Why An Audiologist Resisted Getting a Cochlear Implant

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Audiology doctoral student Sarah Sparks (Twitter: @saralovesears) is in training at Gallaudet University. Ms. Sparks was born typically hearing and initially resisted cochlear implants. This blog post by Med El describes her journey with hearing loss and the reason for her initial skepticism.

Ms. Sparks communicates with oral and signed language. She once related to me that her most impactful moment was not when she received her cochlear implant, but when she learned signed language. Her experiences underscores that there are many ways to be d/Deaf. One can use signed or oral and spoken language. And within each method, there are various ways to implement it. For example, oral language can be augmented with cued speech. Signed communincation has a few different flavors. Signing Exact English and Simultaneous Communication are based on English. American Sign Language (ASL) an independent language with its own syntax and grammatical structure.

As an audiologist who personally uses CIs, she is very aware of the shortcomings of cochlear implants. Ms. Sparks joined Gallaudet to work with the entire range of communication options. Gallaudet is an institution where Deafness and Deafhood are cultures to be celebrated. American Sign Language is the dominant language and communication mode on campus.

As an aside, I (Dr. Ruffin) have chatted extensively with Ms. Sparks about bridging the d/Deaf worlds. She absolutely rocks, and we approach patient care in very similar ways: Medical science cannot currently cure profound hearing loss. So we take a more holistic view by helping people overcome communication deficits. I am so excited to see where her career takes her!