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Busted: Myths About Deafness

We’re here to bust the top 5 myths that people believe about deafness and Deaf people. Read on!

1. “All Deaf people can read lips, and as long as I speak distinctly and look at them, they will always understand every word I have to say.”

It’s estimated that speechreading is only something that can be understand with 30% accuracy. In situations where the deaf person is familiar with the speaker or the conversation is easily predictable (such as at a check out stand) comprehension goes up to 60%, but that’s still almost every other word missing from the exchange.

2. “All Deaf people were taught to speak in school using an easy process where each letter has a mouth shape they learn, and then they’re good to go.”

Though some Deaf people were taught to speak in oral schools with intense one-on-one speech therapy, many deaf people do not speak.

3. “Deafness is genetic. All people who are deaf will pass deafness onto their children.”

There is a type of deafness that is genetic, and some deaf people do have deaf children, however 95% of all deaf people are born to hearing parents and will also have hearing children.

4. “Sign language is bad for deaf people because they will rely on it too much and it will make them unable to communicate with hearing people.”

Research shows that teaching deaf children sign language early in development supports normal language, social-emotional and cognitive development.

5. “Sign Language is universal. People from overseas and people from America get together and can instantly understand each other.”

In fact, there are at least 150 distinct sign languages (Ethnologue). American Sign Language (ASL) is used in the United States and parts of Canada, and is historically related to French Sign Language (much like French and Italian are related). British Sign Language (BSL) is completely different from ASL, and BSL signers and ASL signers are as incomprehensible to one another as German speakers and Italian speakers.

New sign languages are still emerging today within Deaf communities, for example, in Nicaragua.

Excerpted and adapted from “If My Hands Could Speak.”

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