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If You Don't Want Cochlear Implant, That's Okay

Updated on August 8, 2011

Making The Decision

Recently, an article emerged about a deaf actress dealing with discrimination and force by audiologists regarding cochlear implant. You see, Emily Howlett decided she did not want nor need cochlear implant. The basis of her decision was this:

  • She identified as deaf.
  • Her brain will not process the sounds properly.
  • She will not hear speech very well.
  • There will not be a lot of improvement to her hearing, if any.

Every individual who is weighing the decision to be implanted or not has to recognize that cochlear implants are never cure-alls. They may never actually hear with it. There are a lot of risks involved with getting the implants, as well, which has been covered consistently.

Being Fixed vs Staying Deaf

Emily Howlett goes on to describe the discrimination and myths heaped upon her in the vain effort to force her into a surgery that may not benefit her. The logic is that cochlear implant will fix her, once and for all, even though the audiologist eventually admits that it will not do any such thing for her.

A personal experience from my stand in this argument is that cochlear implant did not cure me. It did not fix every single problem I had. My brain, at this point, will never fully interpret all the sounds. But I chose it. It did enhance my hearing, it became part of my listening tool, and it is a miracle for me. Just because I chose it does not mean it is the right choice for another.

First of all, cochlear implant is not a 'fix'. It is a tool. It is one of many tools that can be chosen or refused, depending on how it will benefit you or not. It is not something that will take away from the deaf culture. It is not something that will add to the hearing world. It simply is a tool. A brilliant, life-changing tool -- if it works for you. Useless if it does not.

Second of all, disability is not a broken thing to fix. Disability does not make or break a person. It will add more obstacles to an individual's life, yes, but no more than the different obstacles each person will face in their lives. Life is never easy.

Deaf people are incredibly resilient — they have spent decades adapting to a lack of hearing. A lack of hearing does not cause them to be unable to do anything. They still have the drive and passion for life. They still have a brain residing in their complex skulls. They still have emotions that all of us are learning to deal with on a daily basis, even as adults.

- Heart to Ear on "Being 'Fixed' vs Staying Deaf"

Tearing Down the Myths

Finally, before believing it's your call to judge any particular group in this argument, take a moment to read all the myths listed here. These came from the audiologist and her colleagues mentioned in the article, as well as the resulting discriminatory and judgmental comments after the article.

  • If you do not get a cochlear implant, you will fall into the deaf society.
  • Deaf people are broken and disillusioned. They are useless members of society.
  • Learning sign language will cause all of your other skills to decline, such as lipreading, speech, and interaction with the world at large.
  • Implants are easy fixes disregarding the fact that each person is different.
  • Those who refuse cochlear implants should not receive any other assistance or benefits.
  • Those who refuse cochlear implants are choosing to be disabled and useless.
  • Deaf people are willfully ignorant for refusing cochlear implants.
  • The choice of not having cochlear implant is equal to the choice to smoke, become obese, abusing alcohol, abusing pills, and other bad choices in life.

Each of those come with their own fallacies. Each of these are myths. It's like saying that each of them have no reason to live unless they hook themselves up with an implant. "Implant is the magic cure! You are stupid for not picking this!" I look at the lives of many who are successful, happy, and (gasp) deaf. And I dare you to tell each of them this very thing.

But not before you read Being 'Fixed' vs Being Deaf. This is a piece that tears down each myth mentioned above. It is meant to inform the ignorant and support the deaf as well as the implanted.

It is meant to convey this oh-so-important message:

If cochlear implant is not for you, that's okay! It does not make you any less human. It does not make you ignorant. It does not take away opportunities for you. It simply means that this particular tool will not work for you. It is by choice that it works for you. It is also by your circumstances with not only your nerves in your ears, but how your brain will take it that it works for you. Other than that, your life won't be in shambles without it! You will be fine. Do not let anyone tell you different.

Spouting the myths above makes both the implanted and the hearing people look very bad. It's oppressive to the deaf people and it is very ignorant. I know that as an implanted individual, I am literally ears-burning-red ashamed of what has been done to Emily Howlett, as well as the cruel people bashing the deaf culture as a whole. It's time to stop, now.

Picture for Deaf Awareness.  Very fitting.
Picture for Deaf Awareness. Very fitting. | Source


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    • Anomalous Minds profile image

      Anomalous Minds 4 years ago from Washington, D.C.

      As a mother of a son with a CI, we had to make the decision about implantation for him. CI seemed like a good choice. He has other developmental issues that made communication that much more difficult for him, so it seemed foolish to refuse anything that might help him to communicate. We did not look at the CI as a "fix" - my son is not broken! It is a tool. If you're getting by well without the tool, then you shouldn't feel obligated to use it.

      Great hub, I look forward to reading more!

    • Jenne Joy profile image

      Jenne Joy 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Sunny! She's pretty well informed about her choice, she knows it may not mean she will be able to hear anything at all if it doesn't work. When I asked her about it, she said yeah that was a possibility. I had no idea! I originally though (and how ignorant of me in hindsight) that getting a cochlear implant would mean she'd be able to hear perfectly. So, this was really informative for me. Otherwise I'd still be ignorant on the subject, and I appreciate that. :)

    • Sunny Robinson profile image

      Sunny Robinson 6 years ago from Tennessee

      GinnyDrisc, I intend to include truths to completely eradicate those myths at their very root. Thank you for the suggestion and the truths to consider including. There are also people who are not CIs that are in between -- either they just don't have enough hearing loss for the deaf community or they just don't have enough hearing for the hearing community. In the end, both cultures need to see for themselves that every situation is different for every families.

      Thank you so much for participating in this conversation!

    • profile image

      GinnyDrisc 6 years ago

      I think this is a very well-written post. I work with adults and children who have cochlear implants. I am absolutely shocked and disgusted that someone (much less a group of professionals) would try to force an individual to get a cochlear implant and am confident it would not happen in my facility. I think, along with your myths, you should include a few truths like: 1) A cochlear implant will not "cure" being deaf. If the implant is off, you are still deaf. 2) Having an implant doesn't remove one from the Deaf community any more than it places them in the "hearing" one. A good bit of research has shown people with CIs are usually in between.

      Again, great post!

    • Sunny Robinson profile image

      Sunny Robinson 6 years ago from Tennessee

      Jenne, that sounds fantastic for your mother! I know this article seems pessimistic about cochlear implants, but realistically, it may not work for everyone. It works for many, though, especially me. Without it, I would be completely deaf. With it, I hear things I haven't heard in years before I got it.

      If you have any questions, don't hesitate to message me. Your mother is also free to contact me at happyveggieday at gmail dot com.

    • Jenne Joy profile image

      Jenne Joy 6 years ago from Michigan

      My mother is deaf and seriously considering a cochlear implant, so this was very informative for me.