Discovery of genes involved in inner ear development hints at a way to restore hearing and balance

of the deaf people I know want to stay deaf.

Deaf person here too, hearing aids and cochlear implants have been a godsend. For the record, I was born with hearing loss, and my hearing continued to decline to almost nothingness as I got older. By the time I was 12, I was fully deaf in both ears. Cochlear implants changed my life. I can hear ice cubes clink in a glass, listen to birds sing, enjoy music, hear an oncoming car. It's great.

I think those other deaf people who want to stay deaf are crazy.

But their reasoning, basically, is twofold. Firstly, they resent being told that being deaf is something that needs to be "fixed", because that implies that they were "broken" to begin with. They take offense to that.

The second reason is cultural. They've developed sign language, whole communities of people who only use sign, it's very tight-knit. So they just view it as an attack on them as individuals and as a community, basically. Deaf communities come from a time when it was very difficult for deaf people to get good jobs or be widely accepted by society-- a lot of them got low-paying janitorial jobs, there was a point in the early 20th century where there was serious debate about whether they should be allowed to marry and reproduce.

Society generally wasn't very accommodating of the disability, so their solution was to band together and develop a strong support network. Schools like Gallaudet were established to help deaf people get a good education and advance professionally.

I'm not around other deaf people very often, so when I visited Gallaudet for the museum, being there made me realize how hard it is to interact with fully deaf people if you don't know sign language. The guy at the guardhouse who we had to ask parking directions from? We had to communicate via pen and paper. The staff at the admissions office, etc. who we had to ask directions from to find the museum? Pen and paper. I never wanted to learn sign language, so I didn't. I don't know if those people had a choice.

Now imagine those people in a society that found them a burden, thought they were stupid because they didn't talk or slurred if they did, that didn't want to educate them, that thought they were good for little more than menial labor. Creating a supportive, networked community was a smart way to deal with that. There are even neighborhoods in major cities (like St. Louis) that have street signs warning drivers to be cautious because residents may not be able to hear them.

Just because I understand it doesn't mean it isn't batshit, though. It totally is. But the history and long-standing existence of the deaf community probably makes it hard to let go. They see it more as heritage rather than individual disability. It's a hold-over from a time when it was essentially a survival mechanism, and I think it's important that we not forget it, but that doesn't mean we need to continue it.

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