On my post a while ago entitled “Life’s Lesson” I said there were ten things that I have learned in my life that I aim to put forward for your consumption here on RJsCorner. It is important to me and I kinda think it should be important to each of us that when we come across myths about living, we should do what we can to dispel the ones that are false.
The three primary myths I have encountered that demand my personal attention are related to are deafness, autism, and old age. Of course, I am intimately familiar with each as they have demanded much from me at some time in my life. This post will focus on the deaf myths. I could give you dozens of them, but I will concentrate on six that absolutely drive me crazy.
Deaf & Dumb – This myth goes back many decades, if not centuries. It is basically that a person who is deaf can’t learn anything. Of course, this myth has been thoroughly busted but there are still many people who when they come across a deaf person just assume that the deaf person is dumb. Maybe that feeling is unconscious, but the deaf person definitely perceives it.
Deaf People Can’t Speak – It is true that for some who are born deaf, they never learn to speak. But for the vast majority of us, especially those who went deaf later in life, we usually maintain the ability to speak to one degree or another. But since we have don’t really hear our voices we have problems with the volume of our speech and sometimes the quality suffers as we get older.
Deaf People Have Low IQs – I can’t tell you how many times I have been subjected to this myth. Deaf people generally have the same IQ spread as hearing people. Some of us are geniuses and some of us struggle with daily life.
All Deaf People Were Born That Way – As a matter of fact, only a small minority of those of us who are deaf were born that way. More than 80% of us went deaf later in life. Many in their senior years.
All Deaf People Know Sign Language – Only a small number of us who are deaf know ASL (American Sign Language). That version of signing is very different than spoken English in its word order and complexity. Most of us who were not born deaf, if we can sign at all, sign in English. But even those make up a less than one out of ten deaf people.
Deaf People Can Read My Lips – Less than 20% of the English language appears on the lips, so even someone who is very proficient at reading lips only has access to one in five words spoken. The rest of it is a guessing game that we generally get wrong. If it is important information that is being passed NEVER assume that the lipreader really understands what you are saying. This is especially true for those communicating critical health-related info.
These six myths are important to understanding but they are by no means the totality of myths about deaf people. I will cover more in future posts. I will just leave it by saying that for the most party deaf people pretty much mirror the general population in their abilities and intelligence.
I hope this helps…
9 thoughts on “Breaking Down The Myths About Deafness”
Good comments. I have always known that the older term “deaf and dumb” meant deaf and unable to speak. With dumb meaning unable to speak. And as I have some interaction with hearing impaired people I knew the myths.
Also I just got hearing aids due to age related hearing loss and can suddenly hear a lot of sounds again. It has made me realize just how difficult life can be with hearing loss. Not Being able to hear things like “why am I hearing water dripping or why is my car making a funny noise” really makes one very less aware of abnormal or even dangerous situations around them.
To me saying deaf and dumb is the same using the nigger word. They are both demeaning. Why use that antiquated term instead of deaf-mute?
Maybe this is just a sore point with me.
Yeah, when I was running my cabinet shop for six years I nearly got myself in trouble a number of times not realizing that I hadn’t turned off a piece of equipment. Deafness does present some unique challenges.
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Sorry I was not suggesting that D&D is an acceptable term – I was just commenting that I understood the term correctly. I’m fine with using whatever term the deaf community prefers to use. I typically just say a person is either deaf or hearing impaired if I feel that adding that information is helpful.
First off, I am not trying to criticize what you said Bob, so please don’t take it as so.
Saying the deaf community is inferring that we all think the same thing. People with hearing impairments are just as diverse as the population as a whole. Some are well educated and some are not, some are liberal and some are very conservative, We are also of all colors. We, like the general population, have very diverse views on most everything. In a nutshell, there is no single voice that can be viewed as the deaf community.
Again Bob, I am not attacking you but just trying to make a point. Thanks for understanding.
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Ok got it. No problem. But let me clarify. As I mentioned my SIL has deaf/mute parents. Her sister has learned ASL and works/volunteers as a translator (I think that is the correct term) for groups and one-on-one. She has at times mentioned (sometimes with a hint of frustration) about the “deaf community” she is involved with. They seems to be mostly of the born deaf (or have very early deafness) and mostly under 30. Based on her comments they consider themselves a “community” and have a more nationwide presence than their local community – I’m not sure exactly how organized they are.. They attempt to be the “voice of the deaf” and are active in awareness and advocating for deaf people. When I was speaking of the “deaf community” I was referring to this group.
You are more versed on this than many are Bob. Yes, the born deaf are more linked to each other than the 80+% who become deaf later. In larger cities, they form neighborhoods similar to some ethnic communities. Kind of like the Polish in Chicago. They refer to themselves as the Deaf community (capital D). These groups have felt very threatened by medical advances at least for the past 30 years that I have been exposed to them. They think that giving a child a cochlear implant to allow him to hear is child abuse! Some are very radical, some are not. These type groups make up about 1 in 10 in the deaf population ( little d).
As someone who still has hearing but has been losing it slowly over the past 20 years and will continue to do so (autoimmune, genetic), I really appreciate this post, because it serves as a heads-up to what’s coming. I don’t always hear someone trying to get my attention from behind me, and because I’m so young (40; started at 21), they (mostly men, unfortunately) treat me like I’m just a “stupid/flaky woman”. It’s disheartening, but I don’t have a sign that says I’m partially deaf 😉💗
Hello Laina and welcome to RJsCorner. I know where you are coming from as I started losing my hearing in my twenties and total deafness came in my forties. Your story reminds me that I often tell people that I am deaf so if you are talking to me and I don’t see you that is the reason I don’t respond. I am not a snob… 🙂
If you search for the word “deaf” via the small magnifying glass on the upper right corner of each page you will find dozens of posts about coping with hearing impairments. I think you can learn some from them.
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Thank you so much! I really appreciate all the work you’ve done in writing these posts. Very insightful! I know what you mean about not realizing someone’s talking to you and you reassuring them you’re not a snob; I say pretty much the same thing 🙂 Thank you again, RJ ❤