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on Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 7:37 pm by Radley Balko
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Maybe it is because my 10 year-old son is named Jonathan but either way, that video really was touching to watch. I can only imagine the joy that his mother and father must have felt that day the precious memory that they’ll always have of it. Seeing something like that, how can anyone be against it?
Yeah, ‘deaf culture’, that always sticks my craw. How about ‘Polio culture’ or ‘TB culture’ or to stay closer to the technology, ‘heart murmur culture’, where are the outrages at destroying those? Or how about ‘childless culture’? Think of the irony of parents having had a child through ex vitro fertilization then deny their child a cochlear implant? I bet you that that has happened.
This reminds me of those couples unable to conceive a child who go through IVF and end up with six or eight and claim it is God’s will or some such. No, Go’d will was that you would be childless. Man’s science is what gave them that litter.
Great video. Made an interessting start to my morning.
I was supposed to be deaf by the time I was 8- I was going to lip-reading classes, wearing hearing aids, etc at 6. My parents were preparing me (and themselves) for a life without hearing. At my grandmother’s insistence, my mom took me to a chiropractor. The loss stopped immediately. Both of my audiologists were stunned. The only people not stunned by this were the chiropractors who heard the story. The first ever chiropractic adjustment was to restore the hearing in a deaf man. I have a 60% loss in both ears, but it’s never slowed me down and I’m grateful every day for what I have.
I think about my parents and I wonder how I’d feel if I was in their shoes or in this woman’s shoes… This is such a fantastic video- made my day!
Watching that child’s face… makes me think of first-time drug users strangely enough. He’s lived his entire life in silence, and suddenly an entirely new realm of sense has opened up to him. You can imagine the parallels to a potent drugs being used by someone for the first time. The user experiences something novel that cannot be described or imagined indirectly… just like this child.
i think this video is wonderful, and i think that when cochlear implants work to give hearing to a child, that’s an amazing gift.
but the controversy around cochlear implants is not as simple as “deaf culture warriors” wanting to deny hearing to a sweet child. the truth is that anti-deaf culture warriors have actually denied language itself to many deaf children, and *sometimes* cochlear implants are part of that denial.
moreover, having spent some time in deaf culture, and studying it, i am distressed to see such culture bashing here. there really is such a thing as deaf culture, and it’s been a deeply saving grace for many deaf children — especially those for whom cochlear implants are not a solution.
i know this is controversial. i know there are militant deaf culture warriors who take way too strong a stand against cochlear implants. but if you’ve studied a century or so of the history of deafness (i highly recommend “when the mind hears” by harlan lane), it’s hard to hear such crude dismissal and contempt.
Marta, I am sure you’re right. But Jezebel.com (why I read it, I sometimes I wonder…) is full of people telling others to “check their ablest judgment” and how a post that is basically what Balko said was “culturally insensitive.”
I am sure there are reasons to not have the implants. Adults can choose for themselves. I am sure there have been people screwing over the deaf for years. The fact that they can have a strong community is great. But it IS a disability. Pretending that “normalcy is a social construct” means that deafness isn’t a disability is insane.
@lucy: i think being deaf is an interesting and possibly unique intersection of disability and culture. deaf people mostly think of themselves as a language minority — the greatest disability of being deaf is how difficult language is, not the lack of hearing, actually. american sign language is a godsend to deaf people, giving them access to language itself (which some of us believe is access to humanity itself) — and being a language minority is NOT a disability. being deaf is. it’s an interesting in-between place. as someone who lives in a lot of interesting in-between places, i find it sort of fascinating. interestingly, a lot of deaf people identify with being gay (whether they are or not) because there are a lot of parallels — being gay and being deaf are both viewed by many as a disability, but are experienced by in-group members an identity and a culture that are not transmitted through family lines.
The language minority is a facile argument. This would only hold true if they had to possibility to learn and interact with the majority in the majority language, which, because of their disability, they are unable to do. With regards to deaf people, it’s always the majority that has to learn and communicate on the minority’s terms. I can learn to interpret and ‘speak’ sign. A deaf person cannot learn to interpret or speak Danish.
The gay comparison I find appalling and disgusting. If you are gay, you can function without any help in society. Any hardship you encounter is purely based on other peoples bigotry. This does not hold true for deafness.
I do not posit that deaf people are helpless, far from it. One of my younger brother’s best friends became deaf from meningitis when he was in 5th grade and a high school class mate of mine had a deaf borne younger brother, so I am not without personal experience with deaf people. But they are clearly disabled and denying children the possibility of hearing through a cochlear implant is cruel. For those for whom this does not work, the tight knit deaf society is a blessing, but do not try and make it as normalcy. It is a lack of a highly important sense that leaves a person bereft of the normal and natural means of communication for our species and in that regards, it is a disability.
I should add to the above that the reason I find the gay comparison to be appalling and disgusting is because to me, it seems like deaf culture hawks are trying to defend their position with borrowed feathers via a transferral fallacy. It’s a passive aggressive way of saying “If you are against denying cochlear implants to infants, you are also a homophobic gay hater”, which is a weak, cowardly and pissy argument.
Let me throw out a theory as to how a cochlear implant can be part of the denial of language to a deaf child (note she didn’t say that the implant was “denying” a child language).
Cochlear implants restore full hearing to some, partial hearing to others. If (a big if) the promise of a cochlear implant leads a family to neglect learning and teaching sign to their child from the very beginning (because deafness is going to be “cured” later on by the cochlear implant) then the child will miss out on language in the early months, language that he or she could have had during the time of brain development when language is crucial. Even if the cochlear implant when turned on works fine and restores full hearing, the child’s access to language was delayed. And it’s possible that the implant will only partially restore hearing, and the child will thrive better using sign anyway.
Kids need *some* kind of language during the language-acquisition period, even if they’re going to get a cochlear implant. I could see how some people might not put as much effort into using sign with a deaf child that they expected to be “cured” at a later age. That could be seen as the cochlear implant being “part of the denial” of language to a deaf child, which is what marta wrote.
@bearing: yup, that’s exactly it. thanks. i really do recommend the book by harlan lane for a history of deafness.
@rune: i’m sorry i offended you. the comparison between being deaf and being gay is one i thought of on my own initially. i am a lesbian, and when i was in law school i became good friends with a deaf man. he was in my section, so all of my first year classes were interpreted and as a result, i became very interested in deaf culture and american sign language. after hearing a lot of experiences of deaf people who were born into hearing families, it occurred to me that in some ways, “deaf culture” and “gay culture” are similar in that they are not conveyed through family relationships, but instead rely on relationships outside of the normal family structure to provide the sort of “cultural pride” that can be so important to any minority. my deaf friend was born to deaf parents, but when i suggested this parallel, he said that it is something that others in the deaf community have thought of also, especially deaf gay folks. that’s all i meant. i was not suggesting that being gay is a disability nor that being deaf is not a disability. i believe that being deaf IS a disability, but deaf culture is not about that disability so much as it is about having a shared language.
Thanks for the explanation. But then it seems to me that the problem here is not with the technology, but with people. It seems to me that the informed and proper thing to do would then be to spend the energy that is used campaigning against cochlear on helping parents with the child’s early language acquisition.