Christian L. Lee
Technological Advancements and their Affect on Deaf Culture
Technological advancements have challenged the culture and
involvement of Deaf citizens within a hearing culture. Telephones,
TTY, hearing aids, FM systems, and Cochlear Implants are just a few
advancements that have impacted opportunities and challenged the
culture of the Deaf. Through the exploration of these technological
advancements, this paper will discuss the impact technology has had
on Deaf culture and how it has acted as an equalizing force between
Deaf and hearing citizens.
In order to understand the impact technology has had on the Deaf, a
review of some of the most important technological inventions is
needed. One of the first notable inventions affecting the Deaf was
the telephone, first patented by Alexander Bell in 1876 (Wikipedia).
Over the next 100 years, the Deaf experienced a number of
challenges. In the workforce, for example, offices began primarily
running through telephone operations. This resulted in a lack of
positions for Deaf employees, since they were unable to perform
tasks associated with answering a telephone. As more
hearing-friendly advancements were made, a chasm between the hearing
and Deaf world continued to exist until 1964, when the
teletypewriter, or TDD, created both mobility and accessibility to
the Deaf (Bacon, 2005). The TDD development by Weitbrecht, Marsters
and Saks radically improved the quality of life for the Deaf,
improving Deaf access to both Deaf and hearing communities in areas
of socializing, emergency situations, and the workforce. While the
TDD was able to improve communication in its time, more recent
advancements in cellular phones with texting capabilities have
outdated devises like the TDD (Bowe, 2002). The development of the
Internet has also allowed the Deaf to communicate through manual
visual language across space and time zones. For the first time, the
development and manipulation of a computer-mediated image of self,
new participation frameworks, and specifics of language change in a
new communicative space are being explored (Keating & Mirus, 2003).
However, the most recent technological advancement affecting the
Deaf is the Cochlear Implant. While there is a valuable history of
the CI’s creators and methods, which have resulted in the
development of the CI, the focus of this research is the impact that
such technology has had on the Deaf community. The Cochlear Implant
has presented both controversy and excitement for the Deaf
communities. Advancements including better speech processing
strategies with higher stimulation rates, elimination of background
noises and more authentic representations of acoustic signals are
being tested to make speech sound more natural (van Hoesel, 2002).
Due to these advancements, it has already been said, “the battle
between oralists and signers is ending and the latest generation of
deaf kids has won (Reisler, 2003).” Not all Deaf citizens shared
this same opinion, as it puts the future of Deaf culture at risk.
However, CI’s, real time captioning systems, FM receivers and more,
are increasingly diminishing the population of Deaf children who
will grow up and live within a Deaf culture (Ertmer, 2002).
The influence of technology on the Deaf community is noticeable.
Throughout the past decade, the impact of telephones, cell phones,
Internet, FM systems and Cochlear Implants have brought new benefits
and new challenges to the Deaf community. While more research and
technological advancements would need to be developed for the Deaf
community to fully diminish, the likely progression of such
technologies have caused authors like Reisler (2003) to acknowledge
that the future of the Deaf community is changing.
Bacon, P. (2005, Feb 18). Pbs. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/culture/deafhistory.html
Bowe, F. G. (2002). Deaf and hard of hearing Americans’ instant
messaging and e-mail use: A national survey. American Annals of the
Deaf, 147(4), 6-10.
Ertmer, D. J. (2002). Technological Innovations and Intervention
Practices for Children With Cochlear Implants. Language, Speech &
Hearing Services In Schools, 33(3), 218-221.
Keating, E., & Mirus, G. (2003). American Sign Language in virtual
space: Interactions between deaf users of computer-mediated video
communication and the impact of technology on language practices.
Language In Society, 32(5), 693-714. doi:10.1017/S0047404503325047
Lartz, M., Stoner, J., Stout, L. (2008) Perspectives of Assistive
Technology from Deaf Students at a Hearing University. 5(1), 72-89.
Reisler, J. (2003). Technology: Improving Sound, Easing Fury.
Newsweek, 141(8), 16.
van Hoesel, R., Ramsden, R., & O’Driscoll, M. (2002). Sound-
direction identification, interaural time delay discrimination, and
speech intelligibility advantages in noise for a bilateral cochlear
implant user. Ear and Hearing, 23, 137–149.
Wikipedia. (2012, January 13). Retrieved from
Tracheotomy and voiceless: American Sign Language (ASL) vs
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC)
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