Can a Deaf Person Hear?

Can a deaf person hear? If your answer was a no, then you are among the majority who has the wrong idea about hearing impairment.

Being deaf or hard of hearing does not mean that a person can’t hear any sound but merely that they do not hear all levels of sounds or all types of sounds, depending on the severity of their hearing loss.

Hearing loss takes many forms and has a varying degree of severity. In fact, it would not be a big stretch of the imagination to say that every one of us has faced hearing loss at least once in our life.  Do you laugh at that claim and think it is ridiculous? Well, if you had ever felt a blocked feeling when you were driving up a hill or had some water that went inside your ear canals when swimming, then you had experienced temporary loss of hearing at those moments.

Fortunately, most of these incidences were temporary and rare that you quickly put it off your mind once it has passed. However, for a number of individuals, hearing loss is permanent or lasts much longer than a few minutes that it causes difficulties with communication and bears a significant impact in their lives.

In fact, a family member or a close friend could have hearing problems and you might not have realized it. Hearing loss is an invisible problem and because of that, it has often been neglected or not taken seriously.

However, the impact of hearing loss affects academic performance, social life and career. Helen Keller, a deaf and blind writer and lecturer said: “Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people”.

Take a few minutes and think of your family members and close friends. Have any of them seemed to have not been paying attention or very quiet lately? Have any of them seemed lost in a conversation especially in noisy places? Have they asked you to repeat a sentence more than once frequently? If yes, there is a strong possibility that a person might be having some hearing impairment.

I am very sure that you have not to think very long before you could think of someone with those signs as the incidence of hearing loss is not very rare. Worldwide statistics show that 1 to 5 babies in every 1000 babies born have permanent hearing loss which makes it one of the highest incidences of birth defects. Other researches estimate that more than 40% of those aged above 65 years old have hearing loss.

In fact, there might be a number of us who have hearing loss without even realizing it. This could be due to the fact that the hearing loss had a gradual onset and the degree of loss is mild or the loss is limited to certain frequencies of sound only. Many of us would only realize that we have a problem when we face difficulties understanding others speech but by the time we realize that we would already have a moderate to severe levels of hearing loss.

To properly understand hearing loss, we have to accept the fact that hearing loss can occur at different levels of severity which is described by the softest intensity of sound we can detect. The accompanying Diagram 1 shows the different levels of hearing loss and the associated difficulties with communication.

Degree of hearing lossCommunication Problems
NormalNo problems in hearing even the softest sounds No communication problems
Mild hearing lossDifficulties hearing soft sounds and sounds that are further away Difficulty in comprehension in noise Children will be developing speech but will have problems with articulation and clarity
ModerateSpeech and other sounds will be heard softer and not very clear Dependence on lip reading especially in understanding speech in noise Difficulties understanding speech if the signal is from the back Children will have delayed speech and abnormal speech patterns
SevereMay hear speech but lots of difficulty in understanding Dependence on lip reading and other adaptive strategies Very difficult in understanding speech in noise Speech and words are not acquired spontaneously in children without the fitting of hearing aids 
ProfoundMost natural sounds cannot be heard The speech will not be developed at all unless detected early and amplification, as well as habilitation programs, are begun early Without early intervention, most children with profound hearing loss will resort to signing and will not speak as they have difficulties monitoring speech

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