Anyway, in the end the deaf parents with the deaf 5 year old girl decided not to get her a cochlear implant, while the deaf 11 month old with the hearing parents from deaf families decided to get him the implant. I can't help feeling that in the end all the justifications and reasoning given came down to wanting their kid to be like them. And I've moved from thinking that it's their kid and they have the right to raise them in their culture to thinking that raising them in your culture is fine but they should probably also get the implants.
Reasons given by the deaf parents (and other people in the deaf community) for not wanting the implant:
* it's unnatural, it will make them like a robot
* it's their body, they should be allowed to make the decision themselves when they're older (except that if you don't learn how to speak relatively young it's basically impossible to learn to speak fluently later)
* you must be ashamed of Deaf culture/you think we're not good enough/the child won't have a Deaf identity/I'm deaf and I did just fine
* it doesn't even work that well (I think the figure was 20% getting good usage out of it, and the kid has to spend a lot of time in hearing environments or they'll fall back on signing too much)
* Deaf culture will go extinct if everyone gets implants
Reasons given by the hearing parents and grandparents for wanting the implant
* The kids should not have to grow up isolated and made fun of or stared at for being deaf
* It's a disability, if your whole family was crippled you would jump on a treatment that fixed it. Why should deafness be any different?
* It will give them access to both the Deaf and hearing world/it will open up more potential choices
* A lot of deaf kids get terrible education; the average reading level of a deaf highschooler is 4th grade (might be partly cos deaf kids are effectively forced to learn a foreign language to read, since sign languages have wildly different syntax and morphology to English, and the phonology is completely untranslateable)
The family who opted to keep their kid implant-free ended up moving to Maryland to live in a much bigger deaf community next to an awesome school for the deaf, where random people in the supermarket and restaurants would often know a bit of sign. One thing the father said as this move was in process really stood out for me as hammering home just how much identity politics plays a role in deafness in the US: "[at our old home] I felt caged in, like they wanted to jail me. Here, I feel comfortable and safe". The grandmother accuses them of trying to escape and of trying to put up a fence, both of which felt apt to me. If the hearing world wants to cage deaf people, then by moving into a deaf community the family is basically just choosing a big enough cage for themselves that they can pretend the walls don't exist.
Also of interest: some of the deaf community did have managerial jobs in hearing workplaces. They relied heavily on email, writing and interpreters, but they got by okay. And the hearing mother, whose parents are both deaf, had a crappy time growing up - she had to get years of speech therapy because her deaf family couldn't provide a speech environment for her to learn from, she had to put up with the other kids making fun of her parents and deaf people constantly, and she spend a lot of her time playing interpreter for her parents.