ASL University ►

Technological Advancements and their Effect on Deaf Culture:

Christian L. Lee

Technological Advancements and their Affect on Deaf Culture

Technological advancements have challenged the culture and involvement of Deaf citizens within a hearing culture. Telephones, TTY, hearing aids, FM systems, and Cochlear Implants are just a few advancements that have impacted opportunities and challenged the culture of the Deaf. Through the exploration of these technological advancements, this paper will discuss the impact technology has had on Deaf culture and how it has acted as an equalizing force between Deaf and hearing citizens.

In order to understand the impact technology has had on the Deaf, a review of some of the most important technological inventions is needed. One of the first notable inventions affecting the Deaf was the telephone, first patented by Alexander Bell in 1876 (Wikipedia). Over the next 100 years, the Deaf experienced a number of challenges. In the workforce, for example, offices began primarily running through telephone operations. This resulted in a lack of positions for Deaf employees, since they were unable to perform tasks associated with answering a telephone. As more hearing-friendly advancements were made, a chasm between the hearing and Deaf world continued to exist until 1964, when the teletypewriter, or TDD, created both mobility and accessibility to the Deaf (Bacon, 2005). The TDD development by Weitbrecht, Marsters and Saks radically improved the quality of life for the Deaf, improving Deaf access to both Deaf and hearing communities in areas of socializing, emergency situations, and the workforce. While the TDD was able to improve communication in its time, more recent advancements in cellular phones with texting capabilities have outdated devises like the TDD (Bowe, 2002). The development of the Internet has also allowed the Deaf to communicate through manual visual language across space and time zones. For the first time, the development and manipulation of a computer-mediated image of self, new participation frameworks, and specifics of language change in a new communicative space are being explored (Keating & Mirus, 2003).

However, the most recent technological advancement affecting the Deaf is the Cochlear Implant. While there is a valuable history of the CI's creators and methods, which have resulted in the development of the CI, the focus of this research is the impact that such technology has had on the Deaf community. The Cochlear Implant has presented both controversy and excitement for the Deaf communities. Advancements including better speech processing strategies with higher stimulation rates, elimination of background noises and more authentic representations of acoustic signals are being tested to make speech sound more natural (van Hoesel, 2002). Due to these advancements, it has already been said, "the battle between oralists and signers is ending and the latest generation of deaf kids has won (Reisler, 2003)." Not all Deaf citizens shared this same opinion, as it puts the future of Deaf culture at risk. However, CI's, real time captioning systems, FM receivers and more, are increasingly diminishing the population of Deaf children who will grow up and live within a Deaf culture (Ertmer, 2002).

The influence of technology on the Deaf community is noticeable. Throughout the past decade, the impact of telephones, cell phones, Internet, FM systems and Cochlear Implants have brought new benefits and new challenges to the Deaf community. While more research and technological advancements would need to be developed for the Deaf community to fully diminish, the likely progression of such technologies have caused authors like Reisler (2003) to acknowledge that the future of the Deaf community is changing.

Bacon, P. (2005, Feb 18). Pbs. Retrieved from

Bowe, F. G. (2002). Deaf and hard of hearing Americans' instant messaging and e-mail use: A national survey. American Annals of the Deaf, 147(4), 6-10.

Ertmer, D. J. (2002). Technological Innovations and Intervention Practices for Children With Cochlear Implants. Language, Speech & Hearing Services In Schools, 33(3), 218-221.

Keating, E., & Mirus, G. (2003). American Sign Language in virtual space: Interactions between deaf users of computer-mediated video communication and the impact of technology on language practices. Language In Society, 32(5), 693-714. doi:10.1017/S0047404503325047

Lartz, M., Stoner, J., Stout, L. (2008) Perspectives of Assistive Technology from Deaf Students at a Hearing University. 5(1), 72-89.

Reisler, J. (2003). Technology: Improving Sound, Easing Fury. Newsweek, 141(8), 16.
van Hoesel, R., Ramsden, R., & O'Driscoll, M. (2002). Sound- direction identification, interaural time delay discrimination, and speech intelligibility advantages in noise for a bilateral cochlear implant user. Ear and Hearing, 23, 137--149.

Wikipedia. (2012, January 13). Retrieved from

Also see: Tracheotomy and voiceless: American Sign Language (ASL) vs Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC)

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


back.gif (1674 bytes)