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How Cochlear Implants Are Being Blamed For Killing Deaf Culture 510

First time accepted submitter Maddie Kahn (3542515) writes "Deaf culture has its own language, its own social norms, its own art forms, its own theater. But it's under threat. Why? Because most parents of deaf children now choose to use technology to help their kids hear. This piece explores why a revolutionary technology stands accused of killing a culture."
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How Cochlear Implants Are Being Blamed For Killing Deaf Culture

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  • Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:47PM (#46709517)

    I mean seriously. There is no down side to going from not hearing to hearing except for having to listen to contemporary "music".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:49PM (#46709541)

    What a BS reason to get angsty. Technology has enabled clidren to hear so a new generation can NOT have the problems of being deaf. Rejoice that children dont need to be deaf, rather than mourn the disappearing kludges they had to do.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:51PM (#46709553) Journal

    This. Deaf "culture" is significantly responsible for many of the problems facing the deaf community, such as the outrageously high unemployment rate, and abysmally low literacy rate, and unimaginably poor deaf schools.

    Deaf "culture" can't die soon enough.

  • Good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:51PM (#46709557) Homepage Journal

    I'd like to see deaf culture go away because there are no more deaf people.
    I'd like to see paraplegic culture go away, blind culture, Amputee culture, and furries culture. That last one may be tricky

    I wonder how many people were angry and vaccine destroying the polio culture?

    Yes I did.

  • by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:53PM (#46709575)
    And yes, they were adamantly supportive of the view that "for many Deaf people, every implanted child is a person stolen from their culture." But, keeping in mind that "More than 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents", they are effectively laying claim to other people's children.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:54PM (#46709583) Homepage Journal

    There are a lot of great videos of people hearing the first time do to this technology. Some of them gave me an allergy attack, or maybe there happened to be some dust in the air. I certainly was NOT sports reference!

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:58PM (#46709615)

    Not to forget how modern antibiotics is killing leper culture!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:58PM (#46709617)

    Cars killed horse culture.
    Airplanes killed passenger rail culture.
    Woman's rights killed (harmed) misogynistic culture.
    The civil war killed slave culture.
    The Internet killed letter-mailing culture.

    Seriously, what the fuck is the point of this?

  • Re:Good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @07:58PM (#46709623)

    You don't see anyone complaining about Viagra, etc, ending the limp dick culture, do you?


  • Oh I'm so sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crioca ( 1394491 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:00PM (#46709641)
    Sorry that giving children the ability to enjoy the use of their senses is interfering with the proliferation of your culture.

    If you want to be a deaf person, that's fine by me, but it doesn't give you any moral imperative to suggest that parents should deny their children their right to hearing.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:02PM (#46709667) Homepage

    Yeah, we don't send them to the colony on Molokai Hawaii any more. We've deprived the poor lepers of their tropical paradise.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:03PM (#46709683)

    That and fear of change are the only reason to make such statements.

    I cherish the thought of killing deaf culture, just like I cherish the thought of killing the smallpox and malaria culture. I get that some are proud of what they've accomplished while deaf, but that's a selfish reason to hold against someone who chooses not to have a disability.

    Suddenly starting to hear does not detract from the accomplishments of the deaf, it just opens doors to accomplish new things and new possibilities. It doesn't make their art any less valuable or beautiful, it doesn't make their language any less valuable. My 11 month old son knows som sign language! He can hear fine, but kids can sign before they can talk! My family now knows a bit of American sign just for that alone.

    Sure, it's not going to be as common, but implants don't fix every reason for being deaf either.

    Simple fear of change is all it is.

    I understand the fear, all of us have it to some extent in some form. I fear rapid changes in technology that make me out dated and behind younger software engineers, but that's just my fears, not the end of something great. As a result, though I still fear those changes, I adapt and take on a different roll from that 20 something, code for 72 hours straight until I can't see straight age to leading those 20 something's and guiding them with my experience so that they can be more effective.

    I don't know what that means for the deaf, but I'm certain those that remain have other things of value ... Being deaf didn't make them worthless, neither will implants. The fact that they can create culture without the ability to hear is proof enough of their alternative skills.

  • by Tanuki64 ( 989726 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:12PM (#46709737)

    "for many Deaf people, every implanted child is a person stolen from their culture."

    I'd say: Poke out their eyes. Then those people can enjoy not only one, but two cultures: The deaf and the blind. Should even out the numbers.

  • Re:Good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:15PM (#46709763) Homepage

    I wonder how many people were angry and vaccine destroying the polio culture? Yes I did.

    Well, there are a lot of people that seem to be very angry that we're now very strongly selecting against Down's syndrome. Some 90% of the women who get tested and find out their child will have it take an abortion. It's full of the "sorting society" rhetoric and worse slippery slope arguments than /. where first they take Down's, next we'll stomp out all individuality until we all look like we came from a cloning factory. I'm sorry I'm sure they're lovely people but more people with huge handicaps, genetic diseases and so on don't have to be born into this world than necessary. In a strict variety of that, I might not have been born myself... but I wouldn't care, since I wouldn't exist. As much as I like to think I'm a special little snowflake I'm sure my mom would have had a different kid she'd love just as much.

  • Bloody HELL! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:38PM (#46709913)
    You want to try something fun? I'm just about deaf. I have raging tinnitus in both ears, and two different tones to boot.

    Deaf culture Destroyed? These parents are assholes, and I'd never write a story about them other than that letting people know I turned them into child protective services.

    The fucking nerve of doctors and their trying to help people. What's next, People wanting to let paralyzed people rot because we don't want to destroy Quadriplegic Culture?

    And what about the always jolly brotherhood of cancer culture? Gotta preserve that.

    And if the child were to need something simple like glasses, hell, there is a blind culture too. Wouldn't want to miss out on that. As a (nearly)deaf person, All I can say to these parents is that if you did that to me, I'd seek emancipation as soon as possible, and then have your sorry whack-a-doodle asses arrested for willfiul negligence and child abuse.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:41PM (#46709931) Journal

    I mean seriously. There is no down side to going from not hearing to hearing except for having to listen to contemporary "music".

    The technology is neither that good, nor that cheap, so 'no downsides' is a bit much; but I do find the notion that lacking access to useful world-state information would ever be a good thing rather baffling. If anything, I am always a bit disappointed that the 'visible spectrum' is as small as it is, that humans appear to lack the magnetic sensors some other species have, and so forth.

    As for the cultural aspects, it seems like it's the usual battle: somewhere between most and all cultures have an interest in continuity(or at least some new people because being the last few survivors dying off alone would pretty much suck); but continuity demands that a steady supply of children be given to the culture(and while people can achieve some degree of fluency in multiple ones, you can't be 'native' in more than a small number, given that being 'native' is pretty much a full-time job) and, by so doing, denied some or all of whatever other cultures are on hand.

    Even if you wish to assert that having an additional sense is 'different' rather than 'better, you still have the fact that 'culture' is something where network effects count. There are certainly niche cultures with interesting and unique features; but unless something about a specific culture turns standard humans into fantastic superhumans at abnormal rates, the bigger ones are going to tend to have better opportunities on tap.

    I'm certainly sympathetic to the people who get the sense that they are probably going to enjoy the notable nonpleasures of being the dwindling survivors of a dying breed; that has to suck; but I'm much less sympathetic to the notion that this entitles them to a replacement-or-better supply of new members.

  • Re:WTF ???? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:45PM (#46709963)

    This is the most insane article I have ever read.... The deaf culture ???? Beyond words...

    You are apparently ignorant of the fact that there IS a deaf culture. It is driven by a common language and has its own customs. One such custom is that your sign name must be given by an actual deaf person. There are more.

    Americans tend to be very culturally illiterate as a whole. It is one of the reasons we are not so well liked overseas, because we are not sensitive to local culture and we end up coming across as rude and demanding rich folks. I'm not deaf, nor do I sign very much, but we have the same problem with their culture, we are woefully uninformed and ignorant of their culture and attitudes like yours tells me why.

    Where I don't think the attempt to shore up the deaf culture and isolate it from those who might want to actually not be deaf is a good thing, one cannot simply dismiss their culture. It exists because *hearing* folks refused to learn sign language, not because deaf people could help not being able to speak.

  • Re:Good? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @09:03PM (#46710065) Homepage

    I don't think that allowing parents to select their child's traits will ever lead to "clones"; things like Down's syndrome get weeded out in 90% of cases because it's a horribly debilitating condition ensuring that parent nor offspring will never live a normal life. Physical traits, though, are in the eye of the beholder: one person making a designer baby to their idea of beauty will result in a totally different set of traits than another.

  • by steak ( 145650 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @09:14PM (#46710125) Homepage Journal

    it takes a village.

    to create wheels squeaky enough to get money handouts.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @09:41PM (#46710291)

    I was seeing myself having to agree with her as to the validity of "Deaf Culture" to maintain peace in the house.

    To her, it was always peaceful.

  • Re:Good? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Livius ( 318358 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @09:55PM (#46710389)

    Pretending the handicapped are just "differently-abled" is perhaps the cruellest form of bigotry by low expectations. People who have disadvantages that are not of their choosing deserve sympathy and support, but celebrating disability is condescending to the point of madness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @09:57PM (#46710397)

    Yes, going out of my way to damage my eye's natural protection against damaging UV light seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

    Think I'll just hold out for the UV-sensitive cyber eyes rather than trying to destroy my old fashioned ones, thanks.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:00PM (#46710425)
    So I guess we've already killed the paralyzed polio victim culture, and disfigured by smallpox culture. Does this mean we have to stop curing diseases and physical impairments? Don't be stupid.

    By the way, and ass is an ass no matter what 'culture' they claim.
    I used to ride the bus that went by the deaf school, so there were always deaf people on the bus.
    A rather attractive deaf lady was visibly upset, but she didn't do anything. So I asked her what was wrong. She kept insisting nothing, but it was pretty obvious what was going on, so I asked her, "Is it the two assholes there that keep insulting everyone because they think nobody else can understand them?".
    She was shocked that I knew what was going on and turned even more red. I explained that I wasn't fluent, but I knew enough. She then confronted the two idiots and chewed them out thoroughly. I never caught anyone doing that on the bus again.

    That just goes to show, that separation breeds contempt.
    There's no reason that the art and other positive things from 'deaf culture' need to be left behind, just the discrimination and hate that isolation invariably brings.
  • Re:Let it die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:15PM (#46710527) Journal

    They look at those that get implants as traitors.

    That's pretty fucked up.


  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thunderclap ( 972782 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:20PM (#46710565)
    And that is what is so deeply wrong with political correctness. All handicaps are debilitating You are deprived of something that others have and its ability. It should never be equated for beauty considered a power or believed to be fostering a culture. These people are crippled in the worst possible way. They actually believe that makes them special. If that was true then those with PTSD, austism and having lost limbs are special too. I seriously doubt they would agree with you. (especially those who have to care for the autistic.)
  • Re:Let it die (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:38PM (#46710639) Homepage

    I believe your description is grossly exagerated. In this world, deaf people are second class citizen, no doubt. This culture is just trying to counter balance the effect to be considered everyday of your life as a second zone citizen. It can be understood that some of them don't want to let go everything that was build around them to compensate for the handicap. This is a normal and perfectly understandable reaction. What I don't understand is why are you so angry against deaf people?

    Most people without any hearing loss do not understand how deeply this handicap affect people in everyway in their life. Most of the time people are staring at them as if they are idiots because they didn't understand what was said and so on. As soon as you are shrinking the community, these people who are left behind are becoming completely isolated and left alone.

    Deafness affect the relations you can have with others because it affects the communication unlike many other handicaps which do not affect communication but are restricting physical activities.

    Sharing among deaf people is also an important part of pain relief.

    I would like you to prove your point that deaf people are considering themselves as superior to hearing people. I have never seen that in my whole life and many of my relatives are deaf or hearing impaired. This kind of assertion needs some kind of serious backing. You are attacking a whole community without anything else to offer than your own mind. My experience proves me otherwise.

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @10:42PM (#46710657) Homepage Journal

    Maybe, for me, this is more about "minority culture" in general than "deaf culture" in particular. "Deaf Culture" is an adaptation for people who can't hear. Once you can hear, you no longer need the social adaptation.

    I'm a member of a minority. For those of you who don't know, I'm black. At one time, black people were denied access to educational opportunities an that in turn lead to fewer career prospects. My parents and grandparents worked very, VERY hard to give me opportunities and I took advantage of them. I finished high school. I attended college. I earned a Master of Science degree. Consequently, I have a pretty good job. I've been accused of turning my back on "African American culture" because I speak like I paid attention in school. I don't use the "What up dawgg?" vernacular that some other people (who happen to look kind of like me) do. I have been accused of having "forgotten where you came from", as if I didn't come from a middle-income, racially diverse suburb.

    Once we were no longer denied access to quality education, it was no longer necessary to speak AAVE (African American Vernacular English) or "Ebonics" that some people like to call it. We were able to learn standard American English and it benefits one to do so.

    I understand the desire for deaf people to adopt the mantra "There's nothing 'wrong' with the way we are." but in reality there is. You can't hear!

    I'm sorry if people take it personally that their social adaptation is becoming less necessary for future generations. I'm sorry that they feel lonely or abandoned. This is a good thing. This is progress. This means that fewer people will have to live with the handicap(sorry for the loaded term) of not being able to hear.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @11:23PM (#46710845)

    >misogynistic culture

    There's no such thing. Misogyny is the hatred and/or contempt of women. You and all the "womens studies 101" feminists who are diminishing this word's meaning need to pick up a dictionary. And stop using the word whenever someone says something sexist like "damn, Kate Upton's got nice tits". How is that hatred and/or contempt? It's not, so it's not misogyny. As an aside, the word chauvinist has also suffered a similar fate.

    The word you're looking for is patriarchal.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2014 @12:14AM (#46710987)

    I once heard a parent say that they wouldn't take away their child's Down's syndrome because that was who she was. The argument in favor of deaf culture and against cochlear implants is just as sick an argument. I have epilepsy and would give anything NOT to be epileptic. I think I would come unglued on someone if they said that they wouldn't want me to not have epilepsy because that is a part of who I am, etc. There is no upside with these problems. It doesn't mean they can't be overcome in some way or another. But they do make life more difficult. And they ALL have their own culture.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @12:43AM (#46711083)

    Or hell, keep using sign language on your kid even after getting the implant.

    It's only dying because people are lazy.

    Did you listen to yourself before you wrote this?

    My thought is that anyone who was deaf and can now hear due to technology would be too busy learning about the wonderful world of sounds that we live in, hearing the voices of friends and family, exploring music, catching up on their education, etc.. None of this falls under the heading of being lazy.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossz ( 67331 ) <> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:35AM (#46711473) Homepage Journal

    A good friend of mine has two autistic sons. She would give anything for them to be cured. Alas, she knows that isn't going to happen.

    As for the deaf, one of the activist's arguments is "we aren't broken." Uh, yes you are. It's great when you can overcome a handicap, but it is still a fucking handicap. Here's a few reasons why you don't want to be deaf:

    1. Beethoven's Ode to Joy
    2. Children laughing as they play
    3. Birds singing
    4. A smoke alarm waking you from sleep and saving your life
    5. The best part of farts

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SvnLyrBrto ( 62138 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @02:39AM (#46711487)

    A written guarantee that my uniform would be either gold or blue, and that I'd not have to accompany the captain on landing parties until my own rank is at least Lieutenant Commander; and I'm in.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @03:57AM (#46711731) Homepage

    In so many ways this mirrors black culture and I'm willing to accept down-modding for this. But it's basically true.

    1. Self-improvement is viewed as traitorous.
    2. Entitled to royal treatment and royal public assistance.
    3. Highly exclusive.
    4. Views others with suspicion and contempt.

    I think point #1 is especially important. EVERYONE, myself included, are perfectly comfortable around people who simply want to join in and be one of the crowd. We've got common interests and what have you and that's okay. We're co-workers and we can get along, work and play well together. But the moment words like "traitor" or "sell-out" get asserted by their other identity groups, things get pretty screwed up.

    I don't mean to say being black is a disability. I don't mean to say being deaf is a race. I mean to point out that identity groups can be harmful at times. ID grouping is NATURAL. I'm a man. I'm white. I'm southern. I'm [fill in the blank]. And I like to do and share things with people who are like me. That's natural. But I might also identify with groups which tend to disagree with my other ID groups such as being atheist. Being atheist does not 'require' that I hate anyone else. Being white does not require that I hate anyone else.

    But in the case of certain, let's say 'radical' members of these ID groups, they believe it IS license to hate.

  • by dutchwhizzman ( 817898 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @04:22AM (#46711833)

    Put any sectarian culture in place of "deaf culture" and it would apply just as much. The anger isn't aimed at deaf people (a common misconception amongst deaf people) but against the separatist deaf culture that this group tends to practice against the rest of the population. Being part of society is a verb, it's called "participating" and it requires you to actively engage with others. If deaf people want to be accepted, they have to participate and not choose their own culture at the expense of being isolated. Any time this sort of choice is made, it is a clear sign of dangerous sectarian behavior and it is almost always damaging to those inside the culture.

    I understand that there is certain humor that will get lost in translation and the way deaf people use other senses to compensate for their lack of hearing and it would be nice of those could be preserved. If the price for that preservation would be to withhold a minor from medical care that could enable them to be part of a hearing society, I think the parents should lose custody and the child should get proper medical care. "Special" does not always mean better, you wouldn't operate on a hearing child to make it deaf, just so it would better be able to communicate with it's deaf parents, would you? The decision to operate or not should never be about the parents culture, but about giving your child the best chances it will have in a world were the vast majority of people is able to hear one way or the other.
  • Re:Let it die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @04:27AM (#46711859) Journal

    or believed to be fostering a culture

    With regard to culture: deaf people have had to invent new languages since the usual sort don't work well for them. That's a neutral fact as is, in that regardless of the reasons it's trivially observable.

    Culture is not so easy to define, but a group of people sharing a common language is not a bad place to start. Culture is more finely divided than that of course, but there is a strong language component to it.

    As a result, being deaf does foster a culture in much the same way that growing up in a region speaking a given language fosters a culture: I gather sign language is a complete language in its own right, not a straightforward transliteration of English.

    It's an artefact of deafness which happens to foster a culture. I believe that's a neutral fact.

    Whether the consequences are good or bad, I'll leave to others to argue.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday April 10, 2014 @08:49AM (#46712783) Journal

    You're saying that he's racially disqualified from making accurate observations about groups other than those to which he himself belongs?

    That's a racist premise, sunshine.


  • Re:Let it die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @09:32AM (#46713253)

    To be honest, that's pretty much ALL cultures.

  • Re:Let it die (Score:4, Insightful)

    by YukariHirai ( 2674609 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @09:35AM (#46713279)

    They truly do not see being deaf as a handicap, some of them even consider the ability to hear an unnecessary burden, as bizarre as that seems.

    That doesn't seem bizarre at all to me, it just seems like human nature. "I get by quite fine without being able to hear. In fact, I'm better off not being able to hear!" Substitute the ability to hear with basically anything else that some people have and others don't, you get the same sort of thing. Bald people who tell you that it's a sign they've got more testosterone and are therefore better in bed, for example. "I'm better than people with a full head of hair." It's natural to (want to) see what makes you different from everyone else as something that makes you better than everyone else.

    Personally, I try to avoid doing shit like that. There are certain conditions* I have which are a disadvantage to me, that some people say means I have advantages in other ways. If an actual cure were developed for them, I'd be celebrating. And beating the shit out of anyone who tried to prevent others from taking it because "it's killing [condition] culture!" A culture born of a reduced quality of life is a culture we can stand to lose.

    *I don't like advertising the specifics, and they're not really relevant.

  • by Joey Vegetables ( 686525 ) on Thursday April 10, 2014 @10:30AM (#46713951) Journal
    Because I am mildly autistic (fka Asperger's) I can do a handful of things brilliantly, such as software development. Yet, it is still a handicap, and if there were some way I could become "normal" in this area, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I would very gladly give up the benefits of being good at a few things, in exchange for being able to learn how to be a friend, or to read people's emotions, or to know how to rejoice with someone who is happy or comfort someone who is sad. Or even to be able to talk to someone without inadvertently upsetting, disappointing, and hurting him or her on a regular basis. While my handicap may be mild compared to others', and while it may even be a part of God's plan for my life, I'm not going to pretend that it isn't a handicap, or that it doesn't hurt, or that it is better to be a rude, socially insensitive jerk than not to.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes