Thursday, July 18, 2013

Technology threatens sign languages

"New technologies mean more worries for deaf activists... A recent paper by the University of Miami concluded that in a decade most of the genes linked to deafness will be identified. That could lead to easier treatment (or, some fear, the abortion of fetuses bearing those genes). Implants are getting cleverer, too. A three-year-old from North Carolina is the first child in America to have one wired directly into his brainstem. A touching video of the boy hearing his father speak for the first time has gone viral. Yet Joe Valente, a deaf professor of early-years education at Pennsylvania State University, points at research showing the risk of infection from cochlear implants, particularly for the young. Deaf children with implants who use only spoken language perform worse at school than their peers who learn sign language. Cristina Hartmann, a deaf lawyer from New York who received her implant at the age of six, complains that even after a decade of speech therapy she did not talk and hear like a normal person. And 70% hearing is still a handicap: certain pitches can be inaudible and noisy places confusing."

Read the full article in The Economist here.