Marie Arana-Ward's story {"As Technology Advances, A Bitter Debate Divides the Deaf," front page, May 11} leaves the reader with the impression that all deaf people can benefit from the cochlear implant. This is not the case. I have nerve deafness from birth, for which the implant has no value.

The Post's story, however, leaves the impression with the hearing world that all deaf people choose to be deaf. This is not a message that will encourage hearing people to help deaf people survive in a hearing world by learning sign, etc. In fact, such a message makes it harder for deaf people to deal with the ignorance and insensitivity of hearing people, because any hearing person reading the article gets the idea that deaf people choose to be deaf and choose not to exist in the hearing world.

Sign language is fun for deaf people because it is a medium in which we can be accepted and appreciated for the intelligent beings that we are. The use of an implant will not change that feeling. However, most of the world does not understand this sign medium, and we need to function in that environment. We can't learn to hear, but hearing people can learn to sign. This fact is what makes us appear somewhat militant at times. We know we are doing our best to live in the world, but the world is not so generous to us. CYNTHIA ROBERSON McLean I am writing to provide some background information to help The Post's readers understand the diversity of outcomes described in Marie Arana-Ward's May 11 article. As the article correctly indicated, the cochlear implant is not a cure for deafness. As a prosthetic device, however, the implant simulates the hearing process by bypassing defective transducers (hair cells) in the inner ear to directly activate the auditory pathway.

The implant provides information about voicing cues in speech that depend on factors that are not visually detectable. This is the reason why so many implanted children are now able to perceive speech and develop spoken language. However, spoken language can develop only when a child develops a foundation of appreciation for sound as a tool to communication.

A recent study of more than 500 children implanted in the United States and Europe showed that early implantation is important for producing the best results in children: Speech and oral language skills develop more easily when a child hears spoken language early in life, and implantation prior to the age of 4 is associated with a significantly better long-term outcome. Throughout the early childhood stages, a child's brain is developing the neural pathways for speech perception. The shorter the period of auditory deprivation, the better the results from this intervention.

A restored level of sensitive hearing is necessary, but not sufficient for understanding spoken language and producing intelligible speech. And while the cochlear implant can provide sensitive access to sound, it cannot provide meaning.

Those who have found their niche in the profoundly deaf community and find self-expression through signing should be reluctant to pursue a de\vice-oriented option. However, for the congenitally deaf child who will undoubtedly experience difficulty in developing language skills with the use of amplification alone, the advantages of implants placed early in life are now clear. JOHN K. NIPARKO Director The Listening Center Johns Hopkins University Baltimore I have a profound bilateral hearing loss and wear two hearing aids. I do not know sign language; I received auditory-verbal therapy for years and rely on my residual hearing and lip reading to communicate. I am a 22-year-old full-time graduate student at American University majoring in literature. I just landed my first teaching assistantship. Even though these accomplishments have not been easy, I would not have attained them if I had relied only on sign language.

Harlan Lane, a spokesman for the deaf community, argues that people like me who do succeed with hearing aids or cochlear implants are unusual. We must keep in mind that the implant is a relatively new device, and that people with implants or hearing aids must go through years of therapy or rehabilitation to be successful. Mr. Lane's claim that "there is not one known case of a child acquiring language with an implant" is simply wrong.

I have met with and spoken to several other individuals who have cochlear implants and do not use sign language. Those who have succeeded have worked hard for years and deserve accolades for their desire and ability to be in the mainstream of the hearing world. Let their success be a loud message to all parents of children who are hearing impaired that cochlear implants, accompanied by years of therapy and hard work, can and do work. PAULINE NEWTON Washington Deaf children are not the only ones who are caught between two worlds: Hearing-impaired children have it worse.

I was diagnosed with a hearing loss when I was 7 and have been wearing hearing aids ever since. Because I could read, write and speak normally for my age, my parents were advised to keep me in the hearing world.

I am 17 now, and in the past 10 years I never have felt that I fit in with either the hearing or the deaf world. Each presumed that I was part of the other because I wear hearing aids and know American Sign Language, but I also speak English perfectly and go to a "hearing" school. Because I was brought up to be a hearing child (no one in my family knows sign language), I am most likely going to live and work in the hearing world.

To me, being hearing-impaired has been like being the child of an interra\cial marriage -- I am made up of both, and I don't fully belong to either. Because neither world has been able to accept that those who are hearing-impaired cannot identify themselves with only one, millions of other hearing-impaired children living in both worlds have had a hard time. AVANTI IYER Bethesda