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Cochlear Implants and Their Impact on the Deaf Community

Cochlear Implants and Their Impact on the Deaf Community

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Published by Neal W. Jarnagin

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Published by: Neal W. Jarnagin on May 31, 2007
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03/07/2013

 
Cochlear Implants 1COCHLEAR IMPLANTSCochlear Implants and Their Effectson the Deaf Population Neal W. JarnaginAmerican Sign Language I, Des Moines Area Community College
 
Cochlear Implants 2The cochlear implant controversy and its many facets have caused great unrest amongst bothmedical personnel and the Deaf community since the first cochlear implant was installed. Whileopinions vary greatly as to the reasoning behind their argument, the impact on the Deaf community cannot be denied. Specifically speaking, the problems that exist between the twocommunities are that of choice and overall benefit. These problems are significant to bothcommunities because the medical community is attempting to “fix” the Deaf community whilethe Deaf community as a whole feels they are better off in a deaf world then a hearing one. Thefollowing pages will review articles from both the medical and Deaf communities in an attemptto better educate both parties as well as those of us that are either misinformed or uninformed.Ultimately, the indifference or lack of information regarding the use of cochlear implants iscaustic in nature to our society and will result in more separatist viewpoints and an even greater separation of the hearing and Deaf worlds.The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) (2006)defined a cochlear implant as “a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide asense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing.” The NIDCDcontinued to state that “an implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf  person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understandspeech.” While a much generalized, layman language, the above quote has implications of itsown which will be discussed further, later on. As you will discover, even defining such anintricate device will be difficult in itself.Before we continue to the medical aspect of the cochlear implant it is important to understandto a certain degree, the history of the implant. According to the Powerhouse Museum (2007), the
 
Cochlear Implants 3first direct stimulation to the auditory nerve, the nerve used to hear, was in 1950 by a scientistnamed Lundberg. Seven years later, two scientists named Djourno and Eyries implanted a singleelectrode which was attached to an induction coil into the head of a deaf individual. Thatindividual was able to hear sounds similar to that of a grasshopper or cricket but was also able torecognize very simple words such as mama and papa. This particular experiment inspiredscientists and medical professionals to continue working on a “cure” for deafness. In 1964, Dr.Blair Simmons successfully implanted the first multi-electrode device consisting of sixelectrodes and resulted in a patient able to recognize simple tunes. The quest for a curecontinued throughout the rest of the 20
th
century and in turn resulted in the state-of-the-artcochlear implants we have today.According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2006), many risks and benefits have been reported in regards to both surgery and post-surgical effects. While both communities maydisagree on what may be beneficial to their particular community, they are reported, nonetheless by this particular advocate of cochlear implant usage. They have stated that while someindividuals may exhibit near normal hearing, others may have no benefit whatsoever. Theycontinued to state that adults often begin to benefit immediately from the use of their cochlear implant and will continue to do so for about 3 months after the initial tuning sessions. After 3months, improvements begin to slow down but in some cases, improvements may occur for several years after implantation. Children, on the other hand, improve at a much slower rate andwill require “a lot of training to help the child use the new ‘hearing’ he or she now experiences.”The FDA (2006) reported that many individuals may understand speech without lip-reading, may be able to make telephone calls, enjoy music, and can even watch television more easily.

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