Cochlear implants: not our choice

About 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. Then again, roughly 90% of Deaf community are adults born to hearing parents.

They were once children whose voices were ignored by the systemic hearing oppression. They were not given choices. They are as equally intelligent human beings with feelings and language capability as hearing people.

CI misconceptions

To straigthen out, cochlear implant is a tool, not a language. ASL is a language, not a tool. Signed language activates the same area of the linguistic regions of the left brain as spoken langauge.

"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.

To be able to hear sounds either with hearing aids or cochlear implants does not mean to be able to understand and/or recognize sounds and words. Either with hearing aids or cochlear implants, hearing and speaking skills are highly variable along with a high variability of language acquisition (from language deprivation at early age to delay language at later age to full-fledged language).

Whereas with hearing aids, cochlear implants or none, bilingualism guarantees language acquisition in either 'signed language and written language' or 'signed language plus written and variable speech language'.

Many Deaf people don't vocally-speak or hear well with CI; conversely, many Deaf people with hearing aids can vocally-speak well or communicate in vocal-aural modality. That is, hearing aids are also an option and should considered. Cochlear implants shouldn't be the sole nor the best option.

There are 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!

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.

The power of brain and bilingualism

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, because language is amodal (see explanation below). 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 studies have confirmed them all.

There are many Deaf scholars (with Masters and PhDs), who don't or never hear nor vocally-speak, write and read English as excellent as hearing counterparts. Not hearing doesn't reduce a deaf person's language capabilities through eyes. Again, because language is amodal.

Bilingualism is generally known for enhancing the linguistic and cognitive development of bilingual or multilingual children who generally perform better than monolinguals.

In the best interests of a child

A common, familiar phrase is "a parent's choice" in literature on cochlear implant and deaf children. Actually, in many situations, it was the hearing professionals' choice, putting pressure on hearing parents of deaf children.

not my choice
Image source: Elizabeth Morris, 1995.

It should be a child's choice, not a parent's (or a hearing professional's choice). Is there really such as a choice for the child? Because, typically a choice among parents and hearing professionals is highly phonocentric-biased. 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. This bilingual path guarantees a child's language acquisition, whereas with only cochlear implant and speech therapy both as tools for English-only language acquisition is highly variable.

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.

Many deaf people with CI have decided to undergo surgery to remove cochlear implants, some turn off their cochlear implants, and some choose not to use. Some decide to learn sign language if they were denied all their lives. But, lifetime emotional scars are there for many. They would be better off if they were given bilingualism (and hearing aids if parents wish) in the first place.

Now hopefully you can see it's not about Deaf people being against the ability to hear, but it's about cochlear implants as the hardcore object of oppression, literally and/or symbolically.

Why are the voices of Deaf community members not listened to? Those Deaf adults, who were once Deaf babies, have been heard but not listened to, because it's easy to manipulate a perfectly healthy baby who has no voice yet. Hearing aids ideally give deaf people the freedom and a true choice for themselves. Deaf people's bodies are theirs, not a property of the superstructure.

Allyship

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 languages, rather than enforcing one language-modality (English) over another (ASL).

Consider human rights, language rights, diversity, inclusivity, and equity.

Learn about phonocentrism, audism, linguicism, hearing privilege, etc. Unpack -isms.

Related posts

Related posts: Cure for Deafness, Deaf people's Speech Therapy experiences.

Resources on cochlear implants.