Cochlear Implants Thesis

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¶ … deaf population's stand on cochlear implants. Cochlear implants can help profoundly deaf people hear, and they can help them acquire language skills, as well. However, many people in the deaf community oppose cochlear implants because they do not see deafness as something that needs curing, and they often do not support deaf individuals who choose cochlear implants. They also believe sign language will disappear if cochlear implants become widespread, and sign language is a major element of the deaf community, which is another reason many people in the deaf community adamantly oppose cochlear implants.

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Cochlear implants are electronic instruments imbedded in the cochlear of the inner ear that allow sounds to reach the ear. They do not restore hearing, but they can make sounds more comprehensible to the implanted user. Two writers note, "Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound and present it to the impaired hearing mechanism, cochlear implants bypass the hearing mechanism and directly stimulate the auditory neurons of the inner ear" (Harkins, and Bakke 414). These implants can be inserted into the ears of deaf patients at just about any age, and they often result in marked sound increases for implanted patients. Another writer states, "There are currently three cochlear implant processors in the United States approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): the Nucleus 24, the Clarion, and the Med-El processor" (Moller 120). Each of these instruments help the wearer understand language and speech better, but they also help them enjoy music and other sounds they might not have enjoyed before. The technology began in the 1950s and has continues to make rapid improvements in the 21st century. Essentially, cochlear implants can be a miracle for profoundly deaf people who still have auditory nerves intact.

TOPIC: Thesis on Cochlear Implants Assignment

The cochlear implant works by stimulating the auditory neurons in the inner ear. The implant is actually made up of several different parts, some implanted in the ear, and some worn on the head near the ear. Writers Bakke and Harkins continue, "The components of a cochlear implant system include a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter, and an internal receiver/stimulator connected to an electrode array" (Harkins, and Bakke 414). The microphone, speech processor, and transmitter are worn externally, usually in a small component that looks somewhat like an external hearing aid, behind the ear. The two authors note, "Sound is collected from the user's environment by the microphone and the signal is passed on to the speech processor" (Harkins, and Bakke 414). The speech processor is essentially a small computer that converts audio into instructions that stimulate the electrodes inside the ear, and convert the sounds into legible speech. Each patient is different, and receives the audio signals differently, so an audiologist works with the patient to help determine the maximum sound while not disturbing the patient. Each type of processor uses different speech strategies, and some of the strategies help some users more than others, and users are often quite opinionated about the strategy they prefer (Harkins, and Bakke 415). While the first implants only contained one internal electrode, today's implants contain multiple electrodes to stimulate the inner ear.

Often, implants are given to children who show signs of deafness, and they can be implanted as early as 14 months of age. There are better candidates for cochlear implants, and they must have a profound hearing loss to qualify, someone with mild or moderate hearing loss is not a good candidate. To qualify for cochlear implants, the person must have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears, has a functional auditory nerve, has experienced hearing loss for at least a small amount of time, has good speech and language skills, or if they are children, has a family that is willing to work with them to develop these skills. In addition, the person is not being helped by conventional hearing aids, is healthy enough for surgery, wants to live in the hearing world, is realistic about the results, and has a therapist or other professional available for rehabilitation and therapy after surgery. People who lose their hearing as adults are good candidates for the surgery, but they have to have a functioning auditory nerve, otherwise the implants will not work.

The cochlear implants can help with speech and language development, especially in children. Another author notes, "Tye-Murray, Spencer, & Woodworth found improved intelligibility for children who had been using a cochlear implant for 2 years or more and found that children implanted before age 5 showed greater benefit in speech production than children implanted at older ages" (Blamey 236). In some individuals, the implant does not provide enough data to follow speech, but most users find it does help them in their communications, although some may still have to rely on lip-reading in certain situations, such as quick conversations.

Someone can get a cochlear implant if they meet the health and personal requirements, and if they can afford the procedure, which can be anywhere from $40,000 to over $100,000. In many countries, the surgery is covered by national health insurance, but in the U.S., not all insurance companies will pay for the operation. Medicare has increased eligibility to give more people access to the implants, and they are becoming more accepted as a way to help the profoundly deaf with speech recognition and understanding. Insurance may cover the surgery, but often the rehabilitation and therapy that is necessary after the surgery is not covered, and thus, the implants may not work effectively without the follow-up, and people who cannot afford to pay for the follow-up on their own may not get the surgery. The main criteria for adults who want an implant is that they have 30% or less speech recognition, which means they are extremely or profoundly deaf, and it is believed that cochlear implants can help a majority of these people to understand speech more effectively.

The future of the cochlear implants is quite bright. More people are discovering how useful they can be, and as technology improves, there will certainly be more research and development of cochlear implants and how they work. Already, the implants have improved from when they first began to appear in the 1980s, (they have more electrodes, for example), and the major manufacturers are adding many different details and innovations to their implants as they continue to modify and refine them. Perhaps the most important element of the future if cochlear implants will be more acceptance by the deaf community, and more awareness by insurance companies and healthcare providers, so that the follow-up necessary for success is paid for and available to everyone.

Another future element of the implants should be more research and study into how they help people. There have been surprisingly few studies into children and adults that have received the implants, and in the future, it seems that a more coordinated effort into study and analysis should take place, so researchers can get a better understanding of how much the implants really do (or do not) help a majority of the people who get them. Studies should include follow-up therapy and rehabilitation, which is quite necessary for the overall success of the implants. Future studies could not only show the numbers when it comes to implant success, but they could give vital information to developers and researchers who are working on more advanced technologies to create even better cochlear implants for future generations.

While many people really support the use of cochlear implants, and many people have been helped by the surgery, it is not a cure for deafness. Many users turn off the implants because the speech is extremely loud or guttural and raspy, and many people find them "too noisy." There is also trouble with distinguishing certain speech and speech patterns. Two authors note, "It is asserted that a cochlear implant gives only degraded acoustic information, which makes it difficult to reliably discriminate fine phonetic differences in place and voicing features" (Leybaert, and Alegria 271). However, even with the technological challenges, some of the biggest opposition to cochlear implants comes from the people who the implants attempt to help - the deaf community. Many deaf people violently oppose the implants because they feel their deafness is a "gift" they are given to live with and deal with, and that the implants are abnormal and counterproductive. Two other authors note, "The attempt to change a normal deaf child into an imperfectly hearing one is simply wrong -- akin, as many Deaf people put it, 'to trying to make a black person white'" (Glickman and Gulati 68). The implants do not offer perfect hearing, they do alter some sounds and speech, and because of this, many deaf people do not believe they should be used, especially in children. The authors continue, "Many children did not sign before being implanted, and many implant programs discourage or forbid sign language use after the procedure. Parents, hopeful that their child will become more hearing, also tend to sign… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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