5 Reasons Life as a Deaf Person Is Weirder Than You Thought

#2. No, There's No Technological Cure for Deafness

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"Wait, don't they have a gadget they can implant in your ear that lets you hear again? So why is being deaf even still a thing?"

Well, that's complicated.

First of all, 92 percent of deaf children are born to parents who can hear. I dare you to imagine anything scarier than hearing that your child failed any sort of test given at the two-hours-old mark. There's no way "Your newborn FAILED the hearing test" doesn't send most of them into a panic spiral. This isn't the basis for a whole lot of the world's greatest decision making, but it's also when many parents make the decision to give their baby the cochlear implant intended to restore their hearing.

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"We want you to give him the Gadget Arms and Copter, too, just to be safe."

Now, "implant that makes you hear" is hard to argue with on paper, but it's important to know that cochlear implants aren't just wicked awesome robot ears that give you bionic hearing. If you listen here at the 4:50 mark, you'll hear a lovely woman's voice turned into the digitally synthesized voice of a bad guy on the N64. It's not exactly a seamless replication of reality, is what I'm saying. And it's worse than that for some people.

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"Sorry, we're out of the robot-voice model. We'll be fitting you with the Gilbert Gottfried one instead."

Don't get me wrong: Cochlear implants help a lot of people, and no one can argue with taking even a minor step toward becoming a RoboCop. But modern implants have a host of problems, outside the obvious one of learning how to hear. The surgery leaves you vulnerable to meningitis, and patients run the risk of a severed nerve paralyzing their damn face. It's a cruel irony that cochlear implants work best in infants, perennial #1 in Cracked's yearly "worst time of life to have major surgery performed" contest.

So in the deaf community, you see a lot of resistance to the implants, and they can get annoyed when the perception becomes "You can fix this problem but are choosing not to, for some reason." If that makes it seems like deaf people are kind of touchy about the subject, keep in mind ...

#1. Society Has Traditionally Treated Deaf People Like Garbage

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For much of our history, society just didn't know what to do with deaf people. In the B.C. era, the law of the Talmud denied deaf people the right to own land, while St. Augustine in the early A.D.s made deafness a straight-up sin. It wasn't until the 1960s that interpreting for deaf people was even a profession. Before then, deaf people relied on the help of family, teachers of deaf people (like Helen Keller's deaf-blind teacher Anne Sullivan), and the occasional clergyman that learned some signs. If you didn't live in an area with a thriving deaf community, you might as well be cut off from the world entirely.

Educators didn't have a problem with deaf people until the 1880 Conference of Milan. A bunch of hearing people and one token deaf guy got together in Italy to figure out just how deaf people ought to be educated. You can sum up their conclusion as "Fuck sign language, just try real hard to speak." Even today, many deaf people remember having their hands tied and wrists slapped to stop them from trying to sign.

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Luckily, they could still express their feelings with a sign everyone could understand.

This, as you can imagine, made life a lot more difficult for deaf people and their families. From many (god-awful) parents' standpoint, it was easier to ship them off to a different country or just put them in an institution. To make matters worse, around the same time, Alexander Graham Bell was running amok. The same guy who invented the telephone was actually an inventor/douchebag on par with Thomas Edison. And, like the douchiest bags of his day, Bell was really into the eugenics movement (Hitler found his work inspirational). He spent his life pushing legislation that would force deaf people to undergo surgery to make sure they couldn't have children together and make a "deaf race." Fearing this day, Bell pushed for the abolition of sign language because it brought deaf people together. (Oddly enough, Bell's own mother and wife were deaf. So yeah, probably some awkward holidays for that family.)

Library of Congress
He was somehow able to convince her to have sex with him at least twice. You will never have that much game.

This should help explain why deaf people are wary of anyone who claims to be able to "fix" them. Big-D deaf people often oppose cochlear implants, and it isn't because they're anti-technology. It's because they have a distinct culture that people have tried to wipe out. It's not easy feeling like you're doing a pretty damned good job of getting by in life, only to hear a whole group of people look at you and scream, "We have to stop any more unspeakable horrors like this from existing!"

Related Reading: Cracked likes talking to people with a unique perspective on life. We got the low-down on life as a Mormon missionary and went behind the scenes of a weight loss infomercial. A woman raised by a Christian fundamentalist cult told us how crazy THAT shit got, and a Dominatrix let us know what she'd learned about fetishes. If you've got a tale to tell Cracked, message us here.

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