How Technology Could Threaten Deaf Identity

Summarized by Jennifer Reed, staff writer

Profoundly deaf journalist and recent graduate of Pace University, Patrick DeHahn, exposes some possible repercussion of an internal cochlear implant that is being developed by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While technology has benefitted the Deaf, the internal implants may prohibit identification with the deaf community.

When he was nine months, DeHahn was diagnosed as deaf. He wore hearing aids and learned sign language, but attended an oral-deaf school to learn “how to hear and speak.” He became a member of the “everyday hearing world” when he received a cochlear implant at age 11.

The deaf population has opposing beliefs on the use of technology to improve hearing. One side argues that deafness should be accepted, while the other side believes technology can bridge the gap between their deafness and the hearing world. Culture and technology clash in these conflicting views.

Already, there are misperceptions by hearing people on the technological advances for hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are viewed as a “cure.” An internal implant will eliminate the outward cue to a hearing person that the wearer has a hearing loss, further complicating life for the implanted as they struggle to explain why they need devices or assistance, such as captioning or note-takers.

Not only will the internal cochlear implant create problems with the hearing population, but the deaf population may associate the implanted with the hearing population. The person with the internal implant may feel estranged from both the hearing and the deaf and may create “a third subculture – something like ‘new deaf’ or ‘hearing deaf.”’

This new subculture may be confused with the hearing community’s inability to understand their deafness and they may not be accepted by the Deaf, leaving them feeling isolated.

Read the full story here.

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