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May 8, 2005

Issue of Cochlear Implants Controversial

From: 13WHAM-TV, NY - May 8, 2005

Tricia Cruz (Rochester, NY) 05/08/05 -- Some call cochlear implants another tool to communicate; others say they harm the deaf community. Despite the controversy, they are gaining popularity across the country and in the Rochester area.

The devices are surgically implanted into the inner ear and stimulate the nerves used to hear.

Seven-year-old Sam Ragona had the procedure four years ago.

Sam's mother, Kristen Ragona, said, "We had tried a hearing aid for two years [but got] no benefit from it."

That's when Ragona and her husband Sid decided it was time to consider cochlear implants for their son. Still, they had concerns.

"[We wondered if] he would grow up to resent the operation and implant when he was a teen or feel it was unnecessary scarring to put into his head," Sid said.

However, they decided to go ahead with the operation and are glad they did.

"We're very pleased that we did. He's doing extremely well. Without it he can't hear, and with it he's in normal speech range," Kristen said.

The Ragona's are so pleased with the results, their youngest son Spencer will get the implants in June.

But some people in the deaf community, like Nowell Busch, remain opposed to cochlear implants because they think the implants harm a special bond, that's why he chose not to get them.

"It's true, they're going to be using this implant to hear more and that's fine, but I would like that they still remain in the deaf community and not feel isolated out of the deaf community," he said.

However, Sam's parents saw that even though he can hear, he remains close to his deaf friends.

"It's very important that he needs to connect with his deafness because he is deaf and always will be," Sid Ragona said.

Children and adults who are interested in getting cochlear implants must be screened and sit down with a psychologist to talk about the procedure. The process can take several months.

The surgery costs between $25,000 and $40,000.