Deafness is a mystery to individuals not involved in the Deaf Community. Gate wants to introduce you to the beauty of the Deaf Culture, the diversity of people with deafness, and provide you with resources that can help you whether you are interacting with the Deaf for the first time, have a Deaf child, involved in a Hearing/Deaf relationship, or just wanting resources to further your understanding of the Deaf World. We want to help you understand this unique and complicated world of deafness.
Let's start with some commonly asked questions!
CAN DEAF PEOPLE HEAR?
It is surprising to many people outside of the Deaf Community, but Deaf people can often hear. The Deaf are considered deaf once they have passed a certain decibel (dB) hearing loss. Many people who are profoundly deaf can still hear planes, dogs barking, etc. Hearing a sound does not mean that Deaf people can understand speech. A person with a significant hearing loss generally has difficulty or inability to hear speech even when aided.
IS SIGN LANGUAGE USED BY ALL DEAF PEOPLE?
No. Many people with hearing loss choose to communicate through speech, lipreading, or choose to use Cued Speech.
SIGN LANGUAGE IS UNIVERSAL, RIGHT?
Every country has their own sign language. Americans share sign language with Canada and a few other islands or regions where deaf communities have been settled by Americans. Americans cannot communicate with other English speaking countries like England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia or New Zealand. Each of those countries have their own signed languages.
WHY DO THE DEAF NOT USE THE TERM "HEARING IMPAIRED"?
Some people with a hearing impairment do use that term. Those individuals are usually latened deaf, or not Culturally Deaf. Members of the Deaf Culture do not consider themselves "impaired" hence most people within the Deaf Community and the Deaf Culture do not prefer the term "impaired" but rather "Deaf." The term "Deaf" is a validation of who they are.
WHY CAN SOME DEAF PEOPLE SPEAK AND OTHERS CANNOT?
Learning to speak is a challenge. Speaking without "home grown" speech therapy, or formal speech therapy is nearly impossible. Many Deaf people are skilled at speaking, and others with over a decade of therapy find it difficult. Learning to speak has no relevance to someone's intelligence, but rather shows a knack for a certain skill. With Hearing people, some are tone deaf, and others are not. It's a skill which potentially can be learned, but in many ways is an innate skill.
CAN DEAF PEOPLE DRIVE?
Yes, actually Deaf people tend to have a better driving record than Hearing people because of their visual acuity.
CAN DEAF PEOPLE READ LIPS?
Lipreading is a skill. Some Deaf people are able to read lips with no training, some require lipreading classes to improve their abilities, and others find it difficult. Some Deaf people want to read lips, and many people make no effort at it. It all depends on the person. The story of one of the most famous lipreaders can be found in a famous TV series, Sue Thomas FBEye inspired by Sue Thomas. Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone is also known for her lipreading skills. An average lipreader understands around 35% of what is said.
IS IT RUDE TO TELL PEOPLE I AM LEARNING SIGN LANGUAGE?
No, feel free! Many people feel it is important to indicate to people around you that you know sign. Some Deaf people will love chatting with you if you are a sign student. Other deafies will acknowledge your effort and not attempt further conversation. People are people whether they can hear or not. We suggest chatting with the Deaf when you run across them. Building community is always a positive goal.
DO LOUD NOISES BOTHER THE DEAF?
Many people are surprised to hear that loud noises bother the ears of Deaf people as much as it does Hearing people.
DO DEAF PEOPLE BIRTH DEAF CHILDREN?
Only 10% of deaf people have deaf children, although 60% of deaf people do not know the cause of their deafness, and much of that may be attributed to genetic issues which could increase the statistic above. Deaf people who are genetically deaf can have either a pair of recessive genes causing their deafness or a dominant gene passed down from their parents. Many Hearing parents do not realize that they are carrying genes for deafness until they have Deaf children.
WHAT CAUSES DEAFNESS?
There are several common causes of Deafness. There is of course genetic deafness. Rubella/German Measles when a mother is pregnant often causes deafness in her unborn child. Nerve deafness is not uncommon. Many people have a damaged auditory nerve. A high fever causes this. Spinal Meningitis often is the culprit. Still others suffer from a damaged ear drum although that is less common among people in the Deaf Culture. Every once in a while you will meet someone who has become Deaf due to trauma, although that is rare.
DO DEAF PEOPLE KNOW BRAILLE?
The only Deaf people who generally know Braille are people who are suffering from Usher's Syndrome I or Usher's Syndrome II. These conditions usually cause a child to be born with deafness, and then when the child reaches adulthood, or some time later, he/she begins to lose their sight. They either have tunnel vision or complete blindness depending on the type of Ushers they inherited from their parents. These individuals often use Braille as their sight deteriorates. Your average deafie has no need to learn Braille since their only communicative challenge is not based on sight but rather hearing.
DO DEAF PEOPLE LISTEN TO MUSIC?
Many Deaf and or Hard of Hearing people love music. Many do not. We have found that most people who love music have some, even if minimal, hearing. All Deaf people tend to enjoy physical vibrations, and that often can be felt through music. Understand, when the Deaf dance, they don't necessarily feel the vibrations around them. If they can, either they are touching a solid object which will transmit the vibrations, or there is a lot of bass cranked into the surrounding sound system. Many Hard of Hearing people or Severe/Profound Deaf people enjoy listening to music with a hearing aid. It doesn't transmit a complete auditory image of what we as Hearing people can understand as music, but it is stimulating and interesting to them in its own right.
HOW DO DEAF PEOPLE MAKE A PHONE CALL?
Most Deaf individuals these days are text messaging maniacs. If the Deaf want to make business calls, some choose to use the Relay Service and others a Video Relay Service. These are services mandated by the Federal Government and provide the deaf with a method of talking to Hearing individuals and companies through an operator.