deaf person would. Doctor O’Reilly
describes the process of the conversion of sound as such: “Sound is sent to
the sound and speech processor…
analyzes the sound and converts it into an electrical signal”
O’Reilly goes on to explain that the electrical signal is decoded in the
implant package, where the electric current determines the sounds’
loudness and pitch. By transportation of the hearing nerve, the message goes
to the brain, and lastly, the brain interprets the sound (Nevala). In this
way, getting the cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. The sound
heard is similar to a robotic tone.
previously, it is a mistaken belief that all Deaf people want a cochlear
implant. The results described above are not necessarily ideal. Not only are
the interpreted sounds electronic-sounding, but for those who have never had
the ability to hear properly, the sounds can be extremely overwhelming (Cochlear).
Unlike natural hearing and speech development, which occurs over a number of
years as a baby, these patients are hit with all of the different sounds of
the world at once. This process is straining because they can hear
everything simultaneously, such as the lights buzzing, refrigerator humming,
pets moving, television, and the dishwasher running all at once. They have
to train themselves to “focus on only a couple sounds, which non-hard of
hearing people have learned to do naturally over time”
documentary film Hear and Now, Paul and Sally Taylor, a born-Deaf
couple in their 60’s, decided to get cochlear implants together so that they
might hear for the first time in their lives. Their daughter filmed their
reactions as they dealt with this new, profound experience of sound in their
Deaf worlds. Paul adapted well to the implants, enjoying everything new he
was learning about the world and the sounds that filled it. While her
husband excelled with the new device, Sally had the opposite experience as
her husband. She could not grow accustomed to all of the new sounds that
filled her head and she would constantly have migraines as a result. Due to
the stress it caused Sally, she lost the motivation to improve and most days
would no longer attempt to wear the outer piece of the cochlear implant
(Hear). It is these mixed reactions to the cochlear implants that also play
a role in part of the Deaf community’s skepticism toward cochlear implants.
strongest argument the Deaf community has against cochlear implants is that
they are genuinely proud of being Deaf and in some cases could not imagine
otherwise. This is the case for many Deaf and hard of hearing people I know.
Take Kimberly Klock, for example, who I used to play basketball with on our
high school team. She would rarely have her cochlear implant on, even around
only hearing teammates. I asked her specifically about this in the interview
to which she replied, “I didn’t wear it because it didn’t matter that I was
Deaf around you guys... I would have needed Nichole [Kimberly’s interpreter]
to interpret and I don’t like having it on”
(Kimberly). Having the cochlear implant on just wasn’t worth it for
Kimberly, and as stated previously, she regrets getting the procedure. I
also questioned her about why she regrets having the procedure done if she
can turn the device off and still be Deaf, while she still has the option of
hearing if she so chooses. “My other Deaf friends don’t judge me for having
it ... I love our Deaf ‘family’
and I’m not embarrassed being Deaf. Why do I have an implant to correct my
hearing if I am fine without it?”
(Kimberly). Simply because Kimberly is without something most people have,
does not mean she wants it. Following this thought process, it would be easy
to find the pain endured, time spent learning and tuning out sounds, and the
cost of the surgery not worth it if the patient is content with their life
in the Deaf community to begin with. Furthermore, my American Sign Language
1 teacher in high school, Mr. Corey, was an older Deaf man who expressed a
similar mentality as Kimberly. While Kimberly claims it just was not for
her, Corey adamantly believed any hard of hearing or Deaf person was
admitting to having a disability by getting a cochlear implant, while it was
actually a gift to be Deaf. Not every Deaf or hard of hearing person is
against cochlear implants personally or widely like Kimberly Klock and Mr.
Corey, but they are ones who prove the idea that all Deaf people want to
hear is far from the truth.
about who is eligible for cochlear implants, the results from the procedure,
and the overall Deaf and hard of hearing perspective of them are common.
Clearing up these false misbeliefs could give people the opportunity of
receiving a cochlear implant and hearing for the first time, rather than
thinking they were too old for such a procedure and following experiences.
Learning about the variety of results from getting the cochlear implant
could make or break someone’s decision in getting one so it is important to
understand these different results. It is also important to discredit common
misconceptions in order to better understand, accept, and build relationship
with the Deaf community.
Carolyn. "Cochlear Implants." Cochlear Implants. American
2004. Web. 19 July. 2014.
Cochlear Implants. U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
Disorders, Nov. 2013. Web. 20 July. 2014.
"Cochlear Implants." Ed. Robert C. O'Reilly. The Nemours
Foundation, 01 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 July. 2014.
Hear and Now.
Irene Taylor Brodsky. HBO, 2009.
"Kimberly Klock's Opinion on Cochlear Implants." E-mail interview. 29 June.
Nevala, Amy. "Impact of Cochlear Implant Electrotechnology."
HearAgain.org. N.p., 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 July. 2014.
November 5, 2004
Deaf people are against them.)
I. What Deaf people think about cochlear
a. Do they think it will affect their culture?
b. Would they have one if they had the choice?
II. When are people old enough to have an
a. Do Deaf and hearing people want to give their
children the implant?
Gloria Cosgrove met with
the Metro Silent Club and discussed with them, how they felt about cochlear
implants, since most of the culturally Deaf population thinks that the
implant is trying to "destroy their culture."
"You mentioned medical practice," Gloria
said, "were you thinking about cochlear implants? Where do you stand on
"It’s a sensitive issue,"
said Jake, "If
I may speak for most of us, we don’t have a problem with cochlear implants
for adults. But for children who were born Deaf, No! It’s exposing
children to an invasive experimental surgical procedure for dubious
reasons and even more dubious results."
". . . If more and more Deaf children get
cochlear implants and are kept away from the Deaf-WORLD, that would mean
the end of the Deaf culture,"
"I don’t think that’s going to happen,"
Jake said, "It’s my understanding that though the procedure is very
invasive, an implant is just another kind of hearing aid, a built-in
hearing aid. When hearing aids came into vogue, Deaf culture never faded
away. Instead, we threw away the hearing aids. I think that when these
implanted kids get older, they many get angry at their parents for making
the implant decision for them when they were young. . ."
"But would any of you have one?"
"No!" They were all agreed, though
she knew of a few former classmates who were either totally in the hearing
world or marginally in the Deaf, and they would do it.
(A Journey into the Deaf-World,
Ben Bahan, Robert Hoffmeister, pg. 376)
As this quote states,
all of this club would refuse to have a cochlear implant, one member’s
parents asked her to get a cochlear implant and she didn’t speak with them
for weeks. According to the member her parents hadn’t accepted her for who
she really was. Others state that it would cause the Deaf-World to slowly
dissipate and eventually disappear altogether. Although they did say that
the cochlear implant would probably soon turn out to be just another hearing
aid, a permanent hearing aid, but none the less still a hearing aid.
FDA Requirements for Cochlear Implants
". . . candidates must be at least two years old
(the age in which specialists can verify the
severity of the child’s Deafness).
Hearing Loss, Carol Turkington, Allen E. Sussman, pg. 100)
As you can see any
Deaf/partially Deaf person can become eligible for an implant once they’ve
reached their second birthday. Many hearing parents apply for this procedure
as soon as their child’s second birthday arrives. The Deaf community
although would leave the child Deaf to join in with the Deaf community.
"It does not seem to matter that the Deaf say
again and again that they value their culture, their language, and their
world. The hearing remain perplexed. This, of course, perplexes the
Deaf-WORLD. The gulf between the two worlds engenders accusations and
recriminations. The Deaf-WORLD is accused of resisting cochlear implants
because it wants to ‘steal’ the Deaf child."
(A Journey into the Deaf World, pg. 373)
Unfortunately the more the Deaf try to defend their culture the more the
hearing world try’s to bring it down and create an all hearing world.
Also see: Cochlear Implants (2)
Also see: Cochlear Implants: Deaf
Community vs. Hearing Society
Also see the sign for: "Cochlear