Since first approved 30 years ago, cochlear hearing implants have grown in popularity. As the technology has improved, newer implants can restore a user's hearing to 70% of normal levels. In total, implants of cochlear hearing aids reach approximately 220,000 every year.
Many deaf people, however, view their lack of hearing as a natural part of who they are as a person. Following the introduction of some cochlear implants, deaf advocacy groups protested outside of hospitals. With the new devices, the culture that has arisen around a world without hearing may slowly erode.
In particular, sign language is on the decline. With newer cochlear implants, patients find that they don't need to communicate with others in visual ways. With over 200 sign languages currently in existence, this part of the deaf culture could face extinction.
For deaf activists, new technologies are only more worrisome. One study by the University of Miami showed that the majority of deafness genes will be identified in the next 10 years. Based on this, genetic therapy or screening for deafness could become prominent.
With newer implants transmitting sound directly to the brain, deafness may be a thing of the past. While some may consider the rejection of hearing implants to be a practice in Neo-Luddism, the end of hearing loss could spell the end of deaf culture.