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If The Deaf Could Hear…

If The Deaf Could Hear…

If the ability to hear were granted to the deaf, would it make a difference? With new medical discoveries every day, it is entirely possible that we could have a cure for deafness within the next century; what would the impact on the deaf portion of society be if a cure were discovered?

There are four major categories of deafness; people born completely deaf, people born hearing impaired, people that become deaf, and people that become hearing impaired. Whether they are born with their hearing problem or not is an important distinction because those born with limited hearing or without hearing are speech impaired as well. I differentiate between complete deafness and hearing impairment because hearing aids sometimes make the “deaf” hear nearly as well as the hearing. The people of these categories would be affected differently. Generally, those born completely deaf would be affected the more by a cure than those who become hearing impaired during the course of their lives.

Perhaps, as a whole, a cure for deafness would not make much difference. After all, most deaf people are not actually completely without hearing. In addition, deaf people are fully capable of holding most jobs, playing sports, and almost everything that those who can hear can do. This is especially true of those who were born with full hearing, but lost it during their lives.

I have a friend who was born partially deaf. Other than his difficulty with speech, he appears to be the same as everyone else. He can even dance to a beat. He is in so many ways the same as anyone else that if he were to become able to hear, I doubt life would change much for him.

On the other hand, there are many deaf or partially deaf people whose lives would be dramatically changed by a deafness cure. There is a popular belief that a deaf subculture has developed that is distinctly different from society in more than just their ability to hear. This is not surprising because disabled people tend to focus their other senses much better, and have gone through the process of accepting their disability, which often makes them stronger willed than they once were. These people would not suddenly become weaker-willed by hearing again.

For a few of the hearing impaired, adapting to being able to hear again after a lifetime of deafness might be harder to do than to just continue being deaf. After undergoing the difficult process of accepting impairment, a new way to hear might actually be unwelcome. For those born deaf, even a cure for hearing would not make them able to fully enjoy music and easy speech because they have past the critical period in their development of these areas of the brain. Therefore, even if the ability to hear were handed to all those who cannot hear, their would still be a group of people who would be unable to enjoy the full benefits of hearing.

Sound is the dominant form of communication for all people. Other methods of communication, such as signing do exist, but are not as efficient. It is impossible to effectively communicate with sign language over the phone, while holding large objects, or when someone’s back is turned. Deaf people therefore typically also have a greater dependence on other people. If these dependent deaf people were to develop hearing, than they would have to become far more independent.


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