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The Cochlear Implant or otherwise known as the bionic ear created by Graeme Clark is an innovation which was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1985 for adults and in 1990 for children over the age of 18-months. This innovation by Graeme Clark has impacted greatly on society. It is thanks to him and scientists before him, that a large percentage of the deaf can now hear. This concept was once never imaginable and Clark even said that “probably as many as 99 per cent of scientists around the world initially said that it was not feasible to place a relatively small number of electrodes in the inner ear and restore adequate coding of sound.”

A brief description and image of how it works can be found here

It is seen that there are both negative and positive impacts of this innovation on society however there are more positives as the general opinion is that this innovation does increase the quality of life for the hearing impaired.

There are over one million Australians who have some kind of hearing impairment. Of these people there are fifty thousand who cannot hear virtually anything at all. There are three in every one thousand children who are born with a hearing loss or develop a loss before learning to speak. It is these people’s lives that could be changes and could have the gift to hear again due to Clarks ‘Cochlear Implant’.

The cost is a major impact and varies depending on the implant and the training necessary afterwards however is still several thousands of dollars. Hearing loss represents a real financial cost to Australia of $11.75 billion per annum. Due to the high costs of this equipment there is the issue of equality and that not all people worthy of this implant can access it. In the United States, medical costs run from USD$45,000 to $70,000; this includes evaluation, the surgery itself, hardware, and rehabilitation. Some of this can be covered by health insurance.

Hearing loss can reduce your ability to communicate within your society and this can impact highly on a person’s life through a reduced chance of opportunity to participate in education, to gain competitive skills for employment and participate in relationships. While innovations such as the cochlear implant can enhance a person’s ability to communicate and live a more social life.

People that have had the Cochlear Implant have said that:
“Shopping is not the stressful affair it used to be, and no more does the oven beep itself silly waiting for me to turn it off”. User aged 74
“I know if someone is talking to me, and I feel confident that I will understand them and they will understand me.” User aged 15
“I have not listened for many years, but now I find I am listening to everything because I don’t want to miss out on anything!” User aged 65
“It’s not just voices that sound good, it’s all the other sounds like birds, a knock on the door, a car going past, and the dog barking, it’s fabulous.” User aged 38
From these statements we can see how this implant has positively impacted on their lives.

There are however many ethical questions especially for child surgery such as the invasive elective surgery to otherwise healthy children. It is said that the risks are downplayed and the efficacy exaggerated. There are many strong objections from the Deaf Community when it comes to the cochlear implant. Another issue is about whether a culture accepts this technology or does not believe it right to be used, and therefore these people will not use it.

Many of the people in this community do not share the view that deafness is a disability to be “fixed”. Many deaf people celebrate their culture as all languages celebrate their history and culture. In contrast to this people that can hear are not comfortable with the thought that a child that could be given the implant to have a ‘sense’ most commonly associated with the human language would be denied of.

This conflict over the views on deafness has raged since the 18th century. As cochlear implants began to be implanted into deaf children in the mid to late 1980s, the deaf community responded with protests in the US, UK, Germany, Finland, France and Australia. It should be noted that opposition is often strong among persons who suffer from hereditary deafness. They may fear losing their children to the hearing world, whereas hearing parents of deaf children are much more likely to regard implants favourably.

It is therefore fair to say that the impact of this innovation on society is purely up to choice. It is the choice for you to take advantage of this technological ingenious piece of medical equipment and it would therefore have a positive impact, or to choose to stay in the deaf community and not need this piece of equipment to live a satisfied life.

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