first (and only) neural prosthesis that aids a significant number of disabled people
significantly different from a hearing aid, which only amplifies sound and delivers it to the tympanic membrane
small, implantable electronic device that acts as an acoustic transducer in patients who are profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing - has 4 parts:
- speech processor
- transmitter and receiver/stimulator
- cannot restore or create normal hearing (in fact, the cochlea is destroyed when the implant is inserted)
- only 10-20% of implant patients can communicate without lipreading
- both adults and children are candidates for implants = 13,000 adults and 10,000 children have been implanted
- most children are between 2 and 6 years old; earlier implantation works better because of nerve degeneration
- controversial (particularly in children): "the decision to continue as a deaf person in the hearing world, to learn ASL and move into the deaf culture or to pursue the implant option is neither obvious or casual"
- Bobbie Jo became deaf at the age of 2 1/2 after suffering from spinal meningitis. Bobbie Jo, who relies on sign language, says she does not see people with cochlear implants as a part of deaf culture: "I wish they'd get a life."
- Rita was born deaf and relies on sign language. Although she does not like cochlear implants, she says that "deaf culture needs to adapt to changes in technology and accept people with cochlear implants"
- As Michael relates, "I had almost never seen ASL before I became deaf, and didn't encounter it until two years later. I thought it was a very beautiful, expressive language - but so are French and Japanese and Finnish, and they are all equally foreign to me! As a deafened adult, my world was still suffused with spoken English and I did not feel that I had the option of avoiding it or finding a substitute. I became adept at speechreading but that provides only 50 to 60 percent of the information needed to communicate - and you still can't speechread the sound of a speeding car horn."