“Deaf Person Hears for the First Time” Videos

You know those emotional YouTube videos of someone’s cochlear implant activation, usually ending in happy exclaims and tears of joy. Friends have shared a few of these on my Facebook wall because I have a cochlear implant too, and really, I don’t mind. Joy is a good thing to spread, and I generally applaud more additions to our bionic army.

If you have any familiarity with the d/hh community, though, you know there are mixed reactions. Some of them get pretty heated. (And the Titanic sprung a leak.) In fact, there was an article on Wired a while back titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Share Those Emotional ‘Deaf Person Hears for the First Time’ Videos.” I disagree somewhat with that article, by the way. So, here’s some middle-ground perspective.

The thing to remember is that these videos are usually of late-deafened individuals who want to hear again, or babies who have no clue what’s going on. The impact will be somewhat different for those who, for whatever reason, don’t regard hearing as a big part of their lives.

I became deaf at eighteen months, so I have always relied far more heavily on sight than sound. When I got my implant at ten years old, my reaction was, “Oh, I can hear more now. Cool.” That was it. I can’t miss what I’ve never had. I’ve also known several late-deafened people who found that they just didn’t really miss their hearing that much.

These videos also don’t show the time and effort that goes into post-surgery recalibration, because you often have some neurolinguistic programming to overcome. It’s not an instantaneous process.[*] As a result, they can give off the mistaken impression that the cochlear implant is a “cure” for deafness. It’s not. It’s an incredibly useful tool, but it doesn’t restore hearing as most people know it.

[*] However, it’s also not the burden that some anti-cochlear implant detractors have made it out to be; I spent one night in the hospital and went back to school after three days, and that was in 2000. CI surgeries have advanced immensely since then, to the point that it’s usually now performed as an outpatient procedure. I also resumed speech therapy as usual, just with a different focus.

ALL THAT SAID. Don’t let anyone guilt you into not sharing or liking these videos. Usually they’re intended to share the original poster’s happiness with the world, not to be hurtful or malicious, and that happiness alone is worth celebrating. The important thing is to keep them in perspective.

2 thoughts on ““Deaf Person Hears for the First Time” Videos

  1. Amen to this. Many of you are going to get tired of me repeating this ad nauseam but the trick here is to see implants not as a cure nor as a scarlett letter but rather as a means of access to information, one way or another.

    To use a silly analogy, there’s a lot of angst between PC and Mac users but at the end, everyone wants to use social media to talk to others.


  2. I already knew that Cochlear Implant is not a cure in the past. In most cases, a lot of hearing people’s words, ” CI is a cure! CI is a magic! ” in their head! It’s in their brain! I don’t blame them. They expect the deaf child to be normal hearing like other hearing peers. That’s why, when the deaf child get activated CI and hear which makes the hearing folks think, ” Oh, my deaf child can hear like hearing . ” I have seen it many times. I wish CI is a cure , but it’s not! I have CI on my left ear. I love hearing things around me. I believe in hearing Technology. CI Technology is so amazing! There is now advanced in CI Technology. Did you know that there will have Stem to restore hearing in next 10 to 15 years? We will see. That’s all!


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