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Cochlear Implants: Journey from deafness to the world of hearing
Kris Notaro   Aug 4, 2010   Ethical Technology  

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Jason Beard, a 25 year old man that received a cochlear implant in May of 2009.  Jason was hearing impaired from birth but was able to hear some sounds with the help of a hearing aid however he was not able to carry on conversations. With the help of a CI his life has changed.

“I worried because I didn’t want to be completely deaf. My passion was to hear. I wanted to be able to hear things that I really enjoy like music and movies. My hearing was getting worse and my ability to hear was not what it used to be.”

After seeing many doctors and checking to make sure his hearing aid was functioning properly he returned to his ENT to go through extensive hearing tests.  He was told then that he was going to loose his ability to hear. He was referred to a doctor at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia for his CI surgery.

The following is Jason’s description of his journey from deafness to the world of hearing:

I just hoped it would work for me to hear better in the future. I knew it would make the difference for me and I know that this is who I am. Prior to my surgery I was forced to go to a psychologist for an assessment to prepare myself for alienation from my current deaf friends. Some deaf individuals are “anti” cochlear implant surgery because they feel that people who get the cochlear implant are traitors to the deaf community. I knew that I would never
succeed in today’s world without changing my hearing abilities and shame on my friends who didn’t want to see me succeed. This was my decision and I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by because my “friends” couldn’t accept it.

I had the CI surgery on May 11, 2009. After my surgery I had to wait 4 weeks in silence until the doctor first turned on my CI. Much to my surprise I started to hear everyone’s voice and even more shocking, they all sounded like Mickey Mouse’s cartoon voices!  After that I had to get used to the sounds of the CI but it is 10 times better than my hearing aid! I thanked the doctor, my family and some of my friends for supporting me.
The CI has helped me to improve my speech and understand more, but growing up in the deaf school system has limited my ability to speak and write proper English. The CI helps me a lot to hear different sounds and it’s much better than a hearing aid. When I wore my hearing aid, it didn’t help me to understand what people said to me and I was not able to have conversations with anyone until now. The CI allows me to know where sounds are coming from. Its amazing when I can heard an airplane from 30,000 feet up.  I couldn’t believe it. When I wore my hearing aid, I realize now that I couldn’t hear at all.

There are 4 program different channels, Everyday, Noise, Focus and Music. The everyday program is designed to provide improved hearing in daily listening situations. The Noise program is designed to provide improved hearing in significant background noise that is steady and all around you as in shopping malls, grocery stores, and crowded restaurants. The Focus program is designed to improve hearing in significant background noise when a speaker is directly in front of you and the noise is beside and behind your implanted ear/s. The Music program is designed for enhanced listening in quiet when you want to capture more detail of sound such as radio, TV, MP3, stereo, and concerts.
   
As I mentioned before, some of my deaf friends dislike the way I got a CI and I did end up losing some of them because they didn’t accept me for who I am. They don’t realize how much of an asset I can be to the deaf community being able to hear and sign fluently now.  They want to have “Deaf Power” and that’s not going to make them successful in my opinion. I was raised in a hearing family. I didn’t want to accept my silent world. Music and clear communication have made a huge impact on my life even though it’s only been a little over a year. I don’t feel any regrets about the decision I have made. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The future of CI looks very promising.  Today we have CI’s that are equipped like Jason’s with 24 electrodes.  In the future CI’s will have 240 electrodes which will make it possible for people to hear more normally.  CI’s will also be built into the ear and have a lifetime battery.  Lasers and optical processes will be used to implant the device making the connections more accurate.  This will make programming significantly easier and better.  In the future the CI will truly be a bionic ear.

Other IEET Resources:


Defining Disability in an Age of Enhancement by James Hughes

Cochlear Cyborgs : Human Issues with Cochlear Implants by V.R. Manoj

Kris Notaro served as Managing Director of the IEET from 2012 to 2015. He is currently an IEET Rights of the Person Program Director. He earned his BS in Philosophy from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. He is currently the Bertrand Russell Society’s Vice-President for Website Technology. He has worked with the Bertrand Russell A/V Project at Central Connecticut State University, producing multimedia materials related to philosophy and ethics for classroom use. His major passions are in the technological advances in the areas of neuroscience, consciousness, brain, and mind.



COMMENTS

you say “shame on my friends who didn’t want to see me succeed. ” well, I wanted to tell you shame on you for thinking that better hearing is the only way to succeed. They can do anything but hear.

Even though a CI is a wonderful option for many, many with CI’s still appreciate and need CART and captioning for group meetings - real time verbatim text (called Velotype or Panantype abroad, or STT for speech to text).

Full accurate text is our language. To find out more, please see http://www.ccacaptioning.org and join us for captioning advocacy also.
CCAC

There are SO many different kinds of hearing loss and deafness, we much be “normal”! :=)

The cochlear implant is so wonderful and with future technical innovations in this area, the potential to develop more advanced hearing implants is massive.

These politically active pro-deaf, anti progress clowns are the same as any political or religious group trying to oppose their morality on others. I think science is so wonderful and such a precious resource but it seems to get attacked by some posse of stone-age tossers with a political agenda on a daily basis.

If they don’t want to get the implant, that’s up to them but I don’t think they should deny it to their children (See the documentary Sound & Fury).

Perhaps if you understood Deaf people’s objections to the wholesale cochlear-implantation of deaf babies, Sibulon, you might not be so quick to label us as “anti progress clowns” and “stone-age tossers.” The Deaf folks I work with are enthusiastic about technology that enhances our lives, such as videophones, iPads, and iPhones. Not all science is equally good science. We have profound reservations about cochlear implants, as they involve an invasive and risky procedure—head surgery–really and truly drilling a hole in the head—to alleviate a condition that is not life-threatening. The CI does NOT restore hearing. It does not create normal hearing. Even the CI manufacturers concede this. CI technology is imperfect, and all CIs ultimately break down or wear out, necessitating repeat surgeries. This is not something we believe should be foisted on babies and children without their consent. Those who choose CIs for themselves are at least aware of the risks and the very real possibility that they will not derive any significant benefit from them (and we personally know people who are in this situation). If this makes us “anti progress clowns,” well, then, thanks for the compliment.

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