Hearing Loss and Deafness

October 1, 2010
Category: Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is more like “Deafness Gain” to people who are part of Deaf Culture.

The loss of hearing is actually a very small part of being a Deaf person. However, it’s very useful to study the implications of deafness when you’re becoming involved in the Deaf community.

Most hearing people only see the lack of hearing when thinking about a deaf person…

Like the deaf person is only a big ear and not an individual with a life that exists outside of their ears.

There are two types of hearing people in the field of deafness:

  1. The group of hearing people who regard a deaf person’s “handicap” first, and deaf people as individuals second.
    (The ones who see a “big ear”)
  2. The group of hearing people who regard deaf people as individuals before their lack of hearing.
    (The ones who see an individual)

Understanding the difficult medical system related to hearing loss will help you take the correct stance when learning about Deaf people, and will also help you understand what is really going on in a deaf person’s ears.

The Medical Side

The medical journey of a person who has lost their hearing involves a lot of repeated testing, diagnosing, confusing information, many options, and difficult choices.

Ear exam

The direction of their life truly depends on the information offered and choices made during this time.

Hearing tests are actually very complex, and sometimes disturbing. The way that infants are screened may seem OK to hearing people, but is strongly rebuked by the Deaf community.

Deafness can occur in many different parts of the ear.

Ear Anatomy is not as complex as you might think it is. There are only a few anatomical parts that make hearing possible. However, if there is something wrong with any one of those small pieces, hearing can be lost completely.

There are three main types of deafness:

  • Conductive
  • Sensorineural
  • Mixed
  • Unilateral (UHL)
    (This is not one of the main ones, but it deserves some recognition)

The causes of deafness for these three different kinds of loss of hearing are completely different. They also have completely different treatment options. Sensorineural deafness is more common, but less likely to be “fixed;” while conductive deafness, the lesser common type, can actually be treated quite easily.

There are a few main treatment options available for people with hearing loss:

Girl with hearing aid

However, each of these options is not for everyone. Their success depends on the type of hearing loss, the time of onset, the amount of residual hearing left, and a number of other factors.

With the advent of new deaf technology, there are also several devices that are available to make the loss of hearing not as much of a “loss.” Some available goods are:

Hearing people take many things for granted, including waking up to an alarm in the morning, talking on the phone, and watching television. However, these options definitely help a deaf person live their life a little easier.

How deaf people live their lives after a hearing loss diagnosis depends on the information they are given and what they choose to do with their options…

The Individual Side

Deafness means more than just the loss of hearing. The term “deafness” tries to simplify all the aspects of being Deaf.

Man with arms out

The sense of hearing is only one of our five senses. The change that takes place in the life of a person who has lost their hearing depends on two main factors:

  • When the person lost their hearing
  • How much hearing they lost

Having a degree of hearing loss does not necessarily make you Deaf. Deafness is only the physical aspect of being a Deaf person.

To really understand what makes a Deaf person Deaf, you have to get to know Deaf people. A great way to do this is to read blogs written by Deaf people. They often write about issues in the Deaf community and really exhibit the values and beliefs of Deaf culture.

A great blog to read would be the blog of Dianrez. She is a very well known Deaf blogger, and I highly recommend subscribing to her blog. If you want to get to know a little more about her first, she was kind enough to share her insights in an interview with me. You can read this interview on my Dianrez page. Understanding the Deaf community will greatly influence the way you learn ASL. It’s absolutely necessary.

If you have ever wanted to read articles written by a deaf person, I highly recommend Jamie Berke’s articles on her About.com Deafness Guide. She was kind enough to let me interview her, and I have posted the interview on my Jamie Berke page. You will find links to her blog, forums, and articles. Her insights are wonderful for looking into and understanding the life of a deaf person.

There is a special distinction between Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing-impaired individuals that have nothing (really, nothing) to do with the loss of hearing.

A deaf person will live their life a certain way depending on the factors mentioned above. Some deaf people do not want to be deaf and want to be “fixed” (they have the same beliefs as the first type of hearing person), while others love being deaf and do not want to be “fixed” (the same beliefs as the second type of hearing person).

The side that you take depends on where you stand. However, if you wish to be a part of the Deaf community, you most certainly need to be the second type of hearing person (or your conversations with Deaf people will most likely be arguments!)


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