Cochlear implants: not our choice

A common or familiar phrase is "a parent's choice" in writings on cochlear implant and deaf children. Let's look at this "parent's choice" more deeply.

not my choice
Image source: Elizabeth Morris, 1995.

It should be a child's choice, not a parent's. Is there really such as a choice for the child? Because, typically a choice among parents and hearing professionals is metaphorically 99% oral. Is this truly a choice? The child is given virtually no choice.

To give a child a true choice with the maximalized language acquisition in both languages (ASL and English) is to give him/her bilingualism. It's not only a child's choice, but also, more importantly, a child's human right to language regardless of the modality.

Second, implanting a child with cochlear implants invades a child's body (a boundary line). Again, the child has no choice. To truly respect the child's body, wearing hearing aids would be a choice instead of drilling down into the hapless child's skull with some potential risks.

While there are some deaf with CI who live in the hearing world, their listening and speaking skills are highly variable. Many of them have decided to undergo surgery to remove cochlear implants, some turn off their cochlear implants, and some choose not to use. But, lifetime emotional scars are there for many.

There are also many bilingual deaf people who have succeeded with some listening and speaking skills by merely wearing hearing aids. When asking these deaf with hearing aids if they would consider having cochlear implants. Most of them choose not to! Because, they are doing fine with hearing aids and they are content. It's truly their choice, not the parent's, because they can turn off, continue to use, or abandon them without drilling down into their skulls or going across the boundary line of their rights about their body.

"In the case of deafness, I would also really, really emphasize that the choice between a CI and American Sign Language (ASL) is a false choice. There is absolutely no reason at all that the two can’t go together. Some may say that there is, but there is no actual, neurobiological barrier to learning two languages at once. Indeed, this is the norm across most of the globe." -- Laura Mauldin.

CI is a tool, not a language. ASL is a language, not a tool. ASL activates the same area of the linguistic regions of the left brain as spoken langauge.

The majority of Deaf community members are deaf children born to hearing parents. About 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, while a small percent (10%) of deaf children are born to Deaf parents.

But, roughly 90% of Deaf community are deaf adults of hearing parents. Why are the voices of Deaf community members not listened to? They have been heard but not listened to. They were once children whose voices were ignored by the hearing oppressors. They were not given choices. They are as equally intelligent human beings with feelings as hearing people.

Things that parents of deaf children need to understand:

To be able to hear sounds does not mean to be able to understand and/or recognize sounds and words either with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Either with hearing aids or cochlear implants, hearing and speaking skills are highly variable.

Deaf people have learned to hear and speak with hearing aids long before cochlear implants. Many Deaf people don't speak well with CI; likewise, many Deaf people with hearing aids can speak well. That is, hearing aids should be considered and CI shouldn't be the only way.

Language (e.g. ASL) in the visual modality does not hinder another language (e.g. English). Research shows no evidence that signing hinders speech development. It's easy to accuse signing when an oral path simply doesn't work for a child, not at the fault of signing.

Language is amodal which means that language is not central to speech. The brain cannot tell the difference between the modalities. Language is language. Signed languages functions in the same left brain as spoken languages. Signed language has all linguistics and has the same timeline of language acquisition as spoken language. Linguistics and neuroscience (Dr. Petitto) have confirmed them all.

There are Deaf scholars (even with PhDs) who write and read English as excellent as hearing scholars but they don't hear nor speak. Not hearing doesn't reduce a deaf person's language capabilities through eyes. Because language is amodal.

Get educated as much as about the true nature of language, bilingualism, information from Deaf professionals, and such that the deaf child gets a fair, informed decision. Give the child a choice to make later in life by providing the child both, not one language-modality (English) over another (ASL).

Resources on cochlear implants.