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December 27, 2005

Implants right choice for some, not for others

From: Scranton Times - Scranton,PA,USA - Dec 27, 2005


Steven Boyce enjoys silence, solitude and being alone with his thoughts.

"I'm used to it, and I'm comfortable with it," he said.

He might not always hear the crowd cheer for him as he shoots the game-winning basket, or the sound of his opponent hitting the mat as the second-degree black belt delivers a blow - but he likes it that way.

Mr. Boyce, 18, has lived his life talking to others with his hands. He is a senior at Scranton State School for the Deaf and wants to attend Rochester Institute of Technology at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf for civil engineering.

He and his family, who reside in Tunkhannock, also worked with Barbara Graham through the Parent Infant Program, which she founded.

When he was a baby, cochlear implants were not really an option. His family learned sign language with Miss Graham's help.

Fern Boyce, Mr. Boyce's mother, said if Mr. Boyce were a baby now, the procedure might be a possibility. But as an adult, thoughts of an implant don't interest him.

"I wouldn't want the implant, because I don't want the surgery," he said. "Besides, I'm comfortable with who I am."

The invention of the cochlear implant in 1985 triggered a staunch debate in the deaf community.

Some feel that when a person receives the implant, they are actually abandoning their culture.

Teenagers and adults fall victim to much less scrutiny because their decision is seen as a voluntary one.

It is usually a different story for parents who give their children implants. Critics feel parents choose the implant for the wrong reasons, since most deaf children are born to hearing parents.

Some think parents choose implants because then the child won't be considered different or disabled; they are trying to make the "problem" go away; or they think that the implant is a quick fix or cure for deafness.

Critics also feel that people who are born deaf are naturally visual learners and that adding the auditory element will confuse a deaf person's senses.

Generally, people who gradually lose their hearing adapt more easily to the implants because they are already used to sounds.

"Sometimes all of the noise really bothers me when I wear the hearing aids," Mr. Boyce said. "I only use them when I'm someplace really dependent on hearing, like the movies, but otherwise I don't like them."

Jenifer Lyons, however, decided on a cochlear implant for her daughter Kaylee when she was 15 months old. Ms. Lyons said no one has criticized her for her decision, even as Kaylee is mainstreamed into "normal" schools.

Even though the surgery was three years ago, Kaylee still attends daily therapy sessions. She and Ms. Lyons also use sign language and lip reading sometimes.

"People need to know that there isn't just one way to educate a child with hearing disabilities," said Linda Hurwitz, director and co-founder of the Parent Infant Program.

"Because of that, we present parents with all of their options so they can make an educated decision."

©The Times-Tribune 2005