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What's Wrong With Cochlear Implants? Part 2

Updated on August 8, 2011

Deaf Awareness at Weekly Hubmob!

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This is part two of a series on personal examination of cochlear implanted culture.  Previously, we visited what I went through to receive the cochlear implant.  What you’re about to read here is what happens after the implant has been turned on.  Here, I attempt to answer what cultural and technological impact the cochlear implant really has.  Basically, what was wrong with cochlear implants?

I ask that because my continuing experience with cochlear implant never clashed me against the deaf culture.  It clashed me briefly against the hearing world because of such high expectations to suddenly hear.  I was seeking out communities for cochlear implant online that I found raging debate from the deaf culture AGAINST cochlear implantation.  Here, suddenly, I felt a clash against the deaf culture for the first time.  The main two premises that I discovered in the side against cochlear were: 1) Hearing parents are inconvenienced by deaf child, so they want to fix it immediately with cochlear implant, and 2) This has potential to tear apart the vital deaf culture that is so immersed in sign language and visual cues.

My immediate reaction was: “You don’t get to decide how the rest of the hearing impaired want to live.  Some of us don’t identify as big D deaf!”

Mainstream School : Kindergarten!

I was the blonde girl between the boy and dark-haired girl.
I was the blonde girl between the boy and dark-haired girl.

Being Hearing But Not Hearing

The first argument I remember is: Socially, you are pitting the child against two worlds. The deaf culture would never fully accept the child because he/she is not deaf in the sense that is valid to the deaf society. The hearing world will expect the child to simply hear just like the rest of them and they would never fully accept the child because he/she is not hearing in the sense that is valid to the mainstream. Neither of them seemed to accept that there are variety of degrees to hearing loss that both worlds are actually quite diverse in!

This came as no surprise to me. After all, I understood what it was to be stuck in both worlds without the cochlear implant. I am simply continuing to exist on that social plane with the cochlear implant. I never had to struggle with the deaf culture with the exception of going to deaf camps, I only had to struggle in the hearing world. That’s half the fight taken out! The reason for this is that my grandmother toured the deaf schools in nearby counties. What she found was that many never used their voice and only their ASL. She feared my loss of voice that I so often utilized to the annoyance of my family.

I never considered myself the big D deaf, nor did I ever consider myself hearing. I had no words for what I was. What surprised me, however, is that as time went on, I was simply accepted as me. So, that argument was rendered invalid in my eyes instantly.

The next best solution to this is simply accepting the child or person’s desire to see what it was to hear through the cochlear implant. Allow that culture of the cochlear implanted people to also grow and thrive in their own vitality. For the most part, I feel at home wherever I am, whoever I am. I am my own culture.

Fantastic Vlog On CI With Very Good Points

Hearing Just For the Convenience?

The next argument I faced was a question of ethics. Essentially; "Hearing parents are inconvenienced by the deaf child, so they want to fix it immediately with cochlear implant." I had to think long and hard on this one.

Surely, having hearing is a natural right. It's what most creatures are supposed to have, otherwise I do not see the point in having these appendages hanging off the sides of our head. But, also, being impaired and already part of a culture you identify with strongly is an absolute right to possess.

For me, it was not a question applicable to me. But it made me question my family's choice in allowing me to go for the cochlear. Were they inconvenienced by my lack of hearing? Then, I remember, the key word is allowed. They allowed me to make the choice at 15 years of age, especially after months of meeting with surgeons, audiologists, and social workers to make an informed choice.

For much younger children, the choice may have to be based on the culture they are a part of until they can make the choice on their own. Technologically, it may not ever be too late to get a cochlear implant because there are people over the age of 50 who are obtaining the technology for themselves.

Are We Destroying a Culture?

The medical technology has potential to tear apart the vital deaf culture that is so immersed in sign language and visual cues.

I can definitely see how this is the case. Technology has the potential to overwhelm culture. To me, though, this technology replaces what has been lost or never there. In this deaf culture and mainstream, it is an opportunity to diversify when there are so many diversity in degrees of hearing loss. The key here is that we still depend on other languages (ASL) and visual cues, even with cochlear implant.

I am very dependent on visual cues like lip reading and body language. My cochlear implant has not entirely replaced my hearing. It has given a little back to me but not all. I still cannot talk on phones very well. I still request intrepreting. I won't go to the movies without open captioning or I will lose every single dialogue there is in it. I do take pride in knowing I am part of the unique in between that I can take so many learning experiences from.

Culture has not been destroyed, it has been changed. Changes are inevitable. From what I can see in the several decades that cochlear implant has been in our world, the deaf community is still vital and going strong. The rest of us move on.

What Is Wrong?

Ethically and morally, many things can go wrong in influencing people against or for cochlear implant. The support system set up with the cochlear implant industry is that you must have a good family environment that supports what you choose to do -- cochlear or not! There is counseling for this.

Otherwise, nothing is wrong. Today, seven years later, I am still hearing impaired. I just hear so much better than I did then. Upgrade is due for me, however. The downside to cochlear implantation is the costs, unless you have the insurance to cover it.

Me, Still Deaf, Still Hearing!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hey, i have cochlear implant for three can understand the noise like back ground..but im 26..i always wonder if im able to understand a lot better than i am now?

    • Sterling Sage profile image

      Sterling Sage 

      9 years ago from California

      Thanks for adding a relatively moderate voice to this discussion (no pun intended). When I was studying ASL, I was struck by how polarized this whole debate was. I particularly like your point about the dynamic nature of culture. It's one of humankind's biggest follies to assign a category to everyone and everything.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      9 years ago from UK

      Thank you very much for this. It has helped me to understand what a loved one is going through and what can be expected with this solution :-)

    • Sunny Robinson profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunny Robinson 

      9 years ago from Tennessee

      Did I miss something?

    • sid_candid profile image


      9 years ago

      MarianG thanks for writing a great hub with great information. Glad I found your hub as it is wonderfully written with great examples and explanations.

    • Sunny Robinson profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunny Robinson 

      9 years ago from Tennessee

      MarianG, thanks! :) It really felt personal to put this out there but I'm glad people are relating to it in a positive way.

      SweetJoy, I forgot to write this down but I did google McIntyre after reading your comment! I wonder if this could reach him. :) Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Glad you enjoyed my hub!

      SognoPiccolo, of course I did!

      Bill Manning, I think it's never too late to get one. I doubt you'd be unhappy trying to live with it. The thing is, it's a new experience and some new experiences are worth exploring no matter what age.

      Mmiller, thank you! :) I don't know what to say to that, lol. So, thank you is all I can think of.

    • Mmiller_89 profile image

      Michael Miller 

      9 years ago from Las Vegas

      What a story Sunny, really made me happy to read it. Your bravery and ability to cope with being stuck in between two different worlds is really admirable. I can't say "I've been in your shoes" or "I know how you feel" because that would be a lie. I can say, however, that just reading your story gave me inspiration. Really like your writing style as well, thanks.

    • Bill Manning profile image

      Bill Manning 

      9 years ago from Orlando, Fl.

      Glad I found your hub, thank you. I'm 90% deaf myself, born that way. I too feel split between the hearing and the deaf world. I never learned sign because,,, nobody else knows it, so what's the point!

      I read lips and always wondered about getting cochlear implants. But now at 46 years old, I think I would be unhappy trying to learn how to live with it. So I just go about my life my way, anyone has a problem, tough! Thanks again for your hub. :)

    • SognoPiccolo profile image


      9 years ago from Wilmington, Ohio

      yay! you tagged my hub! I love you!

    • SognoPiccolo profile image


      9 years ago from Wilmington, Ohio

      this is beautiful as are you. =)

    • SweetJoy profile image

      Joyce Cortes 

      9 years ago from California

      Your part 2 was so awesome! I'm glad that you shared this with everyone. I bet that you know about (NKOTB) Joe McIntyre's deaf son. :-) Hopefully, Joe and his family would read your hub one day!

      ::Thumbs up::

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is so great! You express yourself very well and I thank you for sharing your personal story with the rest of us! It's beautiful!

    • Sunny Robinson profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunny Robinson 

      9 years ago from Tennessee

      Case1Worker, thank you! :)

      I can lower volume and switch between programs (I have 2 programs currently - one is for driving, another is for everyday living). I can take them off, as long as I disassemble the battery from the processor so it doesn't drain while I have it off.

      The reason I don't like doing that just to stop hearing sounds for a minute or two is because it's an annoyance to put it back on and wait for a sec for it to click back on. Also because I have so much hair, I have to dig around until the magnet can neatly align with skin to connect to the metal underneath in order to send information to my cochlea.

      Thanks for asking. :)

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      good for you! I know your hearing will never be brilliant but having some is better than nothing. Can you turn them off? I know I sometimes love to take my aids out or turn them off for peace and quiet.

    • Sunny Robinson profile imageAUTHOR

      Sunny Robinson 

      9 years ago from Tennessee

      bayoulady, you made me blush! Thank you. I did whip this one out quickly. The first part I had two days to write and edit in between distractions. After I had that published, I quickly went ahead and started on this one, which I ended up publishing several hours later. Again, thank you. :)

    • bayoulady profile image


      9 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      Well done, and you said you whipped it out quickly. It is your story, so that helped it to go quickly. but the richness in descriptions is awesome ! rated up!


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