The Facts and Some Common Myths about Deafness

Deafness and the individuals who show signs of hearing loss have long been the subject of myths and it is important to differentiate these from the facts since, at any time, this is a condition that could affect anyone either directly or indirectly.

Firstly, it is widely assumed that people who lack the ability to hear are all gifted with the ability to read lips. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, this is a skill that must be learned and refined over a long period and since many words require forming the same shapes with one’s lips, nobody is able to lip-read everything that is spoken.

For those who suffer from deafness, this means that lip-reading offers only limited help and thus for a more complete understanding, they must also depend on the use of accompanying gestures, including sign language and fingerspelling, The reference to signing forms the foundation of yet another myth – the belief that sign language is universal or international in nature. It isn’t. While there may be some similarities between the basic structures used in certain countries, each is as unique as the spoken language that it represents, so there is no visual lingua franca to meet the needs of the hard of hearing.

OK, so if you don’t know how to sign, then shouting is the best way to counteract deafness. This is yet another mistaken belief. Only in mild cases is shouting likely to prove even slightly helpful, it is far more likely to convey anger or impatience. Moreover, for some of those with hearing loss, especially if he or she wears a hearing aid, a raised voice can actually cause severe pain. In practice, speaking more clearly to those who are hard of hearing will invariably prove to be a more effective approach than simply talking louder.

On the topic of hearing aids, one common myth is that they can restore one’s hearing. In practice, however, they are simply a tool with which to manage certain types of deafness. With the exception of the temporary hearing loss associated with infections and isolated incidents of acoustic shock, hearing loss is both a permanent and progressive condition, and may be due to poor conductivity, diminished sensory ability or a mixture of both. Its type and severity will determine the most effective means with which to manage it.

Testing by a trained audiologist will determine these criteria that will be used to define the most suitable solution. In most cases, this will be a conventional hearing aid, but in cases of severe to profound deafness, the best option may be a cochlear implant.

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