Monday, November 2, 2015

The Bionic Ear

Caiden Moran is a five year old boy who was born profoundly deaf, with no cochleas -- an inner part of the ear that converts sound to nerve impulses and sends them to the brain. Cochlear Implants are unable to help people born profoundly deaf, with no cochleas such as Caiden; however, a new piece of technology that helps patients with no cochleas hear. This new piece of technology is the auditory brainstem implant (ABI). “An ABI consists of a microphone and transmitter on the head, which convert sounds from the outside world into electrical signals. Those signals are transmitted to an internal receiver made up of electrodes, implanted on the brainstem. The auditory neurons are stimulated directly in the brain, bypassing the inner ear completely.” In January 2015, Caiden had brain surgery to implant the device.
The obvious advantage of this device is that it enables children to hear (the surgery is only available in the U.S. to children between 2 and 5 years of age). What is a significant advantage to them, as Caiden’sfather expressed, is that allows them to hear sounds such as a car coming when they are playing in the streets. This ability could potentially save their lives. Furthermore, Dr. Krieger (who calls this implant the bionic ear)states that "’By putting this electrode directly into the hearing centers of the brain, it actually is taking stuff and using the brain the way it's designed to work…And the brain itself ... in a very young child, is able to grow and develop around this implant.’"

This implant enables children to hear, so how could this be a bad thing? One would think that devices that give people one of the five senses wouldn’t be looked down upon; however this is not the case. In fact, there have been several objections to devices that help people hear. For example, two disadvantages are that some feel it is “demeaning, to be viewed as a problem to be fixed [and furthermore] the gadgetsthreaten their culture.” Some people who are deaf don’t see being deaf as a bad thing, and feel offended that others would make devices that would change how they have lived so far as if they were broken or wrong. Furthermore, there is an entire deaf culture. Examples of this culture are that there is deaf theatre, Deaflympics, and deaf raves with sign language rappers. These events will likely decrease if hearing is given to those who have the implants. Another con of this implant is that it will put many people who rely on sign language for their jobs, like sign language teachers, out of their jobs. This implant will decrease unemployment and make it so those who have made a living out of sign language will need to find another skillset (not just find a new job as sign language will become more obsolete). The final con is that this implant will likely be expensive, making it unavailable to some.

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  1. After reading the article, it became apparent that you did some good outside research on the cons of hearing implants. One question I would ask is how, if at all, this new technology is applicable to IS? It seems that this is more of a new gadget rather than how companies are using IT, considering it's not concerned with information and data but rather a medical advancement. To tie in IT to the article, what if these devices were able to monitor how well they were working and have the company that makes them collect that data to make a better product? Also, I would have liked the article to address whether or not this technology is being worked on to be compatible with adults.

  2. I would personally be more willing to steer my child, should he or she be born deaf in the way of getting an implant like this. Contrary to the comment above, this new technology, to me, is an amazing development that would indubitably have an impact on society. Almost all new technology comes with some form of hardware that needs is tested. In this case, the physical implant maybe a product, but it is the function that is important. The Implants can improve the quality of life for people who are born deaf. They may now be able to live a nearly normal life without fear of being behind the rest of the population who is not hearing-impaired. From the development of this new implant, doctors can test the 'bionic-ear' with other implants and gather data comparing the two. Furthermore, one major aspect of Information Systems is the transfer and communication of information. As humans, we rely on our ears in order to communicate. Although speech is more concerned with the mouth, without the ability to hear sounds, speech is impossible. If a child cannot hear, it is also more difficult for him or her to learn. So, in a company standpoint, the relationship to Information Systems allowing for a higher quantity of effective workers down the road, but for society it is an immediate step forward in my opinion. For an individual who is hindered by a hearing problem, this implant would most certainly be beneficial, allowing for Human to Human/Business/Government transactions, which may not be able to take place if a person cannot communicate properly, to be conducted.

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  4. This post was very interesting to me because I coach a swimmer who is deaf in his right ear. I've always wondered how this affects his ability to hear the gun that signals for the race to start. He wears a device that looks similar to the AIB and now I'm curious of how his is similar. I also understand that the age allows a child to grow and develop around the implant but what would happen if an older person where to use it? Would the implant be harmful to someone who's 6-10 years old or to an older person?

  5. In the future, if I have a child who is born deaf, I would definitely pull for them to have this procedure. The bionic ear seems like a great invention, and in theory, it seems as if there would be no problems with it. However, with all new inventions, there must be some sorts of complications. I would like to know the effectiveness of the surgery, and why it can only be done to a child between the ages of 2 and 5. Does this have to do with the development of the child’s brain? Also I would need to know all the risks of the procedure as well. Brain surgery, no matter how “small,” is a very complicated thing, and if there were any serious risks toward my child, I’m not sure if I would have them go through with the operation. The bionic ear will revolutionize the medical world, as long as the procedure to implant the device is able to maintain a successful track record.

  6. Some good things that I noticed from this blog is that it clearly highlights the positives and negatives of this device. The blog talks abut how this new IT can help deaf children and how it can also be harmful. However, I think there is more to be said about this choice of topic that was left out in the blog. I think there could have been more explanation about how this piece of IT can lead to more innovative technology or if it can only be used for deaf children. It seems to me like there is a very small niche of people that can truly benefit from this devices. This is most likely an extremely expensive procedure and is very specific about who it applies to. I would like to see more of your opinion about where this IT is going and how it can expand its benefits to other aspects in the medical field. I found this blog and article very interesting though. This is an incredibly innovative piece of IT and it provides many children the option to change their lives and live as they were intended to.

  7. I also really enjoyed the article and can see many societal advantages from this new technology. Even more than the obvious benefits from this, are the ones that will come later on down the road. Hearing loss is a becoming a growing issue among people in our generation. Headphones are used by almost everyone, and they are used for extended periods of time. This is extremely bad for us, and will cause hearing loss over time. Headphones send constant intense sound waves down our ear canal, which bend and eventually break the little hairs that allow us to hear. The best part of this new technology is that it bypasses the inner ear completely, allowing us to hear perfectly. Additionally this technology could lead to other implantable devices to help with other types of issues. One day there could be a device implemented in to the head that improves vision, possibly making glasses obsolete.


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