South Africa has a well-established deaf community with more than 4 million deaf and hard of hearing people.
It’s imperative to understand that the deaf community do not see themselves as disabled. Many deaf people live normal, happy, and successful lives. In fact, Beethoven composed some of his greatest works (including the last five piano sonatas) when he was deaf. Also, who could forget actress Marlee Beth Matlin’s spectacular performance in Children of a Lesser God?
Some people may be born deaf (congenital deafness) while others may become deaf later in life due to injury, loud noises, surgery, or other underlying medial conditions.
There are varying degrees of hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. An audiologist can conduct an assessment to determine the type and degree of impairment, and appropriate recommendations for hearing amplification devices can be made to improve a patients hearing and quality of life. Amplification devices include hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Deaf people have 2 main ways of communicating with others – lip reading and sign language. Did you know that South African Sign Language (SASL) is officially recognised as a home language in education?
But is it possible for deaf people to learn how to speak? Absolutely! Deafness usually has little effect on the vocal chords and very few deaf people are truly mute. How easy or difficult it is learning to speak may however depend on when a person became deaf. People who became deaf after acquiring some language skills often have an easier time learning to speak. For these individuals speech training may focus on reinforcing speech and language skills that have already been learned.
Several strategies may be used by a trained speech and language therapist to help learn speech. They include:
Learning to talk can be a long and difficult process and early intervention is definitely beneficial. However, even after many years of speech training, it may still be difficult for hearing people to understand a deaf person when they speak. Speech will more than likely be distorted, and because of this, many deaf individuals choose sign language to learning spoken language.
Ultimately, how a deaf person chooses to communicate is down to personal choice and which methods work best for them.
In celebration of International Month for the Deaf; let’s educate ourselves by raising awareness and embracing our deaf community.
Source: hearingdogs.org.uk, mca.com.au, medicinenet.com, netcarehospitals.co.za, okdrs.gov, westerncape.gov.za, healthline.com
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.