I have been reviewing Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics in the area that discusses people with partial hearing. I could not glean any answer regarding technological "fixes".

The insertion of cochlear implants (bi-lateral, menaing both ears), essentially means that the person is physically deaf and can hear ONLY when the implant is on. Would use of implants, then, eliminate the standard halachot that apply to the "cheresh" and classify such a person as a "shome'ah" or "pike'ach"?

  • They tell a story about the Chazon Ish (almost sure it was him), visited a school for the deaf (even before cochlear implants!), and declared that those children do not count as cheresh, because they were very high-functioning – MTL May 16 '14 at 21:18
  • 1
    This article by R' J. David Bleich in Tradition would probably be helpful. It's behind a paywall, and I haven't read it. – Isaac Moses May 16 '14 at 21:27
  • 1
    In the Journal T'chumin (Issue 24, 5764, published by the Zomet Institute), Dr. Yisrael Brama (an E.N.T.) argues that someone with cochlear implants would not be a cheresh (and his logic applies even to those acharonim who maintain that a person who was deaf from birth but who can speak is still a cheresh). His article is here (see pp. 177-178). – Fred May 16 '14 at 21:42
  • Correction: story was K'sav Sofer, brought down in Nishmas Avraham....will try to work it into an answer – MTL Jun 8 '14 at 2:29
  • Link to sefer here – MTL Jun 8 '14 at 2:42

In short, yes.
How I know this is another question...

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Abraham writes in Nishmas Avraham [in the end of Volume 1, in the section listing the notes of Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg, the author of Tzitz Eliezer, number 2 *]

There, he disagrees with the Nishmas Avraham, who wrote that while a cheresh does not have to wear tefillin, we don't stop them if they do. Rav Waldenberg says that it is "קרוב לודאי" that the modern-day deaf [see later from the Kesav Sofer] have to wear tefillin, and therefore tefillin must be purchased for them.

  • He (R' Waldenberg) quotes שו"ת בית שלמה (in או"ח צה) who ruled that the deaf who understand what is said to them, and can speak שפת עלגים (sign language? Google Translate doesn't know.....), their father must purchase tefillin for them.
  • שבט סופר (in אה"ע כא) records a story that took place with his father, the Kesav Sofer (1815-1871 - Wikipedia), who was invited to tour a school for the deaf in Vienna. After the tour concluded, he said that the administration of that school must purchase tefillin for the deaf, because when they are schooled to be aware of their surroundings and are able to communicate, they are no longer considered to be a cheresh, and one must purchase tefillin for their use.
  • He also quotes נחלת בנימין (see לא), who writes that a deaf person who will pray daily from a siddur can be used for a minyan for קדושה ברכו ותפילה (since those are rabbinic....he notes that there is room to argue on this point, but this is not its place אין כאן מקום להאריך. Maybe in a different question?).

To return to the original question: if cochlear implants restore hearing and/or speech, then yes, the person can be classified as "shome'ah" or "pike'ach".
With regard to hearing "ONLY when the implant is on," I would think that, based on the above, if he is able to communicate and be aware of the goings-on around him, he absolutely would be shome'ah/pike'ach, for sure when the implant is on, and probably also when it's off.

* In my (5 volume) edition of Nishmas Avraham, this appears on page שלט 379 in Volume 1 (אורח חיים). However, when I tried to link to it, I couldn't find it in the (4 volume) Hebrewbooks edition. If anyone finds a linkable copy, drop me a comment!

  • See here, footnote 4, for some of the Nishmas Avraham's own discussion on this topic. – MTL Jun 9 '14 at 0:17
  • Credit for the Nishmas Avraham goes to the local ENT who told me about it, for the cool Kesav Sofer story. – MTL Jun 9 '14 at 3:31
  • Is Cochlear called hearing in the truest sense... i wonder, most cochlear implant patients complain that everything and everyone sounds like chimpmunks. furthermore from a halachic sense, are they yotzei megillah or zachor through that? is it similar to a microphoe, in which the sounds waves are converted to an electrical wave (thus we are faced with R Shlomo Zalmans opinion in regards to microphones [ie. not yotzei]) just wondering... – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 9 '14 at 5:02
  • 1
    Rabbi Waldenberg permitted hearing Torah reading, Shofar blowing and Megillah reading by means of a loudspeaker, telephone, or radio, if no other options were available. (Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, 8:11). – gaagu Jun 9 '14 at 7:39
  • Very informative. But the answer "yes" seems a bit one sided. In the Nishmat Avraham in the first comment, he brings the Knesset Hagdolah, Sefer Hasidim, and Rabbi Joshua Isaiah Neuwirth who seem to hold differently. Maybe you should incorporate this into your answer. @Shokhet – gaagu Jun 9 '14 at 8:10

The laws of a deaf-mute are the same as the laws of a mentally incompetent person. One who is sometimes mentally capable and at other times isn't, is ruled as a regular person during the time he is capable.:

אדם שהוא פעמים שוטה פעמים חלים הרי הוא כפקח לכל דבר בשעה שהוא חלים (ירוש׳ תרומות פ״א, בבלי חגיגה ג׳)‏

The logic would seem to likewise apply to a deaf-mute. Whenever he/she can hear and also function normally, the law would be like the law of a competent individual.

More specifically though, the "definition" of cheresh would not change, since it is hypothetically possible to not use the implants. Similarly, the prophets promise that eventually there won't be any more deaf people. But that doesn't rule out the theoretical case of a deaf-mute that existed during the exile.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .