Listening Topic: Medicine – Radio interview about cochlear implants

A. Listen to the radio interview. As you listen, number the points in the order they are mentioned.

___ a   The brain must be trained to recognize sounds transmitted by the cochlear implant.

___ b   Many Deaf people see cochlear implants as another example that the hearing do not understand or respect Deaf culture.

___ c   There is no way to predict the benefits of a cochlear implant.

___ Many Deaf people do not consider themselves handicapped and in need of “fixing.”

___ A hearing aid is only useful to someone who has some remaining hearing because it makes sounds louder.

B. Listen to the interview again. Write T for true or F for false for each statement. Correct the false answers to make them true. Listen again if necessary.

1   Many people were involved in the development of the cochlear implant.

2   A cochlear implant works much like a hearing aid.

3   A cochlear implant will restore hearing to normal.

4   Some users of cochlear implants can hear music and use the telephone.

5   Some users are only aware that there is sound in their surrounding area.

6   If a cochlear implant doesn’t work, the person can always use a hearing aid.

7   A cochlear implant involves invasive surgery.



3 a   5 b   2 c   4 d   1 e


1 T   2 F   3 F   4 T   5 T   6 F   7 T


A = Brad, B = Dr. Buckner

A:   We’re here this afternoon on Technology and Your Health with Dr. Buckner from the Springfield Medical Center to learn about the cochlear implant-a device that can enable some Deaf people to hear-and talk about why not everyone in the Deaf community sees this as a good thing. First, let’s hear from Dr. Buckner what the device is and how it works.

B:   Thanks, Brad. As you mentioned, a cochlear implant or CI is a device to help the Deaf hear sounds.

A:   And has it been in use for a long time?

B:   Well yes. Different forms of the cochlear implant have been in use for a pretty long time. Scientists first started implanting them on an experimental or trial basis, over years 40 years ago. Many people had a part in the research and experimentation that led to its invention. And many scientists have had a hand in making it more effective over the years.

A:   Okay, so how is this different from a hearing aid?

B:   Well, a hearing aid amplifies sound-it makes sound louder-and so it’s only useful to those who have some hearing ability. Basically, if your hearing is very weak, a hearing aid can help you. But the CI is for people who cannot benefit from hearing aids. It’s for people who have no hearing at all.

A:   So if a person has no hearing, how can a CI help?

B:   The ear is a very complex organ but I’ll try to make this simple. Basically, cochlear implants use electrodes to send signals to the brain. Unlike a hearing aid worn in the outer ear, the CI is surgically implanted in the mastoid bone in the skull behind the ear. Its job is to stimulate the auditory nerve. The brain then recognizes the electric signals from the nerve as sound.

A:   This sounds like a miracle! Why wouldn’t every Deaf person want to embrace this technology?

B:   Well, it’s important to understand that it isn’t a quick or even a sure fix for deafness. Many people have the impression it will restore hearing to normal, but it will not. Furthermore, the benefits really do vary widely. For some users, CI may provide them no more than an awareness of sounds in their environment such as a door opening or closing, telephone ringing, a car honking-useful to be sure, but clearly nothing close to the full range of hearing. It simply alerts the person to the fact that something is happening in the vicinity. Others with more successful outcomes are able to hear music and to use the telephone. While CI can make a big difference for some, it is essential that anyone considering the surgery be aware that there is a huge variation in benefits and at the moment, there is no way to predict these variations. Another important thing is that, a CI will destroy any residual hearing making it impossible to use a hearing aid after the surgery.

A:   OK. I’m beginning to get the picture. It holds promise for some, and at this stage it isn’t clear who will be lucky and who won’t.

B:   Correct. And even those who do benefit face a lot of work training the brain to recognize individual sounds. It isn’t like a light switch which turns on hearing and immediate comprehension. The device makes the brain aware of sound but the brain must be trained to recognize what the sound is. Beyond these concerns, some parents of Deaf children also don’t like the idea if putting their kids through invasive surgery, which is required in order to implant the Cl.

You asked why a Deaf person wouldn’t want a Cl. This brings up a point that many hearing people are not aware of: the Deaf do not consider themselves handicapped or “broken”. They see no need to be “fixed”. Some of them perceive CI as another example that the hearing do not understand or respect their culture.

A:   So, you’re saying that some in the Deaf community would not be willing to take a chance that they or their children, through surgery, could gain the sense of hearing and be better able to interact with the hearing world?

B:   Yes. That’s correct. Given the pride in being Deaf, taking this step sometimes leads to alienation by their Deaf friends, co-workers and family.

A:   Is the cost of getting a CI also an issue for some parents?

B:   It certainly is. It can cost anywhere from 40 to 60 thousand dollars. And then there are other smaller costs involved, too. These would include maintenance costs, visits to the doctor, and just making sure you have fresh batteries for the Cl.

A:   Given all these concerns, are cochlear implants being used widely?

B:   Well, yes they are. In the US, around 23,000 people have been implanted. Incidentally, the first American got a cochlear implant back in 1961, as part of a clinical trial. That surgery was performed by Dr. William House, one the most important figures in the history of cochlear implants. Anyway, worldwide, there are about 60,000 people who have received cochlear implants. But those numbers are growing.

A:   And are most of the people who receive Cl’s children?

B:   No, not necessarily. In fact, of the 23,000 people in the US who have a CI, only 10,000 of them received them as children.

A:   Interesting. Well, it’s clear this isn’t a decision to be entered into without a lot of thought, both for the physical risks and the social impact. In the second part of our program, we’ll have a chance to hear from a family considering whether to have their child undergo the CI surgery.

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