My sign language professor asked us if we would install a cochlear implant on our children if they were deaf. I expected a couple of students to raise their hands, saying that they would.
However, I didn’t expect shallow, insulting and discriminatory reasoning. When my professor told us that cochlear implants were very controversial in the deaf community, I didn’t think too much of it until a tense debate formed between my classmates and me.
One classmate said they wanted their kids to have the best shot at being successful.
Another classmate said they wouldn’t even tell their child they were deaf; that they would simply give them the cochlear implant and act as though they had never been deaf.
That isn’t fair. Deaf people shouldn’t have to get cochlear implants. People capable of hearing should learn American Sign Language (ASL) and become more accepting of the deaf people and the culture they’ve come to build.
Not only does the cost of a cochlear implant exceed $40,000, but only certain deaf children and adults qualify. Plus, getting an implant won’t guarantee perfect hearing or speech.
According to John Hopkins School of Medicine, some patients said it sounds like people are “talking with marbles in their mouth,” or they won’t hear anything at all. They will just feel the stimulation.
There are also risks during and after the surgery such as fluid leaking around your brain. It’s one thing if deafness caused death, but it doesn’t. To me, it seems like an unnecessary risk to take.
And for those who believe that installing a cochlear implant will ensure an “equal” chance of being successful, I believe that’s false.
People who are disability-free still aren’t guaranteed a fair chance of being successful. Even if you could hear, society would find a way to chip away at a person’s hard work.
Plus, there are countless successful deaf people with good jobs in this country. Many are even more successful than hearing people.
I guess it’s easier for me to feel this way because I’m an African-American.
This might be a stretch, but because of my race, I’ve learned what it was like for people like me to be out-casted and treated differently to the point where African-Americans had to come together to form a culture of their own. I would think deaf culture is similar.
When I watched the Academy Award-winning documentary “Sound and Fury,” some of the deaf cast members said they grew up not having friends or having people treat them differently just because they were deaf.
Even their education lacks. In the documentary, some of the deaf high schools “turn out students that only read at a fourth-grade level.” It shouldn’t have to be like this.
ASL was created to give not only deaf people a way to communicate, but to also give hearing people a way to communicate with the deaf.
While there is a lack of recent research on the extent of ASL use in the United States, it’s estimated “fewer than one-half million people in the United States use ASL.” Yet, hearing loss affects 27.7 million people.
Now, why do hearing people think it is more acceptable for deaf people to surgically change themselves to communicate, when ASL helps build the bridge of communication?
Hearing people should make an effort to learn ASL and accept and embrace the deaf culture.