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Sweet Nothings In My Ear

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http://www.cbs.com/specials/sweet_nothing_in_my_ear/

http://www.cbs.com/specials/sweet_nothing_in_my_ear/about/

Sweet Nothing in My Ear

Hallmark Hall of Fame Special

CBS

Sunday, April 20th

09:00 PM US Eastern and Pacific

08:00 PM US Central

120 minutes (02:00 hrs.)

Closed Captioned

The parents (Jeff Daniels, Marlee Matlin) in a close and loving family come to a critical moment in their marriage when they disagree over whether their deaf child (Noah Valencia) should have an operation that could restore partial hearing, but with some risks involved. Joanna: Sonya Walger. Max: Ed Waterstreet. Sally: Phyllis Frelich. Leonard: David Oyelowo. Dr. Flynt: John Rubinstein. Stephen Sachs adapted the screenplay from his stage play by the same name.

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The commercial for this TV movie says the parents disagree and then have to try to come together to support their deaf son.

I know this is a very controversial subject. Some are for and some are against, and it is not for everyone.

But I think it's important to consider the issues and be aware of how it affects people.

I would remind members that we have deaf and hard of hearing members here, and I'd ask us to respect their feelings and opinions. This is a very emotionally charged subject.

It affects others of us too, because there is research going on for ways to restore or provide sight; or muscle movement for people with motor disabilities; and many other thihngs.

My own opinions on things like this are conflicted.

I would ask you to please watch the movie, if you think you can.

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This is one of those ethical issues that has no easy answer. I am not hearing impaired, but it is a topic I've actually thought about in the context of being gay, designer babies, etc. The last X-Men movie dealt with the basic question. What is simply another way of being normal? As a gay man, I don't feel that I have an illness or abnormality nor would I accept a treatment that would make me into something else.

I have come up with opinions that reflect my view of ethics.

A child who is deaf is a different case from an adult who loses hearing as a result of disease or accident. In most cases, the adult has the ability to make decisions; whereas, a very young child does not. This is the situation presented in this movie. One parent is deaf and one is not. Both parents love their son and want the best for him. In a situation like this, I would give more weight to the opinion of the parent who is deaf. In this story, it is the mother who is deaf. She has always been deaf and knows what obstacles the little boy will face growing up deaf. Clearly, she did not find deafness to be as limiting as her husband imagines it will be for the little boy. I know from a developmental point of view, the earlier a child receives cochlear implants the better for developing spoken speech. I also know that cochlear implants do not provide a perfect replacement for natural hearing. I would hope in a real life situation like this one, the hearing parent would be persuaded. It does not bode well for a marriage if one partner forces an opinion on the other.

From what I have read and seen, most deaf people do not feel disabled anymore than a gay person who is comfortable in his or her skin feels abnormal. Obviously, a deaf person would be challenged in a job that required audible communication such as air traffic controller, but if deafness was the rule rather than the exception we would have developed ways of performing the job. As it is, I think technology will open up more paths for deaf people.

That opinion is not a one size fits all statement. For instance, someone who is blind faces a different set of challenges. I know most blind people will find ways to cope, and I think most of the reasoning will still apply. Audible communication is not a challenge for the majority of people who are blind, but someone who is blind would have a difficult time being an air traffic controller, which is a career that is even more dependent on sight than it is on hearing. Again, if blindness was the rule, we would have devised bahaviours and technology to perform the job.

The bottom line is adults who choose cochlear implants for themselves should have that option. I hope that if hearing parents of a deaf child consider this option for the child, they would investigate what it means to be deaf by contacting deaf adults and seeking to observe children attending a school for the deaf before making such a decision.

I will be interested to read the opinions of others on this subject.

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From what I have read and seen, most deaf people do not feel disabled anymore than a gay person who is comfortable in his or her skin feels abnormal.

I've heard this before, and that's just screwy. Being a minority -- gay, black, or whatever -- is one thing, but deafness is clearly a defect, just as is being blind or having no sense of smell. If scientists have the ability to fix it, they should do it.

I've heard similar arguments made by ultra-religious zealots against operating on brain-damaged kids, on the grounds that "it was God's will that this child be born this way." That's a total crock.

To equate being gay with being deaf or blind is a ridiculous insult. I say being gay is ingrained in our DNA, and it's no more a disability than being black or Hispanic. I'd say, give the kid the ear implant, and if they don't like the experiencing of hearing, pull out the battery and go back to the way they originally were.

Sidenote: I had an older relative who had a hearing aid, and I remember once being at his house, when his wife was nagging him about something, then left the room. He turned to me and said, "the great thing about having this hearing aid is, when she starts bugging me, I turn the volume down, and it's like she's no longer in the room." We both had a good laugh over that.

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I see a number of interesting sides to this issue.

The mother is unaware of what the deprivation of being deaf is, because she is deaf herself.

As a sound oriented person myself, I would hate to be without my hearing. I doubt I would be able to cope.

I think too Pecman's argument on defect versus minority is valid. I do have a difference of opinion about DNA being the cause of homosexuality. I think it might be one piece of a puzzle in some instances.

However what he says is effectively my view that homosexuality is part of the human experience like some people are black.

In the case of gay however I would see it as even wider part of human experience if so many people were not discouraged from exploring their (my opinion) natural inclinations for sexual expression with another human of the same sex.

Putting that aside however, I see a parallel in a certain religious sect banning blood transfusions to save a life.

In some places the religious belief can be overridden and the transfusion given in order to save the life even against the wishes of the family.

While I might sympathise with the right to religious belief, (even though I am atheist) I cannot condone just letting someone die, when life and quality of life can be restored. As a rule I do not agree with life support being used just to keep a body alive without some degree of quality of the awareness of life and its function. These are difficult areas, often requiring individual assessment. It is somewhat unfair to try to extract a general rule from one case.

Yet this case is far distant from these situations except for the danger of the medical procedure to implant the hearing device.

The case for the hearing repair operation is not the same however as the surgical procedure is not without risk, presumably to life itself.

So I can't in all consideration insist that the hearing implant surgery be enforced.

The problem is that the deaf child has no reference or capacity to know what he is missing at that early age. So the parents must suffer the guilt of acting or not acting.

I understand this very well. I was born with a congenital heart condition. My mother refused the then very experimental operations that might have repaired my heart but would more likely have served the purpose of telling the surgeon what not to do.

So I lived a more or less normal childhood, bypassing only sports which I didn't like anyway. I preferred ballet. Of course I didn't have the stamina to do that either. :sad:

I grew up reasonably healthy till I had a mild heart flutter at 16. The prognosis was I would become weaker and die. I decided to have the operation which was much more successful by then. My poor mother burst into tears, convinced that I had asked her to sign my death warrant.

My case was a lot easier for me to decide, because I knew what I would be missing out on.

The deaf child does not have that reference.

So in conclusion, I am sorry to have to cite my surgical history, again this week, :biggrin: but I feel it shows my argument that each case is different.

There are ethical and emotional problems in all these cases and I am not happy about forcing the issues for others.

It is not clearly black and white. In the same way a person can be gay or straight at different times of their lives. Some people are black and gay.

I am very depressed when I think of people who cannot hear the music we humans have created let alone the sounds of nature on this Earth.

However I do have to realise that my depression in this, is my problem, not the deaf person's.

The ethical and moral heartache in considering these situations, is the burden we all share.

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I've heard this before, and that's just screwy. Being a minority -- gay, black, or whatever -- is one thing, but deafness is clearly a defect, just as is being blind or having no sense of smell. If scientists have the ability to fix it, they should do it.

Just to play Devil's solicitor a bit here, I'll mention that the idea of homosexuality as something that is congenital, non-'defect'ive, or even deserving of 'minority status' (as opposed to simply being less numerous) is not universally accepted.

What exactly homosexuality is - a lifestyle, a choice, a sin, a heritage, a DNA codec, a culture or just one of many human sex quirks - is constantly debated.

Many persons who are 'black or whatever' argue today against the idea that homosexuals occupy, simply by virtue of sexual preferences or choices, a like social and legal position.

Des' contention that homosexuality is 'part of the human experience' cannot be denied, though whether it, like syphillis in these days of antibiotics, can or should be corrected is also a contentious subject - witness 'gay rehab' programs, anti-gay AIDS rhetoric and legal restraints.

Since the child's life is not at stake, I am not sure nor am I comfortable with the idea that government or even the general citizenry (read: TV pseudo news and tabs) should make the family's decision a matter of law...or even of public discussion.

If Deafness is a disability, isn't homosexuality, to some extent, also socially and financially disabling, at least when homosexuality is assumed (of straight or gay persons) by outsiders?

Just saying...

TR

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While I'll address these comments specifically, my remarks are intended for the members at large to consider. I don't intend to single out anyone.

I've heard this before, and that's just screwy. Being a minority -- gay, black, or whatever -- is one thing, but deafness is clearly a defect, just as is being blind or having no sense of smell. If scientists have the ability to fix it, they should do it.

Should they fix it if the child or adult who has it doesn't want it fixed? There's some point at which a child has some right to decide for himself if he wants corrective surgery or other measures. Is it neglect to let a child or adult refuse treatment?

Before you answer those, please consider that to override a person's wishes, once they are old enough to make an informed decision themselves, is in itself an invasion of that person's right to be himself, even if some would say such corrective measures would clearly be better.

I know friends who would be on both sides of this kind of issue. They have really valid opinions pro and con.

I would have to really think deeply before I agreed to anything further to correct/improve my vision, assuming it was possible.

I recommended the movie because I feel it explores many sides of the dilemma fairly. It is a rational and an emotional decision.

Is being deaf or blind (or partially deaf or blind) a defect? Oh, it might be simple to say, of course, it's an absence of an ability most people have. It is a limiting thing, yes. But realize that saying it's a defect is, indirectly and probably unintentionally, a way of implying or thinking that the person is therefore defective, and that is something we need to avoid in how we consider physical conditions. Yes, I realize you weren't intending to imply a person is defective, but it is a slippery slope, and one even deaf and blind people are prone to slip on.

To equate being gay with being deaf or blind is a ridiculous insult. I say being gay is ingrained in our DNA, and it's no more a disability than being black or Hispanic. I'd say, give the kid the ear implant, and if they don't like the experiencing of hearing, pull out the battery and go back to the way they originally were.

Respectfully, there are some things that being gay and being handicapped have in common, in how people treat the person and in how the person feels about himself. No, I do not mean that being gay is a disability or disease.

I don't think we should be insulted to compare being gay with being deaf or blind. If we can draw common ground between them that helps us, gay or otherwise, average or handicapped, to understand ourselves better, then I'm all for it.

I have pride in who I am, despite having a handicap that greatly limits some aspects of my life.

Note I didn't particularly intend anyone to draw a comparison between being deaf or blind and being gay, but it has been pointed out before in this forum that there are real similarities which we can learn from.

I recommended the movie because I felt it was a good dramatization of what it is to be deaf or hearing, handicapped or not, to share a world, and I felt it offered a good look at deaf culture, and a good dramatization of the issues surrounding cochlear implants.

Most of all, I felt it showed that the support of family and friends is vastly more important than any opinion on cochlear implants or on being handicapped.

If you missed that point from the movie, perhaps you should watch it again, more carefully...and less critically.

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Er, and... I put up the recommendation, simply in hopes people would watch and find the commonalities, rather than become divided over it.

The discussion so far has been good. I know you'll all have strong opinions and want to defend them. That's probably helpful, provided we remember what binds us all together.

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Respectfully, there are some things that being gay and being handicapped have in common, in how people treat the person and in how the person feels about himself. No, I do not mean that being gay is a disability or disease.

Blue, you misinterpret me. I apologize if you felt I was singling you out, because that was not my intention, and I didn't mean to imply you had said that being gay is a handicap.

To me, being gay is just a facet of personality, like a preference for being a vegetarian, or those who are "day people" vs. "night people." But it's not something like an injury. You can get hit in the head in an accident and wind up blind, deaf, or mentally handicapped, even paralyzed, but you won't wind up gay (or straight). [Which is a funny enough idea that Judd Apatow could turn that into a movie: Will Ferrell plays a guy who gets hit in the head, goes into a coma, and when he wakes up in the hospital, he's uncontrollably attracted to men, after a lifetime of being straight. There's a high concept movie for you.]

I think Des' comments above are exactly right. If the deaf parents making the decisions have never experienced hearing, then they're not using their best judgement over whether their child should have the operation.

At the same time, I'm enough of a civil libertarian to say that no way should the government force the decision on the parents. If it's not a life-threatening illness, the government should stay out of it. If the kid was dying of cancer, it'd be a different matter.

This does bring up the same question that came up elsewhere: if you could take a pill or have a minor operation that would make you 100% straight, would you do it? To me, being gay is so integral to who I am, I don't think I could do it. At the same time, I'm not sure I'd want to interfere if I had a child and -- in utero -- they determined that the kid would probably be born gay. If that happened, I think I would want him or her to have an easier life than me, and I'd let them give the kid an operation to be straight. Not because being gay is right or wrong, but simply that life is easier for straight people, generally speaking.

Still, it's something I'd have to really think about. I'm reminded of an LA story where a local news anchorperson, Bree Walker, made the decision to have more children. This proved controversial because she had been born with deformed hands (almost no fingers), and her children shared the same defect. Her response was, "I turned out to have a great life and a great career, and my kids could, too, even if they're born with the same defect." I thought that was reprehensible behavior -- dooming your children to have the same defect, knowing there was a 90% chance of it happening.

I got bullied and pushed around for years in school just because I was short, obnoxious, sarcastic, and wore glasses; I can only imagine how much worse it would've been if I had had no fingers. *yeeeesh*

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LOL, TR. I'm sure you know what I meant about commonalities binding ppl together.

Pecman, I didn't take what you said personally.

I'd really intended the topic to be about deafness and handicap awareness, or finding those common needs for support over differences.

And yes, I agree being gay is integral to who someone is. That goes back into earliest childhood, usually.

The issues, gay and straight, handicapped and not, are deeply personal, and what people think on the issues are opinions. I am not wise enough to say only one is right.

There are a great many risks involved in any procedure to improve a person's permanent physical condition. There's also some value in seeing that being human is about much more than that physical stuff, and that human beings can and do accomplish more than any of us think. That's why I can't easily answer any question about "should someone be changed or selected against." -- Do I wish there were an easy way to be healed of things like being deaf or blind or paralyzed or diabetic? Damn right. But it isn't quite that easy. We have to make hard, emotional and educated, informed decisions on such things...or we have to let those we care about have the independence, the rights, and the trust to make their own decisions.

I don't think there's only one right answer, very honestly.

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