(March 16, 2016)- Close to 325,000 people around the world have had cochlear implants surgically implanted. In the US about 58,000 adults and 38,000 children have been recipients. In Indiana, cochlear implants have been available to profoundly deaf adults since the 1980’s
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electronic devices which bypass the normal hearing process. A microphone is used and some electronics are placed outside the skin behind the ear. Together the device transmits a signal to an array of electrodes in the cochlea, which stimulates the cochlear nerve.
The technology involving cochlear implants has evolved greatly over the years. The implants today are wireless, small and light.
“They now have blue tooth technology,” says Teri Ouellette, president of the St. Joseph school for the deaf in Indianapolis. “That technology can connect directly with their cell phones and computers and stream information right into their devices.”
Ouellette also says today’s cochlear implants are so good, they are better than normal hearing.
“Our kids can easily hear the ‘s’ sound, which is the softest speech sounds we make. And they can pick up speech sounds from 42 feet away.”
CI’s for deaf children are considered to be most effective when implanted at a young age, while the brain is still learning to interpret sound. Deaf culture critics argue that the cochlear implant and subsequent therapy often become the focus of the child’s identity at the expense of a possible future deaf identity.
Children with cochlear implants are more likely to be educated orally and without access to sign language. Some deaf activists have labeled the widespread implantation of children, as cultural genocide. Others call the criticism alarming and inaccurate.
The St. Joseph institute for the deaf in Indianapolis serves as a preschool for children who’ve opted for the implants. It provides a wide variety of services preparing children to transition into traditional school with family members and community peers. There are approximately 20 preschool children attending St. Joseph’s in Indianapolis, but the school assists close to 100 students statewide.