Some researchers think that sign language actually leads to deafness. And due to the new science of cochlear implants, which are now implanted in young children, sign language may be on the way out among the deaf. But some deaf people insist that sign language is what defines them as a unique culture.

In New Scientist magazine, Rachel Nowak quotes researcher Harlan Lane as saying, “Deaf people argue that they use a different language, and with it comes a different culture, but there is certainly nothing wrong with them that needs fixing with a surgeon’s scalpel. We should listen.”

Australian researcher Richard Dowell has shown that when profoundly deaf children receive cochlear implants before the age of 1, they develop normal language skills. Nowak quotes Shani Dettman, who works with Dowell, as saying, “The kids still don’t have normal hearing, but they have normal language. They can have a conversation, make a joke, lie, tease?all those normal things that 4 or 5-year-olds do.”

Advocates of implants say that while they don?t give deaf people normal hearing, they do give them the option of whether or not to join the larger world or remain part of the deaf culture, and the freedom to make this choice throughout their lives. But some deaf people insist that they can never fully be part of the mainstream, so they should embrace deaf culture?and sign language?instead.

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