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DEAF AND DUMB

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 881 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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DEAF AND DUMB.' The term " deaf " is frequently applied to those who are deficient in hearing power in any degree, how-ever slight, as well as to people who are unable to detect the loudest sounds by means of the auditory organs. It is impossible to draw a hard and fast line between the deaf and the hearing at any particular point. For the purposes of this article, however, that denotation which is generally accepted by educators of the deaf may be given to the term. This makes it refer to those who are so far handicaed as to be incapable of instruction by the ordinary means of Wie ear in a class of those possessing normal hearing. Paradoxical though it may seem, it is yet true to say that " dumbness " in our sense of the word does not, strictly speaking, exist, though the term " dumb " may, for all practical purposes, fairly be applied to many of the deaf even after they are supposed to have learnt how to speak. Oral teachers now confess that it is not worth while to try to teach more than a large percentage of the deaf to speak at all. We are not concerned with aphasia, stammering or such inability to articulate as may be due to malformation of the vocal organs. In the case of the deaf and dumb, as these words are generally understood, dumbness is merely the result of ignorance in the use of the voice, this ignorance being due to the deafness. The vocal organs are perfect. The deaf man can laugh, shout, and in fact utter any and every sound that the normal person can. But he does not speak English (if that happens to be his nationality) for the same reason that a French child does not, which is that he has never heard it. There is in fact no more a priori reason why an English 1 The two words are common to Teutonic languages, cf. Ger. taub and dumm (only in the sense of " stupid "), Dutch doof and dom; the original meaning seems to have been dull of perception, stupid, obtuse, and the words may be ultimately related. The Gr. rv4Xds blind, and ru¢os, smoke, mist, probably show the same base.baby, born in England, should talk English than that it should talk any other language. English may be correctly described as its " mother tongue," but not its natural language; the only reason why one person speaks English and another Russian is that each imitated that particular language which he heard in infancy. This, imitation depends upon the ability to hear. Hence if one has never heard, or has lost hearing in early child-hood, he has never been able to imitate that language which his parents and others used, and the condition of so-called dumbness is added to his deafness. From this it follows that if the sense of hearing be not lost till the child has learnt to speak fluently, the ability to speak is unaffected by the calamity of deafness, except that after many years the voice is likely to become high-pitched, or too guttural, or peculiar in some other respect, owing to the absence of the control usually exercised by the ear. It also follows that, to a certain extent, the art of speech can be taught the deaf person even though he were born deaf. Theoretically, he is capable of talking just as well as his hearing brother; for the organs of speech are as perfect in one as in the other, except that they suffer from lack of exercise in the case of the deaf man. Practically, he can never speak perfectly, for even if he were made to attempt articulation as soon as he is discovered to be deaf, the fact that the ear, the natural guide of the voice, is useless, lays upon him a handicap which can never be wiped out. He can never hear the tone of his teacher's voice nor of his own; he can only see small and, in many instances, scarcely discernible movements of the lips, tongue, nose, cheeks and throat in those who are endeavouring to teach him to speak, and he can never hope to succeed in speech through the instrumentality of such unsatisfactory appeals to his eye as perfectly as the hearing child can with the ideal adaptation of the voice to the ear. Sound appeals to the ear, not the eye, and those who have to rely upon the latter to imitate speech must suffer by comparison. Deafness then, in our sense, means the incapacity to be instructed by means of the ear in the normal way, and dumbness means only that ignorance of how to speak one's mother tongue which is the effect of the deafness. Of such deaf people many can hear sound to some extent. Dr Kerr Love quotes several authorities (Deaf Mutism, pp. 58 ff.) to show that 50 or 6o% are absolutely deaf, while 25 % can detect loud sounds such as shouting close to the ear, and the rest can distinguish vowels or even words. He himself thinks that not more than 15 or 20% are totally deaf—sometimes only 7 or 8%; that ability to hear speech exists in about one in four, while ten or fifteen in each hundred are only semi-deaf. He rightly warns against the use of tuning forks or other instruments held on the bones of the head as tests of hearing, because the vibration which is felt, not heard, may very often be mistaken for sound. Dr Edward M. Gallaudet, president of the Columbia Institution for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., suggests the following terms for use in dividing the whole class of the deaf into its main sections, though it is obviously impossible to split them up into perfectly defined subdivisions, where, as a matter of fact, you have each degree of deafness and dumbness shading into the next:—the speaking deaf, the semi-speaking deaf, the mute deaf (or deaf-mute), the speaking semi-deaf, the mute semi-deaf, the hearing mute and the hearing semi-mute. He points out that the last two classes are usually persons of feeble mental power. We should exclude these altogether from the list, since their hearing is, presumably, perfect; and should add the semi-speaking semi-deaf before the mute semi-deaf. This would give two main divisions—those who cannot hear at all, and those who have partial hearing—with three subsections in each main division—those who speak, those who have partial speech and those who do not speak at all. Where the hearing is perfect it is paradoxical to class a person with the deaf, and the dumbness in such a case is due (where there is no malformation of the vocal organs) to inability of the mind to pay attention to, and imitate, what the ear really hears. In such cases this mental weakness is generally shown in other ways besides that of not hearing sounds. Probably no sign will be given of recognizing persons or objects around; there will be in 'fact, a general incapacity of the whole body and senses. It is incorrect to designate such persons as deaf and feeble-minded or deaf and idiotic, because in many cases their organs of hearing are as perfect as are other organs of their body, and they are no more•deaf than blind, though they may pay no attention to what they hear any more than to what they see. They are simply weak in intellect, and this is shown by the disuse of any and all of their senses; hence it is incorrect to classify them ' according to one, and one only, of the evidences of this mental weakness. Extent of Deafness.—The following table shows the number of deaf and dumb persons in the United Kingdom at successive censuses: NUMBER OF DEAF AND DUMB PERSONS. NUMBER
End of Article: DEAF AND DUMB
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FRANCIS DEAK (FERENCZ), (1803-1876)

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