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The Artificial Ear

Cochlear Implants and the Culture of Deafness

Stuart Blume

Publication Year: 2010

Part ethnography and part historical study, The Artificial Ear is based on interviews with researchers who were pivotal in the early development and implementation of the new technology necessary for cochlear implants. Through an analysis of the scientific and clinical literature, Stuart Blume reconstructs the history of artificial hearing from its conceptual origins in the 1930s, to the first attempt at cochlear implantation in Paris in the 1950s, and to the widespread clinical application of the "bionic ear" since the 1980s.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book has been long in the making and has deep roots. My interest in the development and the consequences of new technologies of health care was the result of my work, in the 1970s, as secretary of a British government committee on Social Inequalities in Health. How and why innovation in health care technology seems so often to exacerbate social inequalities, to be the cause ...

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1. The Promise of New Medical Technology

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pp. 1-29

Impaired hearing is widespread. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from it, of whom more than 10 million have difficulty following normal conversational speech. Although hearing loss is far more common in older people, it also affects close to half a million children in the United States. The vast majority of these children, even those born totally deaf, have parents ...

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2. The Making of the Cochlear Implant

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pp. 30-57

On February 25, 1957, Professor Charles Eyries of the medical faculty in Paris became the first surgeon in the world to try to give a deaf patient some hearing by means of an electrode implanted into his ear. That hearing was associated with the passage of electrical currents had been established long before. As early as 1800, the famous Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (after ...

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3. The Cochlear Implant and the Deaf Community

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pp. 58-84

For a while, in the mid-1980s, cochlear implantation seemed to be faltering. Despite endorsement by the medical profession, the market was growing far more slowly than manufacturers had expected. It was recognized that financial barriers were holding back sales of the device and that hospitals faced financial disincentives. Nevertheless, the discovery that few adult deaf people seemed ...

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4. The Globalization of a Controversial Technology

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pp. 85-110

Despite the controversy, the cochlear implant is now a commercial success. Growth has been considerable and is expected to continue. Two decades ago, less than two thousand people had been implanted worldwide. Today a single manufacturer reports that its 120,000th device has been implanted, and that in 2007 nearly 16,000 devices were sold.1 Despite the controversy, the ...

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5. Implantation Politics in the Netherlands

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pp. 111-143

When the first attempts at developing a cochlear prosthesis, in the 1970s, became known in the Netherlands, responses were mixed. Some ENT surgeons, including Egbert Huizing, were intrigued and wanted to try it out. But others were more doubtful. The Amsterdam professor L.B.W. Jongkees, a leading figure in Dutch otology, wrote a highly skeptical piece in the country’s ...

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6. Contexts of Uncertainty: Parental Decision Making

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pp. 144-172

Ever since the early 1980s, parents of deaf children have been central to the cochlear implant controversy. At that time, when implanting children was seen as a risky step that few surgeons were willing to take, organizations of parents of deaf children were angry and anxious. The French organization, ANPEDA, considered the step premature. Its leaders resented the idea of their ...

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7. Politics and Medical Progress

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pp. 173-197

Early development of the cochlear implant was motivated by scientific curiosity, by desire to help people whose loss of hearing caused them suffering, by dreams of vanquishing deafness. Progress then depended crucially on developments extraneous to the field: the emergence of microelectronic components and biocompatible materials, political interest in artificial ...


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pp. 199-219


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pp. 221-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780813549118
E-ISBN-10: 0813549116
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813546599
Print-ISBN-10: 0813546591

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010