Cochlears and Culture : History and Brains (2/3)

Second of a three-part series. Find part one here.

The Deaf Community is a somewhat new thing. The first documented Sign Language is about 500 years old (I’m so not going to get into sign before spoken language – I can only be so esoteric in even a three-part series). The first school, meaning a concentrated population, was around 1760. There is a fantastic RadioLab on language, including sign, that you should have checked out from the last entry. Without an established culture through which language (and other things) can be transmitted, people who are deaf, sans the Deaf Community, are left out in the cold. And without the basics of language to structure thought on, many contextual thought processes cannot be completed (“left of the blue wall”). Additionally, only after more complex ideas (like misdirection) filter into the group can people understand all parts of a story. EG, “Becky leaves a teddy bear under the bed. Timmy moves it into a chest while she is out of the room. When she comes back, where does she look?” Someone who hasn’t learned the sign for “lie” or “misdirection” would say “chest” because that’s where it is. Someone who has learned the word/symbol/sign for “misdirection” would say “under the bed” because that’s where Becky thinks it is.

With me so far? The point is that having a baseline of shared input/output methods leads to reduced difference in approach, normalizing a population. The result is what many call therapy – bringing individuals in a population to a shared standard. But should this be enforced on traits which define pocket and sub cultures? Before advances in science, they wouldn’t have learned the “normal” way of processing. Taken out of these cultures and definitions, individuals would not have gained this different way of processing. Their lives lend to cultural diversity.

A cochlear implant gives the ability to hear to a person by triggering receptors in their ear with electrical pulses. If a parent opts to not put their child through this risky and expensive process, they have passively removed the child’s ability to fully integrate with the world at large because the basic structure of the brain is different in such a way that a shared language is incredibly difficult to achieve. To the parent, it is often made to preserve the connection between child and family. If the implant is installed, the child is actively removed from their home life and neighbors. A rift is formed in each option. From a bird’s eye view, this choice to not install is made in order to preserve the pocket or sub culture.

Viewing and reading before the next entry:
Sound and Fury
Cochlear War

This series will be completed in an entry on Friday.

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