Benefits Or Harm Of Technology

In recent years (since the mid 1980s), researchers have discovered a way to give deaf individuals the opportunity to finally get their hearing. In the eyes and ears of the hearing, this is a great advancement in technology that now gives young deaf people the opportunity to lead a fairly normal life. However, within the deaf community there seems to be both opponents and proponents to this new innovation. In the documentary, Sound and Fury, Josh Aronson explores the debate between the benefits and the negatives of cochlear implants. The documentary follows two families as they have to decide whether to get cochlear implants for their children.

I viewed this video a few years ago and the story of the Artinian family still is with me today. The Artinians are a deaf family who had three deaf children. One of their daughters, Heather wanted cochlear implants. To the Artinians, the deaf culture and the identity of the deaf culture was far more important than the ability to hear. At the time the documentary was shot, the daughter was three or four and she desperately wanted the implants to ensure her normalcy in the classroom atmosphere. As Aronson pointed out, for Heather’s cochlear implants to have any success, they would need to be implanted before she was five. For me, it was heat-breaking to watch as the parents waited, discussed, and ultimately decided that Heather would not be permitted to have the implants.

Without watching the movie, you can see some of the same arguments made throughout the documentary by visiting the Sound and Fury website. While the National Association of the Deaf maintains that parents have the right to choose whether their children receive the implants or not, others such as the Alexander Graham Bell Association argue that any eligible child should be given the implants.

Do They Work?

Yes, while the jury is still undecided at what age the implantation of the device should occur. Many researchers suggest that for individuals to reap the full benefits, the earlier the better (which has initiated the lowering of the age of eligibility for implantation). However, this technology is not a quick fix. In order for it to successfully be implemented work must still be done on the part of both the parent and child. Speech pathologists, audiologists, etc. will still need to be utilized. But the up-side to all of this is that at John Hopkins University, researchers found students with these implants could be mainstreamed four to five times faster than deaf students without the implants (Website 1).

The downfall of these devices is that cochlear implants are costly and are only a hearing aid. When the aid is turned off the person can no longer hear. Thus, some suggest that even students with the hearing aid should still learn ASL.

Is Deaf a Disability or a Right of Passage?

By simply writing the wiki-assignment on the “hearing disability,” it is obvious that the majority of the educational community sees deafness as a disability. Teachers have to create individualized lesson plans, work to create an accepting classroom, create activities that do not exclude the deaf child’s participation, etc. To incorporate a student into the classroom with such unique needs causes teachers to view this topic as a disability.

However, many in the deaf community feel that being deaf is part of a culture, a society that has limited membership. On the website, you will have the opportunity to hear/watch eight deaf individuals speak on the different aspects of the cochlear implants. The arguments for and against the implants range from those who have them still enjoying the silence that comes with the off switch on the device while others in the community feel that those with the implants are not a part of the club anymore, Alison (who has the implant) even feels ostracized by her peers in the deaf community because she decided to receive one.

Why Mention This Here?

While this section of the wiki looks to discuss placement options for those with hearing disabilities or those hard of hearing. This technology places those receiving the implants between two worlds. They are not fully acclimated to the hearing world or fully accepted into the deaf community. While a deaf student can be placed at a state school for the deaf, students with cochlear implants are more likely to be mainstreamed. While this normalcy may be beneficial to some, others still need many considerations in the classroom. Just because a person has a cochlear implant does not ensure his total integration into the hearing world, and understanding this reality within the classroom is crucial for his success. Teachers need to be aware of these differences and work to ensure proper placement and instruction.

Created By: Jessica Sweeney

Footnote:

Bacon, Paul. “Cochlear Implants: Bridging the Gap.” Sound and Fury. 2000. PBS. 17 July 2007 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/cochlear/essay.html.

Owen, Elizabeth. The Sound and Fury Website. 2000. PBS. 17 July 2007 <
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/index.html>.

The Sound and Fury. Dir. Josh Aronson. With Jaime Lee Allen, 2000.