ridiciuLIST: Deaf People are Mute

Posted by: Staff Writer on March 13, 2013

Hearing loss is relative to the loss of one’s functional voice box. Now that’s just silly! Babies learn to communicate by mimicking their parents, i.e. speaking.  When learning to speak, the process is what we call baby talk and includes listening with our ears, watching the mouth of mom (or dad), and trying to mimic the noises we hear.

Yet, if you were like me- a profoundly Deaf child from birth- the results would be quite different. As a toddler I assumed people ‘spoke’ through mouth movements alone and nothing else. This hypothesis was tested on my mom at breakfast one day; I tried ‘speaking’ to her but no sound came out. You can imagine the confused look I had on my face when my mom responded with roaring laughter. To this day it is still a favorite story to tell at the dinner table.

Regardless of my inability to speak clearly, she knew I wasn’t mute. I was the child who screamed at the candy counter and laughed when being tickled, as those things are ingrained in every child regardless of the ability to hear.

Years of speech therapy, the mechanism of speaking is eventually understood, but perhaps never mastered. If you’re like me, I’ve been told I have an ‘accent’ when I speak. Deaf people, like their hearing friends, do have a functioning larynx, and therefore, are not mute. Many hearing people are astonished when they learn that the Deaf world isn’t exactly ‘silent’.

Because American Sign Language (ASL) and spoken English aren’t equivalent in grammar and syntax, many deaf individuals find that using sign language and speaking simultaneously causes confusion for both Deaf and hearing people. So, for those who use sign language as a primary form of communication, they may prefer to keep their voices to a minimum, reserving it for specific situations while embracing Sign Language to its fullest.

Are you a Deaf or hard of hearing person that uses your voice? 


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