Hi everybody! I hope you don’t mind me posting on here. I’m writing a book and one of the secondary characters is a child about 8 years old who has experienced significant hearing loss. Initially, the book was going to revolve around the community banding together to fund a procedure to retrieve his hearing. I had planned to have him get a cochlear implant; however, I have since learned that some people are not at all thrilled with the implant and consider it not to be a good option for children with hearing loss. Thoughts? I could really use some input on this one!
For a child born with hearing loss so profound that they cannot derive benefit from hearing aids there are two options: 1) Cochlear implants, 2) Immersive sign language. Anything else is barring that child from developing language, which I see as a sort of abuse.
Cochlear implantation is a small sort of brain surgery, and no doubt it is frightening for parents. Going under anaesthetic at all has some danger to it. And cochlear implants are not a magic bullet. The surgery does not work all the time. However, the other choice of providing your child with a manual language may be tremendously difficult if you live in the middle of nowhere, absent from anyone else who speaks with sign. Language is a social behaviour, and it doesn’t work if only the child has it–the community around them needs to have it as well. That being said, ASL is a beautiful and interesting language. Choosing ASL rather than implantation is a perfectly valid choice. Sometimes that choice means moving your family to a place where others also speak the language.
I can understand why cochlear implantation is a concern for some of the ASL community. You could view every implanted child as a child who learns aural language instead of manual language, and so shrinks the community of people who use a manual language–a community with a rich culture of their own, and one which is required for many people. There will always be people who do not or cannot benefit from cochlear implantation, and the more successful we are at implanting children, the more this community will shrink.
If the child in your story is old enough to have developed spoken language before they lose their hearing, that makes things a bit more complex. But I suppose you might wish to think about what the overall themes of your story are and what the story of this secondary character serves. In a way, cochlear implantation is the easier path for the community to take because once it is done, if it successful, it takes no further work from them. An entire community learning sign in order to support the child seems like a greater acheivement in a way. They choose a path that will require MORE of them, and will change their culture forever.
As an aside, you might want to watch The Quiet Place. One of the main characters in it has a cochlear implant, and yet the world has come to a place where the level of technological expertise and infastructure necessary to maintain that cochlear implant is gone, and yet not having access to sound at all is a tremendous danger.
I like the idea of using sign language. One thing I’ve always wondered is: are there “universal” words in sign language that are understood no matter what the native speaker’s language is?
Your child protagonist could be in a situation where he is the ONLY one who can understand something vital being communicated via sign language with a person from an entirely different country who speaks a totally different language.
Perhaps someone here knows sign language & can help you out …
Not sure if your book was to be set in the present, but I always fantasized about the Bionic Woman with her bionic ear way WAY back when that TV show was on! That kind of hearing aid is probably NOT out yet, tho.