New born infants are able to respond to the sound by startling and blinking of eyes. As they grow they recognize their parents' voices and enjoy their own cooing and gurgling sounds. Listening leads to language development. Latter the children learn to attach meanings to sound.
Children born with hearing impairment are unable to learn for they have not heard the sound to which they can attach meanings. This result in communication barrier.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
A Deaf child is one who has lost the sense of hearing before learning the language. This means that the child is born without the ability to hear. Such children are often mute and silent.
Hard of hearing on the other hand is a defect that is acquired later in life. The child experiences varying degrees of hearing loss.
Causes of Deafness and Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment and loss are due to the following factors:
a) Conductive Deafness is better understood when you are acquainted with the structure of the ear.
The sound is conducted through the air into the outer ear. On reaching the tympanic membrane the sound waves changes the fluid level in semicircular canals. The passage of air in the outer ear is called the 'Conductive Pathway.' The conductive pathway can get affected due to build up of wax in the ear, a foreign body in the pathway, and any swelling of the outer ear.
The conditions can cause temporary deafness that can be medically treated. Conductive deafness causes blockage of the Eustachian tube. The blocking fluid becomes thick like 'glue' and can be drained out with surgical operation.
b) Sensory Neural Deafness is due to the damage of the ear drum, cochlea, auditory nerve and the associated brain cells. Such a damage can be (i) congenital or (ii) acquired.
c) Congenital Deafness can be due to genetic disorders and premature birth. A pregnant mother having German Measles during the first trimester of pregnancy may give birth to a deaf child. An attack of severe jaundice in which the mother's blood is incompatible with that of the foetus also results in congenital deafness.
d. Mixed Hearing Loss is a result of hearing impairments arising due to a combination of conductive and sensory neural defects.
Characteristics of a Deaf Child
1. The child may be dumb besides being deaf.
2. The speech defects are common among children with hearing impairment.
3. They have difficulty in learning language/vocabulary. It is an enormous challenge to learn to communicate in a language one cannot hear.
4. Consequently these children are low in intelligence because they are incapable of using available opportunities.
5. Such children have suspicious minds because of lack of coordination between vision and hearing. This also results in their inability to make friends.
6. A deaf child is often indifferent and stubborn.
7. Sensitivity to hearing impairment among children leads to frustrations and inferiority complex.
8. The resultant poor communication causes tremendous socializing problems.
Special needs of a Deaf Child
Hearing defects cause a lot of problems ranging from language and vocabulary to comprehension and communication.
Physical Needs can be effectively taken care of by providing physical comfort to enable these children to improve their listening skills. Parents can help the child to locate sounds i.e, running of water to the tap or ringing of bell to the door. Intelligent parents can use playway techniques to help child recognize the sound e.g. hiding a musical toy and encouraging the child to look for it.
The child is helped to discriminate the sounds e.g. difference between father's and mother's voice, singing and crying etc.
The next step is the recognition of speech sounds. It is directly influenced by child's ability to use vision and other senses.
Emotional and Social Needs: As already studied suspicion is almost the second nature with deaf children. Consequently they get emotionally affected. Their social behaviour also needs to be improved and refined.
Need to Love and be Loved is as important for these children as it is for the blind. Love and affection provide emotional security besides the much needed encouragement for better learning.
Educational Needs involve child's ability to understand the languages. They learn to communicate through visual and manual means.
Oral Method or Lip-Reading is a special way of educating deaf children to identify sounds by watching the lip movement. It is slow method involving a lot of patience for the learner as well as the educator.
Manual Method or Sign Language helps the child to communicate with gestures, cues and finger-spellings. Have you ever watched on T.V. the news bulletin meant specially for deaf and dumb?
Need to be Independent is of utmost importance to the deaf child. It reduces his/her dependency on parents, and siblings. The ability to be independent makes them important components of the society they live in. Invention of hearing aids have provided the much need relief to the deaf.