As I watched the documentary, Sound and Fury, I began having more and more questions about the Deaf community and cochlear implants. Cochlear implants have been a contested issue in the Deaf world since they were introduced about 30 years ago. Members of the Deaf community see cochlear implants as an affront to their culture and community. As ASL users, they do not rely on speech or sound to communicate and they do not view deafness as something to be “cured.” For pre-lingually deaf (deafness before language learning occurs) children, the implant is most effective before age one or as young as six months. In this case, children are not deciding to get implanted but rather a parent is making that choices. Because they cannot decide for themselves, Deaf community fears that the CI affirms deafness as a disability rather than allowing deaf children to learn sign and develop a sense of Deaf culture and pride.
Since the CI was first invented, technology has improved vastly. The number electrodes used has increased allowing for better and more diverse reception of speech and sound. Cochlear implants have gotten smaller and easier to use. The CI works by bypassing the hair cells of the inner ear and directly stimulates the cochlea nerve with electric pulses. A microphone outside of the skull receives sound input and the processor must determine the frequency of the sound and how it is to be interpreted.
When I studied this in several of my speech and audiology classes, we were told that speech through a cochlear implant does not sound like the speech a hearing person listens to. Some people describe it as robotic or electronic, but what does it really sound like? Thanks, YouTube for answering that question!
This video plays the speech stimulus given and how it is heard by a deaf individual through a cochlear implant.