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The Artificial Ear

The Artificial Ear: Cochlear Implants and the Culture of Deafness

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Artificial Ear
    Book Description:

    When it was first developed, the cochlear implant was hailed as a "miracle cure" for deafness. That relatively few deaf adults seemed to want it was puzzling. The technology was then modified for use with deaf children, 90 percent of whom have hearing parents. Then, controversy struck as the Deaf community overwhelmingly protested the use of the device and procedure. For them, the cochlear implant was not viewed in the context of medical progress and advances in the physiology of hearing, but instead represented the historic oppression of deaf people and of sign languages.

    Part ethnography and part historical study,The Artificial Earis based on interviews with researchers who were pivotal in the early development and implementation of the new technology. Through an analysis of the scientific and clinical literature, Stuart Blume reconstructs the history of artificial hearing from its conceptual origins in the 1930s, to the first attempt at cochlear implantation in Paris in the 1950s, and to the widespread clinical application of the "bionic ear" since the 1980s.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4911-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 The Promise of New Medical Technology
    (pp. 1-29)

    Impaired hearing is widespread. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from it, of whom more than 10 million have difficulty following normal conversational speech. Although hearing loss is far more common in older people, it also affects close to half a million children in the United States. The vast majority of these children, even those born totally deaf, have parents who can hear. Confronted with the diagnosis that their child is deaf, parents are shocked and bewildered. Only gradually, as shock and (not uncommonly) denial that anything is wrong have been overcome, can the complex business of coping with the...

  5. Chapter 2 The Making of the Cochlear Implant
    (pp. 30-57)

    On February 25, 1957, Professor Charles Eyries of the medical faculty in Paris became the first surgeon in the world to try to give a deaf patient some hearing by means of an electrode implanted into his ear. That hearing was associated with the passage of electrical currents had been established long before. As early as 1800, the famous Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (after whom the volt is named) placed electro des in each of his ears and connected them to a battery. The electrical current that passed through his head produced what he described as a “disagreeable sensation,” and...

  6. Chapter 3 The Cochlear Implant and the Deaf Community
    (pp. 58-84)

    For a while, in the mid-1980s, cochlear implantation seemed to be faltering. Despite endorsement by the medical profession, the market was growing far more slowly than manufacturers had expected. It was recognized that financial barriers were holding back sales of the device and that hospitals faced financial disincentives. Nevertheless, the discovery that few adult deaf people seemed even to want an implant was unexpected. Neither manufacturers nor implant teams had much idea of what lay behind this lack of interest, though it clearly involved something more than just the costs. Implant teams and manufacturers then turned their attention to deaf...

  7. Chapter 4 The Globalization of a Controversial Technology
    (pp. 85-110)

    Despite the controversy, the cochlear implant is now a commercial success. Growth has been considerable and is expected to continue. Two decades ago, less than two thousand people had been implanted worldwide. Today a single manufacturer reports that its 120,000th device has been implanted, and that in 2007 nearly 16,000 devices were sold.¹ Despite the controversy, the cochlear implant is now a global technology, too, having spread from rich countries to middle-income countries, and now to the poorest of countries. The leading manufacturer, Cochlear, is present in no less than ninety countries. That is to say, in the course of...

  8. Chapter 5 Implantation Politics in the Netherlands
    (pp. 111-143)

    When the first attempts at developing a cochlear prosthesis, in the 1970s, became known in the Netherlands, responses were mixed. Some ENT surgeons, including Egbert Huizing, were intrigued and wanted to try it out. But others were more doubtful. The Amsterdam professor L.B.W. Jongkees, a leading figure in Dutch otology, wrote a highly skeptical piece in the country’s major medical journal:

    Dr. Chouard from Paris has just favored the world with an indication of the remarkable success of French medical science by sending out an announcement that he and his colleagues, by computer-assisted signal amplification directly to the auditory nerve,...

  9. Chapter 6 Contexts of Uncertainty: Parental Decision Making
    (pp. 144-172)

    Ever since the early 1980s, parents of deaf children have been central to the cochlear implant controversy. At that time, when implanting children was seen as a risky step that few surgeons were willing to take, organizations of parents of deaf children were angry and anxious. The French organization, ANPEDA, considered the step premature. Its leaders resented the idea of their children being used as experimental guinea pigs. The British organization, NDCS, was worried at the unrealistic expectations on the part of parents to which exaggerated publicity would lead. Nevertheless, in the course of the decade it became clear that...

  10. Chapter 7 Politics and Medical Progress
    (pp. 173-198)

    Early development of the cochlear implant was motivated by scientific curiosity, by desire to help people whose loss of hearing caused them suffering, by dreams of vanquishing deafness. Progress then depended crucially on developments extraneous to the field: the emergence of microelectronic components and biocompatible materials, political interest in artificial organs, the increasing familiarity of the idea of an “implant.” The implant’s early years were marked by a variety of competing designs, each based on a distinctive set of assumptions about its functioning and its intended function. Despite professional skepticism, despite insistence that design of an implant had to be...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 199-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-226)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)