Late Deafened Culture??

I have had some questions and some search engine links to my blog about a “late deafened culture” so I want to talk a little about that here. As I mentioned on other posts I have been deaf for the last twenty-five years or so. Anyone who went deaf after acquiring the ability to speak is considered late deafened so I am obviously one. We make up about 1.5% of the current population in the U.S.

The other deaf group is the pre-lingually deaf. ¬†They typically have been deaf since birth or at a very early stage. ¬†They make up about 0.5% of the current total population.¬†Many in that situation are part of the Deaf culture (with a capital “D”). They associate primarily with other deaf and maintain that their deafness is not a negative in their lives but a positive. ¬†Many come to celebrate their deafness and consider restoring hearing, via cochlear implants, in children as child abuse.

Those of us who are late-deafened usually maintain their identity in the hearing world. We, for the most part do not identify our deafness as a beneficial part of our lives but instead treat it as getting in the way of our day-to-day living. Many, like myself, seldom come across someone else who is deaf in our daily encounters. For all of the above reasons we do not have, per se, a culture that is unique to us. We are more likely to identify with the culture of our heritage (Italian, Irish, etc) than that associated with our handicap.

One of the facts about late-deafness is that the majority of us are senior citizens. That is many, but not me personally, go deaf due to aging. Therefore for many of us the loss of the ability to hear is a devastating occurrence. It often leads to very severe isolation for those seniors. Some could be helped to varying degrees by hearing aids and other tools but refuse to acknowledge that they need any. Being a senior with the corresponding loss of many of our working world relationships is hard enough without having to cope with no longer being able to hear.

So, to answer the initial query there is really nothing called a late-deafened culture but maybe there should be? There are support groups around to help the late-deafened. One of those is called ALDA (Association of Late Deafened Adults). I was a member of this organization for some time but it is really more of a social club than an advocates group. The NAD (National Association for the Deaf) does advocate for both pre-lingual and late-deafened but, in my opinion they are much more slanted toward the former rather than the latter.