Why Can’t Deaf People Talk?

If you’ve ever encountered a deaf person, you might have noticed that they might be a mute. However, it is a complete myth that all deaf people are mute. In fact, many can hold down a conversation with little difficulty. 

What is important is to understand why this myth exists – is there any truth in it? Today, we’ll explore the facts and the fiction, how the deaf learn to speak and general communication information for deaf people. 

Myth: Deaf People Are All Mutes 

Being deaf doesn’t mean you have no voice. The difficulty is knowing the volume of speech and the response from the person that the deaf are communicating with. 

It’s for this reason that not all deaf people have to communicate using sign language. It’s also important to note that some deaf people use hearing aids – but these do not magically cure deafness. The function of these aids are to amplify sounds, so for many deaf people – loud noises or certain sounds can be very uncomfortable to hear. 

Is There Any Truth To The Myth?

You would be forgiven for thinking all deaf people are mutes, as so few communicate through speech. This is due to the difficulty of not being able to hear what they are saying and may opt to use other communication methods such as sign language. 

Learning To Communicate 

For those who have prelingual or congenital deafness, it means they were born with loss of hearing. This means that learning to communicate is much more difficult. 

For children with typical hearing, usually within their first year of life, they begin to mimic their surrounding sounds and voices – usually their parents or guardians. With normal acquisition of speech communication, the child will put together sounds and speech and collectively understand the messages. 

Therefore, it means that children who do not have this ability must learn to communicate in other ways. One way this might be assisted is through the use of cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is a device that can stimulate the cochlear nerve and can restore some hearing. 

It isn’t recommended for everyone to have a cochlear implant. If you have found little to no benefit from hearing aids, loss of hearing in both ears or are solely dependent on lip reading – then you’d be a great candidate for the implant. However, some people will be better suited for hearing aids or even surgeries. Normally, an ear, nose and throat doctor will assess these needs and devise a plan suited to the person.

However, due to the complex nature of how these cochlear implants work – the person will still need assistance to learn language and speech. A good way to do this is through speech therapy. 

Speech therapy is an excellent method to assist with communication. A professionally and highly trained speech therapist (also called speech language pathologist or SLP) will work with the person who needs assistance. 

This could be somebody who has suffered a stroke or brain injury, but also for those who were born with hearing loss. For these younger people, the speech therapist could use visual stimulants like books and games and develop a programme through homework and practise to boost communication skills. 

So, What’s The Difference Between The Cochlear Implant And A Hearing Aid?

It can be difficult to differentiate between the two devices. In short, cochlear implants are surgically put in – whereas hearing aids are devices to wear in or on the ear. Using a microphone, hearing aids can simply amplify sounds which can help with hearing whereas cochlear implants emit signals which require interpretation. 

Depending on the level of hearing loss, the choices to opt for one or the other will be made. Mild to moderate hearing loss would probably benefit more from hearing aids, whereas a person with severe loss will likely require the cochlear implant and speech therapy. 

Method: Lip Reading 

Another method to communicate is lip reading, which is incredibly difficult to master but can be very useful. It’s estimated that around 40% of the English language is seen on the lips, so as a communication tool – lip reading can benefit the person immensely. 

There are lip reading classes available which can train you to understand how to communicate with others. A health professional can likely point you in the right direction as to where these are found near you. 

The classes might teach the person to understand context, understanding movement and patterns of lips, working out what may be the next thing said and making educated guesses. Even people without hearing difficulties can misunderstand each other! 

They may also train the person to understand body language and facial expressions. For example, a person yawning may be tired or bored. A person with erratic movements and dominant features may be angry. 

Method: American Sign Language (ASL)

Opting to communicate without speech is a widely chosen method for many with hearing loss. American Sign Language, much like any other language, has its own rules for understanding it fully. 

In the same way you would take a long time to learn a completely new language, learning American Sign Language will not be a short and simple task. It takes many years to master. 

Using sign language is very effective but it’s not without its downfalls. Many people will not be able to communicate with the person using ASL and will require an interpreter anyway. For many deaf people, this requirement is not feasible and would prefer to choose a different method of communication. 

What To Understand 

Deaf people can indeed talk, but many struggle to communicate. These methods above are ways in which some deaf people might learn to speak or hear better. 

If you are living with hearing difficulties or know someone who is – it is always important to speak with your doctor or health care professional and get some advice on what you can do and what method is best for you. 

Remember – Google cannot beat a doctor!