He points out that cochlear implants have been around for two decades. However, it was only seven years ago (and five from when the article was written) that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the devices for use in children as young as 12 months. A child who receives cochlear implants at such a young age has an exponentially larger potential to take on spoken language. Davies goes on to say that “now a new generation of children is entering deaf schools with the hope that they may someday hear and speak almost as naturally as those without hearing problems.” I would add the important delineation that these are really the “hopes” of the parents.
He goes on to say that supporters of the venerable culture of the Deaf believe that deaf children should get a strong grounding in American Sign Language so that they can participate fully in that culture when they grow up. But others- including some deaf kid’s parents who can hear- want more emphasis on hearing and speaking English to prepare the children for life in the “mainstream world”. There is a contentious debate that is ongoing in deaf culture around these issues.
Many in deaf culture are against the notion that these children who are born deaf should be “fixed” with cochlear implants. They don’t see themselves as handicapped and view implants as an attempt to “fix” something that isn’t broken.
It is interesting to note, however, that research shows that these implants can work extraordinarily well when given to very young children, during the key ages of language development. Furthermore, many of these children truly do have the potential to participate fully in the hearing world. Both sides have important points to make on this issue. More on this later..