Imagine trying to learn a new language, making the correct tongue movements, controlling the airflow through your mouth, and voicing the correct sound and tone. Now imagine doing this while not knowing what the word you are saying sounds like. This is what many deaf and hard of hearing people must do to learn how to speak. The technique of teaching deaf people how to speak and read lips is referred to as oralism. It is a hard and laborious method and in the past often had extreme measures, that were border line abusive, put in place to try and ensure success. Manaulism is when a deaf person uses sign language as their primary from of communication. Learning to communicate using sign language is much more easier on a deaf or hard of hearing person. Although the majority of Deaf culture views oralism as a form of abuse and an attempt to “fix” their disability, instead of embracing their differences and culture, many deaf families view oralism as a way to interact with the “normal” society of the hearing world and embrace the idea of allowing their profoundly deaf children to “hear” and talk to hearing people through a spoken language.
When people hear the word “deaf” many times they think of their grandparents or other elders who have lost their ability to hear due to old age. However today for every 1,000 children, at least 1 is considered to be deaf or heard of hearing (Honig, 177.) Deafness is a disability that is easily overlooked and misunderstood because it is not a disability that is easily observed. Helen Keller once said that, “Blindness cuts people off from things. Deafness cuts people off from people.” When a person is blind or need glasses society easily recognizes that in some cases special accommodations may need to be made for this person. When a person is hard of hearing, unless they are wearing easily visible hearing aids it is hard to tell that special accommodations will need to be made for them. North Carolina State University’s Disability Services Office has an excellent description for hearing disabilities:
Deafness generally refers to a physical condition manifested by a lack of sensitivity to sound. Legally, deafness is defined by levels of hearing loss whose severity is measured by the degree of loudness (or decibels) a sound must attain before it is heard by an individual. Mild deafness ranges from 10 dB to 30 dB, moderate deafness ranges from 30 dB to 60 dB, severe deafness ranges from 60 dB to 90 dB, and profound (or total) deafness ranges from 90 dB to 120 dB or more. Both severe and moderate deafness are commonly referred to as partial deafness, while mild deafness is usually referred to as hard of hearing. (1)
To put this in to context, the sound of breathing registers at about 10 decibels, a whisper is 20 decibels, typical conversation is around 40-50 decibels, your kitchen sink’s garbage disposal is 80 decibels, a motorcycle registers at about 100 decibels, and a live rock concert is...