We all think we know what it would be like to be deaf or hard of hearing, and sometimes our assumptions can hurt and discriminate against those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Understanding the truth behind myths surround those who are deaf and hard of hearing can reduce the misunderstandings between a hearing and a deaf person.
Deaf or hard of hearing people are often misunderstood when it comes to communications available with and between them. Many of us hearing people cannot understand why certain deaf person cannot comprehend our lip movements, or believe that one deaf or hard of hearing person can communicate with another from a different country easily.
Here are some of the myths regarding deaf and hard of hearing people:
All deaf and hard of hearing people can communicate with sign language
This is the most common myth of all. Not all deaf and hard of hearing persons can communicate in sign language. Many who are born deaf depends on their parents to teach them sign language. Unfortunately if they are born to hearing parents, they are sometimes forced to live a life like a hearing person simply because their parents cannot understand why they must learn sign language. They are given hearing aids, they are sent to normal school where they may have difficulty in social groups and most of all, they are forced to lip read so that their parents don’t have to learn the sign language themselves.
Sign language is just mime and gestures
A sign language is just like any spoken languages, there are words and unique expressions as well as sentence structure and grammar.
Sign languages are all the same worldwide
Languages are developed throughout different regions in the world and many of us are used to the concept that we all speak different languages. However when it comes to sign language, some of us simply cannot grasp the concept that the languages are in fact also different between region to region just as any speaking languages.
Therefore, it is easy to assume any deaf person meeting another in the world can communicate easily with each other. This is not so. Sign languages also differ from country to country, and signed used for the same things may not be the same from Australia to America for example. In Australia the official sign language is Auslan. There is an International Sign Language however, it still need to be learnt even if someone knows Auslan.
All deaf people can lip read
Lip reading is a skill that requires training and practice, and not all deaf people are capable of lip reading. Only about 30% of the spoken words can be lip read due to their phonetic uniqueness and lip reading other words become a guess work.
Those who are born deaf find it more difficult to learn lip reading because in a deaf person’s world, the spoken languages are essentially their second language, therefore they will require the understanding of the spoken language before they can learn how to lip read.
Deaf people can always learn how to speak
Learning to speak requires understanding of the word phonetics and sound, and this is near impossible for a deaf or hard of hearing person to fully grasp. Some do learn to speak if they are introduced to speech at a young age, or that they have lost their hearing later on in their lives.
Being deaf or hard of hearing is indications of less intelligence
Some people think the lack of ability to hear means a lack of ability is many other things. However, this is not an indication a person who is deaf or hard of hearing is less intelligent than any hearing persons. They may have difficulty in acquiring speech simply because they cannot hear the sounds and tones, but many deaf and hard of hearing people are employed in professional careers just like everyone else.
Deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to hear with hearing aids
Hearing aids are a great technological invention, it does help those whose hearing have reduced due to age and accidents, however for a person who is medically or naturally deaf and hard of hearing, having a hearing aid does not guarantee an ability to hear.
Hearing aids only amplify the sounds surrounding the person wearing it, and sounds can come through digitally and interfered with other sounds that may be present. This means what the deaf or hard of hearing person hears from hearing aids will not be the same as a hearing person would sense and sometimes, all they can hear are muffles as hearing aids does not improve clarity of the sounds.
All deaf people can read so there is no barrier to communication
As stated in a previous point, the words and art of the spoken languages are second language to a deaf person. Being able to read requires the same amount of learning just like a hearing person, and as sign languages often bare slightly different sentence structures and grammar, a deaf and hard of hearing person often will find it hard to read and comprehend fully without extensive practice.
Deaf families will always have deaf children
It is known in the scientific world that human genes are a pool of complicated mix matches. In fact, only about 10% of deaf children have deaf parents.
Deaf people can tolerate noise better than hearing people
Being deaf does not mean their entire world is silent. It is rare for a deaf or hard of hearing person to be completely lack of hearing and often, they are able to pick up noise and high pitched sounds. This can be extremely distracting and uncomfortable as it is hard to distinguish the meaning of the sound and it becomes pure noise.
It is important to understand the deaf and hard of hearing communities to be able to integrate and work with them. Understanding that they are just people with a difference in abilities will reduce the misunderstanding and prejudice that can occur between people who can hear and deaf or hard of hearing people.