Based on the paper “The Deaf Culture Debate” by Misty Smith. Originally published for PSY 230 at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education.
The newly developing term of ‘deaf culture’ can be used to describe how an individual with a hearing impairment view their place in society. According to a Hastings Center Report by Bonnie Tucker, individuals with hearing impairments can label themselves as deaf with a small ‘d’ or Deaf with a capital ‘D’.
The Pro Deaf Culture Debate
Deafness is defined as someone who is experiencing extreme hearing difficulty or loss of the ability to hear sound (Hardman, page 316). The newly developing term of ‘deaf culture’ can be used to describe how an individual with a hearing impairment views their place in society. According to a Hastings Center Report by Bonnie Tucker, individuals with hearing impairments can label themselves as deaf with a small ‘d’ or Deaf with a capital ‘D’. If the individual classifies themselves as ‘deaf’ they “have assimilated into hearing society and do not view themselves as members of a separate culture” (Tucker, 1998). Whereas, an individual who classifies themselves as ‘Deaf’ “insist that their culture and separate identity must be nourished and maintained” (Tucker, 1998). It is this student’s opinion that if an individual who is deaf wishes to be considered a member of a ‘deaf culture’ that they have every right, only they know how they fit into any societal normality. However, if an individual who is hearing impaired does not want to be labeled as a separate culture then they should not be forced into such a categorization.
One of the main arguments for the promotion and acceptance of deaf culture is that they, the Deaf, want to be deaf and are proud of who they are. They argue that because speak their own language, sign language, they can claim their own cultural identity much like other cultures do (Tucker, 1998). On the other hand, opponents of the ‘deaf culture’ symbolism argue that “the meaning of culture is so powerful and complex that to apply it so narrowly to a group of highly diverse deaf American citizens, whose members are as heterogeneous as the general population, simply makes no sense” (Tucker, 1998).
There are numerous technological devices in use that help the deaf and hearing impaired interact with the world. Types of devices include hearing aids, PDA’s, computers, closed captioning, and Cochlear implants (Hardman, pages 338-39). However, the one technological asset that is constantly under debate with the pro ‘deaf culture’ community is that of the Cochlear implants. “A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain” (Cochlear, 2017). Many members of the pro ‘deaf culture’ society express the desire to have children that are also deaf, therefore they do not approve of the Cochlear implant that can give a deaf child the ability to hear (Tucker, 1998).
As a parent, I firmly believe that parents should give their children every opportunity to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Therefore, when it comes to the argument of the pro ‘deaf culture’ community of wishing to also have deaf children and keeping technology such as Cochlear away from their children, I have to respectfully disagree. As a parent of a child with a hearing impairment, I have watched my child struggle throughout life to enjoy simple pleasures and endure constant bullying from her peers. Without technical assistance, I am positive she would have further blows to her level of life enjoyment. For example, she must use assistant technology such as closed captioning to watch television and movies. Furthermore, she enjoys music, but she has to listen with special headphones at a loud setting. She is not eligible for Cochlear, however, if she was I would have made sure she would have received the technology long ago.
In conclusion, I believe that the pro ‘deaf culture’ have the right to label themselves as they wish. However, when it comes to denying a child the ability to hear, and have the total enjoyment of the sounds of this society, I am at an impasse. on one hand, I believe that the child should have the right to decide if they want to use assistant technology, on the other if the child is raised anti-hearing they may never select hearing if given the choice later on in life.
Please note: If you or your child is hearing impaired, please not only be proud of who you are – but also teach your child he/she should be proud of who they are! My opinion is based purely on a child being able to enjoy the same things as their peers in our technology-based society. Each situation (each family and child) are different and all parents who have differing opinions should be respected.
Cochlear. (2017). Cochlear implants & cochlear implant technology. Retrieved from http://www.cochlear.com/wps/wcm/connect/au/home/understand/hearing-and-hl/hl- treatments/cochlear-implant
Hardman, M.L. (2016). Human Exceptionality: School, Community, and Family (12th ed.).Retrieved from Cengage Learning.
Tucker, B. P. (1998). Deaf culture, cochlear implants, and elective disability. The Hastings Center Report, 28(4), 6-14.