A hearing impaired person is no different than anyone else, except for their inability to hear. A hundred or more years ago, being blind, deaf and mute could have meant spending one’s life in an institution. Today individuals’ who are deaf, blind and mute do not have to live in a world of silent seclusion. Many who are unable to speak, often cannot do so because they have no realization that they have a voice to use. With no hearing, they have nothing to mimic or recreate.
Living in a Hearing Impaired World
Individuals who live in a hearing impaired world do not have to be excluded from things that happen around them. Those who are also blind will have more difficulty in learning about the world around them, but it can be done. Educational tools are available to help even the most handicapped individual succeed at whatever they set their mind to.
When asked to define deaf, many people often say the inability to hear. This is true in most aspects. Deaf does not mean unable to learn or comprehend. Just because a person cannot hear, it does not mean they have diminished intelligence or cannot learn like other individuals their own age. Although, they may be at a disadvantage, their other senses are heightened and they are able to learn just as well as anyone else.
Being mute and deaf does not mean a person cannot communicate. A mute person may not have a voice as we know it, but there are other ways they can relay their thoughts and emotions to others. They can write, draw and use sign language as adequate forms of communication. Deaf-mutes no longer have to be treated as silent citizens. A deaf mute can voice their opinion in many ways without ever uttering a word.
The Deaf Community
The deaf community is not solely made up of individuals who are deaf. It also includes those individuals who have made it a point to learn to communicate with hearing impaired people. Teachers, instructors, employers, friends and family members all work together to provide a sense of community to individuals who have suffered some type of hearing loss, no matter how severe. A true community is one that where members interact and accept each other on their own merit. This includes accepting each person’s strong points as well as their limitations.
Just because someone has experienced a certain degree of hearing loss, it does not make them any less valuable to their community. As a member of a deaf “community” they are valued, despite of their handicap and are accepted and supported because of what they add to the group. They still have an opinion and a voice with which to share it. They can interact, offer solutions and interact in any way that they are needed. Their loss of hearing does not define them.
Causes of Hearing Loss and Impairment
Over 350 million people all over the world have some degree of hearing loss. Deafness and varying levels of hearing loss can be caused by several things.
- Excessive and repeated exposure to loud noises
- Illness and disease
- Congenital birth defects
- Accidents and injuries
Deafness can be partial or complete depending on the damage to the ear or the severity of a birth defect. In some cases, especially cancer that is located close to the ear, the treatment can cause partial or total hearing loss.
Individuals who are born deaf are often also considered to be mute because of their inability to mimic or make sounds that are similar to regular speech. This is not always the case, however, and with the diligence of trained educators and instructors can overcome a portion of the disability.
One of the most famous deaf, blind and “mute” people in history is Helen Keller. She was born with both hearing and sight, but lost them during a severe illness. At first considered to be mute because of her inability to communicate, she overcame much of her disability with the dedicated efforts of Ann Sullivan, her beloved teacher and mentor. A child who was once thought of as unteachable, went on to be one of the most prominent “disabled” speakers of her time. Although she never had what she considered to be a “normal” voice, she spoke with great eloquence and understanding of the world around her.
Individuals who are deaf or blind face specific limitations. It’s how they perceive those limitations that will set the tone for their life. If they let their disability control them, then they will often times find themselves bound to a much more restrictive lifestyle. If they choose to see their limitations as challenges to be overcome, then they will often move forward with their lives, having a new appreciation both for themselves as well as the world they live in. They can learn to accept the limitations they face and use them to find new ways to communicate and learn. If they choose to explore their options, they will soon learn they are only bound by the limitations and obstacles they allow to remain in their path.
Creating New Realities
When a blind or deaf person begins to look at their disability as a challenge to be overcome, they begin to create new realities for themselves. Today’s advancements in technology has produced several devices that can restore a portion, if not all of a person’s hearing. Cochlear implants, hearing aids and closed captioned displays can help individuals gain a new lease on life once they have incurred a hearing loss.
Individuals, especially small children who are born deaf due to a congenital birth defect are being considered for certain procedures that may be able to correct their hearing loss. Although these procedures will not work for everyone, the possibility of restoring even partial hearing is an astounding achievement.
Creating new realities is nothing new. Individuals who suffer from various disabilities have learned that it is up to them to create the reality they want to experience. They can become victims of their disability, allowing it to control how they live their lives, or they can choose to create a reality in which they are in control. Although they must still live with their disability, they know, understand and accept the limitations they have. They also find ways to work around them. They do not allow their disability to get in the way of achieving their goals. They begin to live their life on their own terms and discover ways to overcome the many challenges their disability puts in front of them.