Who Is Normal?; August 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by John Rennie; 3 Page(s)
Four-year-old Jeremy Scharf is mischievous, outgoing--and profoundly deaf. Since this past March, however, when physicians at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine activated an electronic implant in his left ear, he has become an avid fan of birdsongs and music boxes. The implant takes over the functions of the boy's defective cochlea, the organ that sends signals to the auditory nerve. His mother, Roni, recalls that Jeremy recently complained about the noise she was making while emptying the dishwasher. "He told me to be quiet," she says. "It was wonderful."
Most onlookers might consider the availability of such devices an unalloyed blessing. Yet many people who are deaf or have other disabilities complain that attempts to devise medical "fixes" for their conditions are sometimes dangerously misguided. To Nancy Bloch, who is deaf and the executive director of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), cochlear implants for children are so untried that they amount to "medical experimentation. As dirty as it sounds, that's exactly what it is."