Cochlear implant is a device utilized for the correction of sensorineural hearing loss among deaf children. There has been much debate and criticism over this device and its functions since its inception. Both legal and ethical issues are involved in this case. The aspects included are informed consent as well as the basic parental decision making process, risk assessment and, most importantly, the cost-effectiveness of the surgery and subsequent therapy. There exists a socio-cultural blindness towards people who are different as well a popular misunderstanding of the deaf culture (Svirsky 154).
As far as sensorineural hearing loss is concerned, the teeny hair cells in our ears, which conduct the various auditory signals, are harmed or completely absent from the inner ear of the person. Hence, the electric impulses, which travel from the hair cells to the auditory nerves, fail to get interpreted and, ultimately, the hearing response does not occur. The cochlear implant is an electrical device that corrects the incapacity and, finally, allows the basic reorganization process of all kinds of sounds. It performs better if the process is conducted at a young age. That is the main part of the debate as the young children cannot take decisions independently.
Deafness is viewed from 2 diverse angles: some see deafness as handicap while others consider it to be a culture. Medical science believes it to be an ‘auditory deficiency’, hence it can be remedied. Thus, a deaf person can become like a normal person. But another group of people believes deafness is the proper name of the ethnic community or a socio-cultural minority. The community has its own problems, similar to other minority groups. This cannot be fixed medically, and so such a community should be accepted and supported in the society. The deaf people communicate using two languages, one of the hearing and the other of the deaf, and they enjoy different alternates of hearing. As a result, the cochlear implant can diminish their attempt of finding a new social identity (Svirsky 155).
The deaf children’s hearing parents are the main proponents of the technology. There are various reasons for which they prefer the technology, such as a genuine desire to communicate with their wards orally. In most cases the native cultural language has always been the more preferred method of communication than the sign language. These people are not the members of the deaf community and they really do not have any ties to the sign language. Frequently it has been observed that they fail to establish any bond with the deaf sub-culture. They emphasize on the fact that after applying cochlear implants children will obtain the natural gifts like hearing and, in some cases, speaking, which will grant them with access to the large society. Basically this brightens the chances of their future life.
The decision is not selfish in itself, but it is only done to provide the deaf children with more and more freedom and life choices. Deafness threatens something supremely important in the American society - the basic freedom of a person. Though, sometimes many deaf individuals challenge the justifications of the social deficiency of ‘normalcy’. They are also concerned with risks associated with the cochlear surgery. Sometimes the temporary speech is delayed as a reason to avoid the operation. Many deaf parents have an inherent fear; they believe that if their children start hearing them, they might reject their parents eventually. They also fear that their wards may be ashamed of their parents’ identity as deaf. They believe that deafness is a natural state and it is also beautiful. They reckon children should be happy and proud for belonging in the deaf culture (Clark 802).
There is a basic cultural gap between the two camps, but still there are some common grounds. They both separate the society’s ideals from the individual child’s needs. But the basic difference is the respect for the child’s needs. The parents say that they do not feel the need to answer to the deaf community and they can look after their children on their own. The parents have every right to take decisions concerning their child’s future and health. On the other hand, the deaf community says that these parents should not plan to normalize the child and have to help the child develop its own abilities and find its place in the society. The deaf community fears that with the advent of the cochlear implementation there will be a time when the word ‘deaf’ will be eradicated from the society (Clark 798).
The community believes that cochlear implementation is nothing but a symbol of parental control over the society. The name of the phenomenon is ‘audism’. They believe that it is a way to dominate and control, thus restructuring the deaf community. Here one can state that if the deaf believe that they comprise a minority and the implementation process is a tool by which the majority is trying to discriminate their society, the diverse opinions will never be solved. It is important that both groups come up with a social unification. This will be better because of two reasons: first, the deaf will see common people in a new light; second, the common people will realize the deaf people’s problems and will try to help them overcome those hardships. Cochlear implant is a proven medical procedure and it possesses its own benefits. One must not overlook these aspects in the process. The hearing parents will always want their child to be cured from the handicap, while the non-hearing parents will feel that it might create differences between the child and its own parents. One cannot force the decision and it is ultimately the choice of the parents, whether they will allow their child to undergo surgery or not. These diverse social perspectives can really help the sociological researches concerning the deaf people. And, until now, most of the medical associations and many parents have been supporting the implementation of this device over their children’s permanent deafness.