Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NY Times column about positives of cochlear implants

Jane Brody's health column in Feb. 26 NY Times science section focuses on Josh Swiller and his memoir about his deafness and his time in the Peace Corps in Africa. He also discusses the cochlear implants he received in 2005 and how they improved his life.

She writes that "some deaf people are opposed to cochlear implants, because they regard the world of the deaf as a community, which they believe that implants threaten." The statement is somewhat true, but many in the deaf community has become much more accepting of cochlear implants recently because they are seen more as high-powered hearing aids than as a "cure" for deafness.

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) wrote a detailed position paper on cochlear implants in 2000, which did not reject the technology but supported it because NAD says it "recognizes all technological advancements with the potential to foster, enhance, and improve the quality of life of all deaf and hard of hearing persons."

To parents of deaf children, it explained that "NAD recognizes the rights of parents to make informed choices for their deaf and hard of hearing children, respects their choice to use cochlear implants and all other assistive devices, and strongly supports the development of the whole child and of language and literacy. Parents have the right to know about and understand the various options available, including all factors that might impact development. While there are some successes with implants, success stories should not be over-generalized to every individual."

The NAD position paper concludes, saying it "asserts that diversity in communication modes and cultures is our inherent strength, and that mutual respect and cooperation between deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals ultimately benefit us all."

It is an excellent and reasoned discussion of a technology that has been having a major impact on the deaf community, and the news media should turn to an organization like NAD to truly understand the complexities of issues that affect deaf people.