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May 30, 2004

Some deep splits in deaf community over implants

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, NY - May 30, 2004

By Greg Livadas
Staff Writer

(May 30, 2004) — The reaction to cochlear implants varies as much as the deaf community does. Some think of them as miraculous technology that gives them another sense. Other believe it’s wrong to attempt to “cure” deafness rather than embrace deafness as a cultural distinction.

In 1991, the National Association of the Deaf, one of the oldest, largest and most respected organizations of the deaf in the world, stated that implants for children, especially those too young to decide for themselves, were “deplorable” and would dilute deaf culture as more deaf people try to become hearing.

But in 2000, NAD softened its position, saying cochlear implants should be viewed as tools, such as hearing aids or other assistive devices, if used with proper follow-up services. But they are not appropriate for all deaf children or adults, it says.

Of the about 1,100 deaf and hard-of-hearing students at NTID, more than 110, or 10 percent, have cochlear implants. Some of them were among the first children to have the implants nearly 20 years ago, when the technology wasn’t as advanced.

Rochester School for the Deaf believes the choice is a private family matter and tries not to offer advice on amplification options.

But audiologists may provide information about cochlear implants and explain their potential benefits if traditional amplification is not working. Ten of RSD’s 145 students now have cochlear implants, and teachers use voices as well as sign language.

Copyright 2004 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle