"So, here I went out on a limb." You should just take that statement for granted for the rest of the Pieces of Work pieces-of-work. I was strongly influenced by all of the classes I was taking that summer, and this short paper is a reflection of what I got out of my academic learning experiences in Summer 2001. Everything is part of everything (pass the soup). I was feeling a little playful when I wrote this, so it might come across a bit wry. It's definitely not formal.

Once again, footnotes didn't copy-and-paste out, so you're missing a little information as well as my reference notes.


Cochlear Implant Disregards Well-Being

Linguistics 159 - lecture final
Professor Susan Rutherford
16 August 2001

The field of medicine has become standardized to pharmaceuticals and technology in the past century. Before chemical engineering, magnetic scanning machines, x-ray machines, and the high-powered microscope, medicine relied on plants and spiritual practices. Once, all doctors were botanists and sometime-detectives - they understood the effects of plants on the body (plant-derived medicines do not just target the one symptom as contemporary pharmaceuticals do), they were more attuned to how lifestyle and living circumstances affected well-being, they were able to holistically cure the person, and not simply cure the symptom. Chinese, Aryuvedic, and Native American medicines are all examples of systems that understand that the body and its environment- and as such, the person - is an integrated, multi-faceted entity, unlike contemporary Western medicine which isolates a problem/symptom/body part/deficiency and singly prescribes medications/probes the one area/refers you to another specialist.

Specialization - whether medical, societal, vocational - has benefits and disadvantages. The populations of the world can look back and recognize that huge advances in quality of life and luxury occurred due to research on the part of specialists. Depth of knowledge has increased exponentially due to specialization. Yet specialization - while it doesn't obscure the general world we live in - restricts a person's understanding of the world. Many advances are owed to specialization, but much individual balance is sacrificed by pursuing it. In the American culture we live in, specialization is so revered because it is a mark of higher education, that, as a culture, we assume that this criminal lawyer/pediatrician/audiologist/ aerospace engineer/executive professional has the life experience and tangible knowledge to apply to general issues.

While we would justifiably assume that a specialist can produce unbiased assessments in his own field, we come across situations such as Deaf education , Sign as a proper language , and medical treatment of deafness . Deaf education policies by specialists (non-Deaf) have included removal of children from residential schools, the autocratic movement to oralism, segregation of white and black deaf children (and its ensuing neglectful oral teaching of black deafs who acquired MORE extensive language skills than white deafs as a result of not being punished for signing), the creations of English-based sign such as SEE and Signed English, and the movement to integrate deaf children into hearing schools in the name of equality. Linguists have only recently - in the past 10-20 years - recognized sign as a complex language equal of spoken languages complete with morphemes, structure, and form. The DEAF-WORLD can control its own culture, but it is at the whim of unwitting mercenaries who preside over the larger culture enclosing it.

Members of the Deaf community are, holistically, more complete and own a higher degree of well-being than many individuals in the hearing world. DEAF-WORLD social customs value open communication, sharing experiences, feelings, and multi-person debates. Abused Deaf members may be hard to "win over" because they have their own base of hearing-world injustices from which to draw resistance, but regular communication with their own community members opens the mind to healthier thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Members of the Deaf community have a broad base of knowledge. They are a linguistic minority, they've created a minority identity to distinguish their own worth, and they're self-determined (see previous essay on self-determination :) ). They don't need the sense of hearing to make themselves complete because they've found a way to be complete, at home in their culture. In more ways than one, they have the right to call autocratic decisions made on deaf people into question.

The cochlear implant does not, in any way, allow its unfortunate recipient to hear sounds as a native hearer hears. It produces poor vibrations that don't mimic natural sound. The implant is an invasive instrument that must be surgically implanted in a process that involves drilling a hole into the bone of the skull and destroying nerves within the ear. Arguments against the implant have included right to choice, health concerns, questionable benefit, and the financial cost of such a questionable instrument. Scientific studies to examine the benefit from extended use of cochlear implants are currently in progress, but a key point is that cochlear implants do not produce sounds such as a hearing person hears. Visual aids such as lipreading and signing, and extensive training to learn to use such aids, are necessary to reap ANY benefit from the instrument. The possible benefit that leads parents and educators into seriously considering the invasive cochlear implant is speech from the deaf child, which must also be extensively trained. The implant would allow the deaf person to match vocal vibrations more readily than deaf oral training. The extensive training to use the cochlear implant parallels the emotional and psychological torment of the extensive training used throughout the oralism movement. Studies have shown that post-lingual people, who've lost their hearing beyond age 5-1/2, gain the most benefit from the implant and its training.

If implants that reproduced sounds such as they sound naturally were developed, such implantation would dissolve the Deaf community, known as ethnocide. Knowing that there is an established, supportive Deaf community to welcome deaf, there is no right to removing an individual - especially a child - from the right to self-determination. It should be a personal choice, as the case is of adults, to decide on implantation - once technology can provide a healthy, authentic alternative to deafness. Members of the DEAF-WORLD lead healthy lives. It is not necessary to sacrifice the potential well-being of a person by implanting a medical instrument into a child.

In-class guest lecturer Marlon.
In-class guest lecturer Paul Dudis.
In-class handout 19 July 2001.
Lane, Harlan, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan. A Journey into the Deaf World. San Diego: DawnSignPress, 1996.
Padden, Carol and Tom Humphries. Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture. Cambridge: Harvard U Press, 1988.
Sacks, Oliver. Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf. CA: UC Press, 1990.

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