THE market rout – ameliorated somewhat by this morning's 0.8 per cent blipette – has confirmed one of your columnist's bugbears: defensive stocks aren't what they're cracked up to be. The defensive theory goes that stocks exposed to consumer essentials are safer than those exposed to cyclical plays, such as building materials.Banks and property trusts were also lumped in this category until the penny (actually, billions of them) dropped during the GFC. Such is the indiscriminate nature of the selling – triggered in the main by amorphous global events – that the defensives haven’t consistently outperformed during the Troubles.During yesterday’s 3.7 per cent horror sell-off, Woolworths (WOW) shares dropped 4 per cent and were slightly off this morning, so that’s the "everyone’s got to eat" theory put to rest.But we all need to cook and keep warm, don’t we? Shares in generator and distributor AGL (AGK) fared not much better, down 3 per cent, while fellow distributors Spark Infrastructure (SKI) and Duet Group (DUE) were only slightly more robust. In the healthcare sector – another supposedly safe harbour – shares in pathologists Primary Health (PRY) and Sonic Healthcare (SHL) have mimicked the market, and hospital operator Ramsay Health (RHC) has done only slightly better.It’s all nothing to phone home about, but we reserve praise for Telstra (TLS) and its steady shares, although the national broadband network forms a special overlay.Finally, not even funeral home operator Invocare (IVC), seen by many as the ultimate defensive, has withstood the killer market.Meanwhile, analysts overnight took a harsh view of fallen defensive Cochlear (COH), after yesterday’s shock announcement it would recall a popular line of implant devices.As Deutsche healthcare sage David ‘Donald’ Low notes, it’s a case of the "known unknowns". Cochlear can substitute its affected devices with its old Freedom range, but the "long term market-share impact is unlikely to become clear for some time".UBS and Goldman Sachs didn’t muck around, demoting the stock from ‘hold’ to ‘sell’.Citi, which already had a ‘sell’ on the stock, forecast current-year earnings to tumble to $83.5 million from the previous $180m.Most of the others (including Deutsche) retain Cochlear as a ‘hold’, but some of the earnings downgrades are savage.The common theme is the reputational damage flowing from the incident, given Cochlear has actively marketed itself as the Mr Reliable of implants.Nonetheless, Cochlear shares bounced $1.23 (2 per cent) as some investors pursued bargains with their, er, ears pinned back. We’ll maintain our AVOID call of yesterday.auThe Australian accepts no responsibility for stock recommendations. The author does not hold an interest in any of the stocks mentioned. Readers should contact a licensed financial adviser.