Falling on Deaf Ears: To Most People, Cochlear Implants Sound like a Medical Miracle-A Device the Size of a Candy Corn That Can Correct the Inability to Hear. but Many in the Deaf Community See the Technology as a Cultural Threat, Yet Another Example of the Hearing World's Inability to Really Listen

By Desai, Jenny | Science & Spirit, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Falling on Deaf Ears: To Most People, Cochlear Implants Sound like a Medical Miracle-A Device the Size of a Candy Corn That Can Correct the Inability to Hear. but Many in the Deaf Community See the Technology as a Cultural Threat, Yet Another Example of the Hearing World's Inability to Really Listen


Desai, Jenny, Science & Spirit


When Angie Mucci's daughter Allie was born nearly three years ago, she knew her little girl was special. What she didn't know--and wouldn't discover until a year later, when it was clear Allie wasn't responding to even the loudest noises--was that her daughter is deaf. Just a few decades ago, children with hearing loss as profound as Allie's had two choices if they wanted to learn to communicate: lip-reading or sign language. But Allie and her mom were given a third option: surgical implantation of a "bionic ear," or cochlear implant, that would help Allie hear.

"I am all for giving my daughter every opportunity she has out of life," says Mucci, a twenty-nine-year-old Las Vegas resident who, like an estimated ninety percent of parents with deaf children, can hear. For Mucci, that meant enrolling her daughter in an implant study in San Antonio, Texas, where Allie underwent surgery on her right ear at the age of thirteen months. Before the operation, Allie could hear only sounds that measured at 110 decibels or louder, a sound volume that compares with what you might hear when seated in the front row of a rock concert. With her cochlear implant, and no visual cues, Allie can now detect sounds that clock in at a mere twenty decibels. Mucci is currently scheduling a second surgery, this time on Allie's left ear, with the doctors who performed the first operation.

In a predominantly hearing culture in which the notion of correcting vision with eyeglasses or even LASIK surgery is met with nary a blink, and Miracle-Ear hearing aids for hard-of-hearing adults are advertised on national television, Allie's surgery might seem like a no-brainer. But by opting for surgery, Allie and her mother found themselves in the middle of a controversy that has divided virtually everyone it touches into separate camps: hearing and deaf, pro-implant and anti-implant, medical and "civilian." At stake are the complicated questions surrounding what it means to be deaf--not the least of which is whether surgical intervention is a method of correcting a medical condition or whether it's a process that exacerbates an imbalance between a hearing majority and a capital-D Deaf minority, a subculture that fights for the preservation of deafness and the right to define itself on its own terms.

For many hearing parents like Angie Mucci, cochlear implants are a technological aid, a tool to correct the body's inability to hear--and often an obvious option. But what happens when a deaf parent is faced with the choice? Consider the case of Michigan resident Lee Larsen, the deaf mother of two deaf sons whose custody dispute became an internationally publicized Deaf rights case in 2002. Larsen landed in court after school officials claimed she was neglecting her children, and a year later, court-appointed advocate Joseph Tevlin petitioned the Michigan court system to order implants for her two sons, asking, "Is it neglect not to have a cochlear implant when the bulk of the research shows everyone benefits?"

To Tevlin, the question was rhetorical. To the Deaf community, it was heresy--and yet another example of how the hearing world fails to understand what it means to be deaf. Part of the outcry concerned the parental right to refuse elective surgery for a child. At an initial custody hearing at Kent County Circuit Court in Grand Rapids, amid throngs of Deaf advocates and interpreters furiously signing along with the oral arguments, Larsen told Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Bramble, "I should decide. They are my flesh and blood. I am deaf. God made them deaf. I do not want them to have implants."

Beyond that basic issue--something of a nonstarter legally, since Michigan law affords parents the right to refuse elective surgery for their children unless they have permanently lost custody rights--lay the thornier, uncharted issue of what deafness means when it can be circumvented by technology. Lois L. Van Broekhoven, an interpreter-referral specialist, told Theresa D. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Falling on Deaf Ears: To Most People, Cochlear Implants Sound like a Medical Miracle-A Device the Size of a Candy Corn That Can Correct the Inability to Hear. but Many in the Deaf Community See the Technology as a Cultural Threat, Yet Another Example of the Hearing World's Inability to Really Listen
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.