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Implanted: Technology and Connection in the Deaf World

Joseph Calamia

Implant engineers, audiologists, bioethicists, and deaf individuals on the changing and diverse reactions of the deaf community to chochlear implants.

In 1984, the FDA approved a medical device called a cochlear implant for adult use in the United States. Unlike assistive hearing technologies that came before it, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants could offer wider access to sound even to the profoundly deaf. Given adult success with the device, the FDA lowered in 1990 the required age for implantation to two years old. The following year the National Association of the Deaf published a position statement on cochlear implants comparing them to “cultural genocide.” This thesis explores two parallel stories. Drawing on interviews with implant engineers, surgeons, audiologists, and other specialists, the piece describes how cochlear implants function and how the devices have improved since the 1980s. Equally, the thesis pulls from interviews with bioethicists, deaf and hard of hearing individuals, educators at a signing deaf school, and others in the deaf community to describe the unique attributes and history of deaf culture and the changing and diverse reactions of the deaf community to this medical device.


Written by
Joseph Calamia

Joseph Calamia is the senior commissioning editor for the University of Chicago science, technology, and mathematics books program. Recent publications include an updated and illustrated edition of Carl Zimmer's A Planet of Viruses, Mary Beth Meehan and Fred Turner's Seeing Silicon Valley, Sandra Knapp's Extraordinary Orchids, and Paul Davies' What's Eating the Universe. He comes to Chicago after nearly a decade commissioning books at Yale University Press, where he has worked with authors in digital studies, including Zeynep Tufekci, Kate Crawford, and danah boyd. In the sciences and mathematics, he has published authors including Priyamvada Natarajan, Francis Su, and Marcia Bartusiak. His education is in physics, environmental studies, and science writing, and he holds degrees from Cornell University, Yale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Thesis: Implanted: Technology and Connection in the Deaf World

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