Publish at May 07 2018 Updated April 28 2022

Transhumanism and cochlear implants

To be or not to be implanted?

Deafness, handicap or difference?

Parents of deaf children often do their best to integrate their children into school. However, there are deaf people who don't want to hear... Who are the students fitted with hearing aids in school and university classes?

For hearing parents who have a deaf or hard-of-hearing child, it is an obstacle course from the start. A struggle with oneself to integrate deafness or hard of hearing into one's life, to accept that one's child is different. Mothers generally accept it more easily than fathers. Deafness is not visible, it is not like a paralysis that requires a wheelchair, for example, which is visible and unavoidable in almost every moment of life. Deafness and hard of hearing only appear in communication and, fortunately, more and more devices partially palliate this reality.

There are four main categories of deafness management, 

  • that of the hard of hearing which is compensated by hearing aids in BTE 
  • the deafness of ear infections, colds,... which requires the punctual installation of drain and which are generally solved quickly enough, 
  • that which requires cochlear implants which are addressed to deep deafness and 
  • the deafness that is not corrected either because they have no  solutions, or by choice. 

In any case all deafnesses are important and should be detected at an early age.

"At what age can a baby benefit from this implant in order to get the best result?

Our experience has led to a major breakthrough: we are now certain that in children with profound congenital deafness, these cochlear implants should be placed as early as possible: as early as 6 months. Until recently, we used to wait until the age of 2 years. However, a child acquires language between the ages of 2 and 5 years; after that, without the restoration of correct hearing, he will have language problems. In the worst case, he will remain mute. An important advance is that we now place these implants on both sides. With the stereo effect, the quality of hearing is much better."

Cochlear implant: as early as 6 months in children! by Sabine de la Brosse

Since the progress of cochlear implants, functional deafness is disappearing in any case for the new generations in Western countries. Deaf children who are implanted as early as 6 months of age only experience deafness when they disconnect their devices. Their hearing depends on their batteries, the settings of their hearing aid and the progress of technology. They are among the first "ordinary transhumanists."

Every parent wants the best for their children and this technology is important to them. This one allows the child to hear, but more importantly to structure as many connections in their brain as possible to allow active listening to sounds, language, to speak and communicate with the outside world. The longer parents wait for a diagnosis and later for implantation, the more consequences there will be on their child's future hearing, ability to identify sounds and language acquisition. It should be noted that if the child was hearing before the deafness, this is a plus for the success of the implant.

Many parents do not hesitate and do their utmost to erase this difference that can be a source of non-integration and exclusion. 

They overlook the fact that this is an invasive operation that forever changes the humanity of their child. That's why the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA), for example, makes specific recommendations on this topic:

"CASLPA supports cochlear implantation in children with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that is severe or profound. Children should be considered for cochlear implantation only after: the child has undergone a thorough audiological, speech and medical evaluation, there has been a full exploration of parental expectations, and there is a commitment to implantation and rehabilitation. 

Generally, children go through a trial period where they benefit from appropriate amplification in conjunction with a hearing rehabilitation program emphasizing auditory/oral skill development. In the case of older children or adolescents, it is recommended that expectations, motivation, level of commitment and willingness to participate in a rehabilitation program be examined. To ensure that cochlear implantation offers children with severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss the opportunity to improve access to sound and oral communication, CASLPA recommends that cochlear implantation centers adopt an interdisciplinary team approach to the assessment of candidates and follow-up of children who receive an implant. The implant team should include a core group of medical, audiology and speech-language pathology professionals who have knowledge and experience working with children with hearing loss and hearing aids. The team should also include professionals with expertise in psychology, social work, and deaf/hard of hearing education (Archibold, 2002)."

Position Paper on Cochlear Implants in Children by CASLPA and ACOA

In the same way that a multidisciplinary team is taken to validate whether a man or woman can change their gender or appearance through cosmetic surgery, cochlear implantation follows the same process. Why? Because it touches the identity of the person: a person born deaf or who has become deaf is a human being who builds himself with his deafness and in one fell swoop, surgery, technology will change his relationship to his humanity, his social status and his skills.

It is an upheaval of identity, of relationship to oneself, to the other and to the world. 

It is far from being trivial. Some future implantees even refuse this chance before the implantation that could change their identity, and even after being implanted following the tidal wave of noise that surges in their brain. To go from silence to noise, especially to interfering noise, can be experienced as insurmountable by some deaf people.

"The quest for identity, however, remains complex: the young implanted person is deaf with the hearing, but hearing for the deaf. He is between two and will be able to choose more or less easily his "camp" according to the mode of communication which will be more invested: that of the world of the sign and that of the sound world. One is transmitted by the family filiation, the other by the peers, the similar ones with regard to the sensory deficit. 

For the hearing, it is the world of disability and for the Deaf it is the belonging to a community with its culture, its word games, its humor, etc. This is not found in any other disability. The implanted teenager does not immediately feel part of this community. "The other day, my implant broke down. I still went to school. It was awful, I didn't understand anything. I felt very alone. I was smiling, pretending, but it was horrible. I saw everyone moving around me and I didn't understand what was going on. I felt deaf and different." This breakdown in communication, a challenge to the continuity of existence, and the resulting sense of strangeness do not exist in the Deaf signer."

The cochlear implant, an in-between identity - by Catherine John

With early implants, the long and often difficult learning of a signed language in the family is no longer necessary. However, when the implant fails then the individual is left facing and alone with their profound deafness. Some families adopt the two possible fields. They have their child fitted with implants or external hearing aids and at the same time they learn one of the languages of the deaf (sign language, completed spoken language...).

They give their child the opportunity to return to their original nature of deafness outside of noise. A deaf person with a hearing aid or implant does not hear the same way as someone with good hearing. In a crowd, in group conversations, the noises blend together and everything becomes indistinct noises. Many have had a lot of speech therapy and speak perfectly. Their resemblance to ordinary people, pupils, students ends there.

Hearing is fragile, it can be supported by microphones or amplifiers but the ecosystem of the implanted or aided person often turns into a kind of sounding board. 

Beyond trying to mimic the hearing of their peers, implants can open up other avenues of possibility and can transform implanted people into augmented humans:

"Already, bionic prostheses are increasing our potential. Fabrice Sabre was the first Frenchman with a bionic hand, notably capable of 360° rotations. A cochlear implant was able to detect ultrasound. A retinal implant was able to detect infrared. "Discoveries made as a result of medical errors," reveals Marc Roux, president of the French Society of Transhumanism, Technoprog".

Human today cyborg tomorrow?- February 4, 2017

Today implants are aimed at deaf people, tomorrow it is certain that other categories of users will be equipped. The main thing is that all this remains a choice and not an obligation.

"In our societies with an imagination inhabited by Marvel characters, the "disabled" equipped with prostheses are sometimes looked at as new superheroes.

Let's note, however, that this trend does not have only advantages. There is indeed a certain medical pressure against disability. It is seen by society and health institutions as an abnormality that must be erased. Parents of children born deaf are strongly urged to have their babies operated on at an early age in order to provide them with a cochlear implant that will give them a certain level of hearing.

It is remarkable that our societies are more willing to favor this tendency than to admit that some deaf families choose to give birth to children who they know will almost certainly be deaf as well, and who refuse the implant. These militate in effect to make people understand that deafness should not necessarily be considered as a handicap, but as a difference.

These "deaf people who do not want to hear (1)" highlight the double requirement of a transhumanism that would like to be technoprogressive: it is necessary to allow the choice of the refusal of augmentation by technique as it is necessary to allow the choice of the refusal of technique."

"Society +": transhumanism develops social harmony - 2016 - Technoprog

1 Short film about the relationship to deafness of which here is an analysis by protagonists:

Being deaf or not being deaf is not a real choice. People who are deaf or hard of hearing are by nature. The choice is whether or not to be augmented in order to integrate into school, society or even one day to become super human beings. This is an identity, social and philosophical debate.

Image source: Pixabay Freestocks-photos

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