Friday, February 01, 2008

Who did really say about "fixing" Deaf People?

Regarding the debate at MishkaZena's blog, the parents of cochlear implanted children disagreed how the term "fix" should be used to describe the implant being inserted in Deaf children. I am not here to debate (support or not to support) this term since the goal is for you to see how the medical field and the Deaf community perceived the word "fix". I also would like to include about my experience how I was confronted with the term "fix". In addition, the purpose of this blog entry is not to further divide the Deaf community but to educate the world that the term fix can be a controversial word to describe someone getting a cochlear implant or any sort of listening devices. Is this one of the terms considered outdated just like the same way how former terms (for example terms that used to describe African Americans) are no longer in use?

Since I grew up wearing one hearing aid and being immersed in both worlds, I had never heard of anyone asking me if it "fixes" my hearing. What's even funny was that the very first time I was approached about 12 years ago by an elder woman who was my neighbor who asked me out of the blue during our conversations about flowers, "So when will you get your hearing fixed?". Knowing that she was an educated woman that she taught accounting in high school and retired at that time, I was amused. I replied with calm voice that I didn't need to get my hearing fixed and that there was nothing to fix to begin with. I went on explaining the joys and blessings of ASL and Deaf culture and being able to communicate almost with everyone, both Deaf and hearing. She then said oh and looked at me with full of wonders. I realized that this woman happened to be ignorant about the Deaf but I was sure she learned not to use that word again. But there are still many people, including the medical field, using that word, "fix", when it comes to "improve" the hearing level of Deaf children and adults. Read on....

In the Courier Journal, there was an article about a boy who already had a cochlear implant requesting for another one. This was his own question: “Can you fix my ears?” the 7-year-old asked his father, John. Of course, he is only seven years old at that time and may not find the right vocabulary to describe it but it seemed to me that his father accepted this term and may not have corrected his usage of this vocabulary to a different word in order to prep for his interview or it may be that he blurted out the word "fix" for the first time during the interview. Who knows?

Here is another article talking about cloning conducted by the New Mexico State University researcher . The title was: "Cloning could fix hearing problems" that was found in the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine website. It even assumed that " 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from hearing loss and the patients' ages range from 2 to 100." Suffer? Now that is offensive to me just like how fix is offensive. I reckon that it may apply to those who lost their hearing all of sudden after enjoying their years of listening sounds and music but the problem with this statement is being lumped to all individuals who are Deaf.

In Deaf Children Australia website, I find it interesting that they used the term "fix" three times when talking about fixing the ear drums and a sensorineural loss not when inserting a cochlear implant. I have copied and paste the part of the website that uses the fix term.

"Can an operation fix conductive hearing losses?

Often middle ear problems can be fixed through an operation, such as draining the excess fluid. Alternatively, specialists may place grommets (or tubes) in the ear drum to allow more air to circulate if there is too much fluid. If the small bones have stiffened, the may replace them with plastic or stainless steel.

Can an operation fix a sensorineural loss?

Sensorineural hearing losses cannot be cured surgically, but in some cases, the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants may help children hear and develop speech.

At least this article made it clear that it is not a cure. But is it right for them to use the term "fix" when attempting to restore hearing? Now making it more related to those who use hearing aids and cochlear implants, they still use the term fix.

Will a hearing aid fix all hearing problems?

A hearing aid is just an aid to hearing. It does not fix the hearing loss because there is damage in the ear itself. A hearing aid only amplifies sound, and if there is any background noise, most hearing aids will amplify that as well. A hearing aid cannot make sound clearer. This is why many children and adults with hearing aids may still have trouble understanding speech. However, many deaf children and adults benefit enormously from hearing aids and rely on them to participate in general society."

Since this article tends to use the word fix, I find it interesting that they didn't use the word fix when asking about cochlear implants. But I bet that if you ask them if we can post the question to ask: Will a cochlear implant fix all hearing problem? They would accept this question since they did when asking about hearing aids.

Ok, let's move on to another website that focuses on Deaf individuals including Jane Fernandes to see how do they perceive about the term "fix".

JANE FERNANDEZ: "Again and again we've seen social influences that try to fix deaf people." Given her history of being a strong advocate of cochlear implant as a part of technology that changes the Deaf culture just as technology is changing the whole society, I am surprised that she even perceives and uses the term "fix" to describe the society's view toward Deaf people to have their hearing fixed.

I have cut and pasted an excerpt from the article, "Eradicating the DEAF-WORLD" by Kristina Flores describing her views of the doctors wanting to fix Deaf people.

"The doctors want to "fix" Deaf people by inserting the cochlear implants. The main purpose of the implant is to move the child out of a linguistic and cultural minority and into the majority culture. Essentially, doctors and those who defend the implant are supporting the eradication of all Deaf people. If every child had the implant, then eventually (in the doctors’ perfect world) there would be no Deaf people. But this is unrealistic and ridiculous. "

In conclusion, it seems to me that it is common for the medical professionals to use the term "fix" that may have influenced the Deaf community members using this term. It is like asking which comes first, the chicken or the egg?


deaf community said...

your analysis is so intensive. I completely agree with you. Good points.

mishkazena said...

Thanks, Barb, for clarifying where the word 'fixing' come from and why some of us feel this way

GalaxyAngelz said...

Same thing like you made comment "FIX"

Isn't solution!

That what I did made my vlog statement issue CI and seek for solution is "fix"
check it out my vlog:
which it was my 2nd vlog.

Totally I do agree w/you actually I don't understand why Hearing Parents are seek for way to out and help fix their babies.
Sad for Hearing Parents aren't knowledge about solution and decide to ask Doctor and asking for help. Doctor is very happy to help them and solution is CI.. Excuse me, They are looking for poorly resoures helpful solution. I cannot image that why they prefer use "FIX" their babies and improve future better ways. Not even think twice about Babies have no speak or rights.. how about not even think about child may not happy when grow up patience through suffer what part of side effects and other areas issue inside their burden make parent happy.. Isn't fair for the Deaf child's future and happiness?
(Pretty break my heart)

Davy said...

I heard that several time "FIX it"
ha try fix over over can mess up.
Age get older and older as nothing can fix better because doctor is not perfect at all. Only One who can fix it that is God period.


cuong aka buzz said...

sighed! hearing made me think that we as asl users misuse "fix" first. now you proved that hearing did invent "fix" to feed in first place.

barb gigi, thank you for clarifying asl as innocent who did not invent "fix". agbell disgrace me.


Deaf chat said...

Thanks for your article. It let us know where the word 'fix' come from.

SlackinPenguin said...

I suppose you could get away with saying "fix the ear" or you might even get away with saying "getting one's hearing fixed". However, I would think it would be a whole other thing to say, "fix one's child" or "fix a deaf child".

Know what I mean?

I know that you could find all kinds of sources around the internet that use the term "fix" in the concept we're interested in at the moment, but that doesn't make it right. I'm sure I'd have no problem finding the term "deaf mute" on the internet, but we all know that "deaf mute" is quite offensive.

We, the deaf folks, have often asked the hearing world to please not use particular terms when describing us because it offends and hurts us. Now we have parents of cochlear implanted deaf children asking us to please not use the term "fix" because it hurts and offends them. If we're going to refuse to oblige them, what leg are we going to stand on when we complain about words that describe us?

Just my 2 cents.

Barb DiGi said...

Not all hearing parents feel that way about using the term fix when it comes to implanting their children as you can see on MZ's blog.

The purpose of this article is to show how the term fix was originated, used and by whom.

Barb DiGi said...


To me, fixing the ear and fixing a Deaf person is almost the same just like when you say fixing my car or fixing my engine. When you say fixing the ear, it means to correct the hearing problem. When we say fixing a Deaf child, it also means fixing their hearing problem. Nevertheless, we need to recognize that we all have our own interpretation on how the word fix is used in a content.

But one thing I can tell you for sure is that it is obvious the term fix contains a negative meaning to both the Deaf and the parents of CI children. Unfortunately, there will always be certain individuals using that word with or without being aware that it can be offensive to some.

SlackinPenguin said...

Yes, I understand that. Please understand that I am not attacking or scolding you. I am only offering my opinion of this whole "fix" deal.

At the end of your eloquent article you stated, "In conclusion, it seems to me that it is common for the medical professionals to use the term "fix" that may have influenced the Deaf community members using this term. It is like asking which comes first, the chicken or the egg?"

My point is that it doesn't matter who started it. The medical professionals are the ones who came up with the term "deaf mute", but that doesn't make it right. We've voiced our objections at the use of the term when describing us. Thankfully, we are seeing less and less use of the term.

Now we have the relatively new cochlear implant and now we have relatively new words to describe them or people who have them. Hearing parents of cochlear implanted deaf children are asking us to please not use the word "fix", even though the medical professionals use it. They aren't suggesting that the deaf community came up with the word in question, they are only politely asking that it not be used because they feel hurt by it.

True, not all hearing parents of cochlear implanted children mind the use of the term "fix". I'm also sure that years ago not all deaf people minded the term "deaf mute". Another example would be the term "hearing impaired". I hate that term because it has negative connotations to it and it invokes a vision of something being broken. I prefer the term "deaf" and I always ask hearing people to refer to me as being deaf rather than hearing impaired. I know that there are deaf people out there that don't mind "hearing impaired", but that doesn't stop me from objecting when it is used to describe me.

Really, it all boils down to respect. Forget about who said what or who came up with the word. What really matters is the here and now, the future, whether you're going to oblige those who ask you not to use the word.

Cheers Barb, I do enjoy reading your blogs and watching your vlogs. You often provoke me to think and I appreciate it!

SlackinPenguin said...

Oops, my last post was in response to the post before last. I think we're crossing posts now. Sorry for any confusion.

SlackinPenguin said...

"To me, fixing the ear and fixing a Deaf person is almost the same just like when you say fixing my car or fixing my engine. When you say fixing the ear, it means to correct the hearing problem. When we say fixing a Deaf child, it also means fixing their hearing problem."

On that point, we're going to have to agree to disagree.

Between you and me, this whole thing is mind boggling. I mean, first we, the deaf, refuse to acknowledge that we are "broken" only to turn around and accept that we can "fix" a deaf child. The only things you can fix are things that are broken, unless you're a sotherner "fixin'" to cook some dinner, but that's another matter entirely :)

Point is, it seems like we're trying to have our cake and eat it too. We're saying "we are not broken" and then we're saying "parents fix their deaf children with the CI".

Quite confusing and if we continue to insist on using the term "fix" we will have no right to object to those who call us "broken".

SlackinPenguin said...

Sorry Barb, I just realized that I've taken over your blog.

Honest, I didn't intend that. I'll shut up now. :)

Barb DiGi said...

Hi SP,

Really, I don't feel you are attacking at all. Frankly, I am enjoying having this discourse with you to better understand about the topic. You are provoking me to think as well!

I am not sure if it does really matter about who started it. Since we can see that the medical field or some hearing people use the word fix, Deaf people are also using this term. What prompted the Deaf to use that term? Was it because they borrowed the term from them?

One thing for sure that I agree with you that it is a matter of respect. However, some used the word fix unintentionally to offend anyone. When they blurted out the word, it seems to me that they have been put in a hot seat.

I don't think that it is true that most Deaf individuals would accept using the term fix to identify themselves that they are "broken". I just noticed that they tend to use this word on how they were perceived by the hearing world, not necessarily that they agree that it is an appropriate way to use "fix" when using a type of assistive listening devices.

But again, like I said, every individual has their own interpretation. Some of them may think it is nothing wrong and some of them think it is so offensive. It goes the same that some of them perceive the term hearing impaired offensive and some of them think it is not.

Squ65 said...

As a young girl, I often was told to fix my new BTE hearing aid because it fell off my ear. My dad advised my brothers and sisters to tell me this. *eyes rolled*

Barb DiGi said...

Squ65: They told you to have your hearing aid fixed, right? Did they ever tell you to have your hearing fix? These are two different things.

Suey said...

So funny you brought this up! So how do you explain to a two year old? Here is funny quick story...

Just yesterday, I was telling my two year old that I couldn't hear him and that my ears were broken. I told him I had to get my hearing aid. He responded, "Go get it!" then I got it and put it on. He then asked, "did you fix it?" LOL No idea where this come from? Your VLOG? Good timing!

Suey said...

Er I mean BLOG...

Deb Ann said...

Oh, I am so thrilled! Thank you!

Jean Boutcher said...

The term, "fix," is a colloquial word in a non-medical or non-scientific conversation.

When a medical professional talks about a medical case with another medical professional, the term, "fix," would not be used, but he would, by all means, use it when in a colloquoal conversation with his family or friends.


If an ignorant person who wants to hurt or humiliate you, he would use a nasty term or accuse you of "elephantem ex musca facis" ( Latin for making "an elephant out of a fly").

Therefore, one has to look at the tone of a comment, to listen to the intonation of, or to watch the facial expression of a hearing person before drawing a final conclusion.

I was there and saw absolutely no reason for a hearing person to get angry at or scream at a deaf person for using a term, "fix," as long as the term is used in a non-medical blog. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. Too much ado about nothing!

Oh, by the way, I will have my hair FIXED tomorrow, for I have not had my haircut since last month. ;)

tar2006 said...

Very well.. You said it all.. :-)

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Suey! Aww how cute! Your son using the word fix may not even think it is offensive, heh?

Hi Deb Ann,

Glad to know you feel this way. Why, you are welcome!

Hi Jean,

Perhaps you may be right that a medical professional talks about a medical case with another medical professional may not use the word "fix," but may use it with his family or friends. But please allow me to point out that websites that are aassociated to "hearing loss" tend to use the word "fix". For example, Deaf Children Australia website and now this Hearing Loss website using the title, "Steroids usually fix sudden hearing loss."

I guess this parent was being very sensitive and may be over reactive when seeing someone using this fix word. It is how she feels but I wished that there was a more diplomatic approach rather than having this blogger to be smeared with capitalized sentence that may be interpreted as a negative tone.

By the way, I just had my neck FIXED by having a surgery last week. I surely felt better!

Hi Tar,

Thanks! It is just a matter of perspective to analyze how this fix word has been used.

B.A.D. said...

Hi Barb!

WOW! Great Blog....enjoyed reading your blog.

You said it all...what can I say? :-) Except that I agree with you.

Surgery is a FIX. Fix is for Surgery. So when one has a surgery (like CI) it is a "Fix for to become hearing" simple as that!

Misha said...

*hands wave*

Great blog, Barb! I'm glad you clarify that term, "fix".
I believe that term "fix" is the norm for everyone for a long time. I can't fathom how could some parents of CI children objected to that term in Mishka's blog. I believe the discussions/objections were overblown. Mishka used that word without being derogatory. I don't know why they felt it is a derogatory word. Of course it's not intentioned by most of us because that word is constantly used.

Great job, Barb!

Misha :D

Misha said...

Make the note on my grammar mistake. I mean I believe the discussions/objections were overblown out of proportion. Forgot to add that end of three words.

Misha :D

Squ65 said...

Barb quotes:
"Squ65: They told you to have your hearing aid fixed, right? Did they ever tell you to have your hearing fix? These are two different things."

Yes I am aware of both are two different things. Never heard someone asking you if your hearing is being fixed or not. I think Fix -- evolved into some better words these days. :-) It brings me my memories of the past. That's all.

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

I found this post very interesting, thank you for giving such great detail and links. First of all I was not screaming at Elizabeth, we have clarified that aspect of all of this. I was angry at the insensitivity of the use of the word "Fix" by the Deaf community, which to me implied that I find something defective in my son - his deafness. Not the case. Instead of repeating everything that SlackinPenguin said, I will just say re-read her comments, they are how I feel. I appreciate the fact that this issue has been repeatedly discussed and that people are beginning to understand how many parents may feel strongly in regard to the use of this word. Perhaps I need to reach out to the medical community to use it with more sensitivity as well...the idea that they write "suffers from deafness" affects me in the same way as "fixed" if that helps you understand my point a little better. Really good post. Jodi

Barb DiGi said...

Hi B.A.D. and Misha: Some people do use the term fix when it comes to surgery to improve the condition. However, some disliked how this term is used to apply those who receive implants. This is what we need to recognize how they are feeling about it. But again for those who use the term may not intentionally offend them.

Hi Diane (Squ65): So you never heard if anyone asked you if your hearing can be fixed? I did but only once. I see that you are explaining your experience when it comes to "fix" relating to your hearing aid. It would be definitely different if someone asked you have your hearing fixed like I was confronted making me feeling a bit offended.

Hi Jodi,

I got to tell you that I could not get to read your blog at all because everytime I click on your link from Deafread, I always got bombed forcing me to quit my server. I mean everytime! Is it only me having this problem? Is there a way this can be corrected? This is the first time I am having this problem being ousted from a blog.

Anyway back to the point, I understand your point of view about the term fix and I appreciate your feedback to make us more aware how parents like you view this term. It is a matter of raising awareness for both the medical community and the Deaf community.

I think what bothered me the most is the reaction itself but again I realize that I have no way of knowing the actual tone. Just by simply reading your capitalized statement may send a multiple interpretations to all of us. Now it is clear to me about your actual intentions of your message and thanks for clarifying it.

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

Hi Barb,
Thanks for your response. You can go to my blog directly at I've learned my lesson about all caps *smile* still learning...Jodi

Anonymous said...

“No cochlear implant team, which adheres to standards of medical ethics, would lead parents to believe that the implant is an easy fix. Member of cochlear implant should inform parents that there is an alternative lifestyle available to their child that they should explore prior to making a decision.”

“Using deaf children as lab rats and medical guinea pigs is profoundly disturbing.”
Controversies in otolaryngology
By Myles L Pensak

"Implanting babies and children is irresponsible, activists argue, because it's done for the convenience of hearing parents. Trying to "fix" a deaf child is like trying to fix someone because he or she speaks Chinese, said Jennifer Huxtable, 30, of Kent who became deaf as an infant."

“As a result of this division, one group supports the use of cochlear implants to medically "repair" deafness in children with a sensorineural hearing loss while the other believes the children's natural condition should be emphasized. Those who support cochlear implants believe that normalization is the key to success for deaf children. On the other side, the Deaf community and others opposed to cochlear implants feel that deafness should be looked at as a cultural identity, not a disability.”

Li-Li's Mom said...

I don't object to the term "fix" in general, and it doesn't really offend me if someone uses it casually to refer to fixing a broken bone or a tooth. But I just don't like it very much when used to indicate that a CI can "fix" deafness or my child for a couple of reasons:

1. It suggests that getting a CI can fix or repair some part that isn't functioning, and CI doesn't repair anything, it just bypasses the part of the hearing pathway that isn't working and, when the processor is turned on, feeds an approximation of sound to the auditory nerve; and

2. it gives the message that the person had to be fixed like a broken object, which is not a message I want the hearing or the deaf communities to give her.

Having an artificial pacemaker implanted doesn't fix the heart, it serves a function that the heart's natural pacemaker can't do on its own. Using a prosthetic arm doesn't fix a missing limb, it just serves to replace the function of the arm. A CI doesn't come close to what the human ear can do, and it doesn't fix anything, not the ear functionality, the deafness, or the person.

It's not that I think anyone is trying to be intentionally offensive or antagonistic with the term, but I just wanted to put out there how I feel when someone gives their concerns, which I welcome and think are often valid, about "fixing deaf children" and what I associate it with, which might be how some others see it, too.

Barb DiGi makes such an important point: in writing, as opposed to ASL or speech, it's sometimes hard to know the tone, and that makes all of the difference in the world when I think about whether "fix" is offensive or not.

Squ65 said...

Oh yea I would be offended if I am asked if my hearing needs to be fixed. I have an auburn hair Why would I need my hair fixed? It is the same thing I born with an auburn color hair and again I born deaf. I feel so human. I was watching TV 20/20 a few weeks ago .. The guy born without legs (and hip?) -- simply uses his own skateboard to go everywhere. It is cool he wears a huge "shoe" under him. It made out of leather and a strong rubber sole. He dislikes using the prosthesis legs and wheelchair. I forget his name thou but he mentioned he born naturally. Everyone is different. Why bother to be "fixed"? The guy is a well known photographer. He travels everywhere in Europe with his camera ... His works strike me a big time. Many stares at him (as if he is different) while he takes picture of them .. without knowing! I will send the link to you and the Deafread later on. I will find the Hope it will help me to get his website. Sorry I got carried away! Have a good day.

Anna Marie said...

It may be true that the hearing culture may have a different point of view about how the word fix is used as compared to the Deaf culture. For example, I noticed that they use fix in many different content while the Deaf may use fix in a different way. So it may be not typical for them to say,"Want me to fix your lunch?" Or even funny, "Just wait till I fix your ass!!"

Deaf Pixie said...


I think the hearing parents want to fix their baby. FIX is not solution is not something that Doctor knew everything about CI.

It made their money to spend on CI expense or Insurance to pay for these.

Fix is not something that Doctor advise parents who might be helpless?

It is frustration for hearing parent just need to beleive the fix would helped. "Sad, there is misinformation by doctor."
I agree with GalaxyAngelz's comment is kind of clarifty

K.L. said...

I think Deaf Pixie shows a perfect example. In her words, we want to "fix" our children. That would be a Deaf person accusing us hearing parents of getting a CI to "fix" our imperfect children. She doesn't get it at all. It is using fix in a very negative way. It is wrong to accuse us of that. If she wants to persist in her belief that this is the reason we have our children implanted, then there is nothing that will change her mind.

It is the insult behind the word that I object to. Labels are used to minimize other people. It is wrong. Please don't minimize hearing parents for doing what we feel is in the best interest of our children. It is ok not to agree. It is wrong to insult.