Social Theory & Health

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 293–311 | Cite as

Capitalising on cultural dichotomies: Making the ‘right choice’ regarding cochlear implants

  • Tracey EdelistEmail author
Original Article


In this article, I examine how health professionals in Ontario, Canada, frame disability, deafness, language and culture within the dichotomy between Deaf culture/sign language and Hearing culture/oral language, and the relation such framing has to parental decision making regarding hearing technologies and mode of communication for their children. I address how the Deaf/Hearing dichotomy has influenced the medicalisation of deafness and its version of integration via rehabilitation, explored through Michalko’s (1999, 2002) concept of ‘estranged familiarity,’ complicated further by the representation of Hearing people within Deaf culture. After first summarizing the historical processes that resulted in the creation of Deaf (and Hearing) culture, I use Bhabha’s concept of hybridity (1994) to deconstruct the notion of essentialist Deaf and Hearing identities. Through consideration of how d/Deaf people and hearing children of Deaf adults inhabit various in-between spaces, the fluidity of cultural identity is acknowledged. I conclude by proposing that through exploring the myriad ways to be in-between, the artificiality of the essentialised Deaf/Hearing dichotomy is revealed, allowing for a re- examination of the exclusive cultural and communication ‘choices’ presented to many parents of deaf children.


medicalisation of deafness cochlear implants parental decision making deaf culture identity 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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