Technology Is Helping The Deaf Hear, But at What Cost?
Shira Rubin
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It’s not just hearing or not hearing

This is a strange article for me. I have a cochlear implant but am definitely a lower case not even deaf. It has nicely replaced years of an old fashioned hearing aid. I use a transconductance implant that provides sound via bone conduction to my inner ear. Music is a challenge but only if it is loud causing harmonics and distortion. But a good set of headphones or ear buds work fine for me and my “third ear” allows me to hear what is going on around me. So all in all it is good but I never considered myself handicapped just “hard of hearing”. After having the cochlear implant three years ago I was amazed to discover the controversy over the “destruction” of deaf culture. It simply never occurred to me that people would give up some, at least, improvement in hearing in favor of the culture of sign language and deafness. Recognizing that I am not really mentally part of the deaf world I’ve refrained from taking a position.

In the larger context I’ve come to understand the importance of the cultures that people have learned to not only survive in but to enjoy. It has widened my view of diversity. Sometimes a cure is not a cure but a forced move to a lesser life. I’ve been struck also by the complexity of human genetic and/or physical problems that is illustrated by the choices, or trade-offs, that people make. A speech or other problem can cause enhancement of another sense or ability. We all know of this as those who are blind have touch and/or hearing that is greatly enhanced. As our technology allows replacement of problem anatomy and physiology we will learn a finer sense of gain and loss and more sophisticated understanding of the ways that we can interact with the world in which we live. And, I suspect, a range of future options that will allow us to explore alternative ways of sensing what is around us.

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