A friend of mine was telling me that he believes deafness will be cured within the next ten years. He cited some stem cell research being conducted right now at Stanford University and Sheffield University in the UK. Apparently it’s very promising.
I don’t know if ten years is a realistic estimate but I do think it will happen in our lifetime. When it does happen and the procedure becomes available, how many will want it? I have no doubt whatsoever that deaf and hh people who are not culturally deaf will jump at the opportunity. While culturally deaf will not. At least not at first.
I think over time there will be pressure to get the procedure done. Friends who did it will be talking about all the cool, new sounds they’ve heard. They’ll be talking about music and how watching a movie with special sound effects is way cooler than watching it silently. Not to mention the ability to talk on the phone without using an interpreter or relay operator. Conversations are completely one-on-one. No worries about a third person being privvy to your personal calls.
Social Security will probably set up some new rules for those receiving SSI/SSDI. I forsee that they’ll offer to pay for the procedure and cut off benefits to those who refuse it, since afterall, in their eyes the deaf person will be “choosing to be disabled”.
People said that cochlear implants would be the end of our community. But that hasn’t happened and I don’t think it will. I think there will always be a need and a place for the deaf community. Even when this procedure becomes a reality. It won’t be a cure-all. There will undoubtedly be forms of deafness that the procedure won’t be able to cure.
I forsee those who do opt for the procedure will form a new community among themselves. It will probably be like being a CODA. They’ll be part of two worlds. They grew up in one which they love but are now also part of another. And they don’t quite fit in this new world, even though they can hear. It’s not the culture they grew up in. But eventually they’ll learn to integrate into it.
Five generations from now, I don’t believe the deaf community will exist the way it does now.
I’m culturally deaf. Would I chose to do it? Would I chose to become hearing? It’s easy to say NO right now. I’m proud to be deaf and love my community. But honestly, sometimes I can’t help being curious. What would it be like to be hearing? If we’re truly honest, most of us would be lying if we said we never wondered.