Deafness in Young Children and its Ramifications

A child learns to talk through hearing. If hearing is impaired, a child does not listen and hence cannot learn to talk. However, if deafness is detected early (within 5 years of age) in the child’s life, a proper intervention programme can guide him to the wonderful world of sound and language.

Deafness in an invisible handicap, not evident in its organ or origin (i.e. ears) but is manifested in the lack of speech and language, leading to ‘communication disorder’ in a person. No intellectual development is possible without solid base in language.

 Spoken language is learnt through hearing only. All human beings learn to speak during the first five years of life and very little can be done if the child crosses that crucial age. In the end, the child becomes a member of the marginalized section of society branded as Deaf and Dumb.

Till recently, it was not believed that a deaf child could also learn the language and therefore speak. The concept of using ‘Residual Hearing’ for language learning has remained largely unexplored. Statistics reveal that no child is stone deaf – every deaf child has some usable Residual Hearing and many of them have a lot of it. Using appropriate hearing aids can put this Residual Hearing to good use. Teaching language to a deaf child then is nothing but the cultivation of his residual hearing through auditory-verbal therapy in a language-rich environment.

For a toddler, language learning is a twenty-four-hour activity. Parents are thus best suited for the job of creating a language-rich environment as the child below five is with them almost all the time. SAHAS endeavours to equip the parents appropriately, so that every household with a deaf child becomes a special school, a centre for oral rehabilitation.