John Lee Clark, a deaf writer and an active participant in the Deaf Academics mailing list, has a blog on his website. While Mr. Clark doesn’t appear to update it frequently, his blog entries are well-written. I particularly found his Cochlear Implants: A Thought Experiment blog post interesting.
Here is his “thought experiment:”
Let’s suppose three hundred deaf people, all wearing cochlear implants, are gathered and moved to an island. None of them knows ASL and all of them have excellent speech. There are no hearing people there. What will happen?
Mr. Clark’s main argument is that because there are no hearing people to provide feedback on the deaf population’s speech skills, the 300 people will experience erosion in their ability to talk. In response to that, they will develop a sign language.
There are some obvious logistical issues with this experiment. This would never happen in the first place, and even if it did, it is unclear how quickly speech erosion would occur, if it did at all.
As one reads more into Mr. Clark’s entry, it becomes apparent that he views cochlear implants with disdain:
Another thing that it reveals is that the cochlear implant is not FOR deaf people. If it is for deaf people, they would be able to, or even want to, use the implants on their own and for their own reasons. But the cochlear implant is for, and promotes the interests of, hearing people. It was invented by a hearing man and the risky experiments and sometimes fatal operations were legalized by hearing people. The demand for it is driven by hearing parents. It financially benefits hearing teachers, hearing doctors, hearing speech therapists, and hearing businesses in the industry. It is only at the bottom of the industry that we find the token deaf person.
It is known that cochlear implants are a controversial topic in the Deaf community, which is well-summarized by the Wikipedia entry on cochlear implants. There was even an entire documentary about this issue: Sound of Fury. Mr. Clark also brings up some of the common arguments against cochlear implants in the rest of his blog post.
I think I should write more about cochlear implants in my blog. This entry is apparently the first that uses the “cochlear implant” tag. Stay tuned for future posts….