Myths About Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Like all minority groups, Deaf people suffer from stereotyping by those who do not know and understand them. A number of myths about Deaf people circulate widely in our society and prevent understanding between hearing people and Deaf or Hard of Hearing people.
MYTH: All Deaf people can read lips.
FACT: Some Deaf people are very skilled lip readers, but many are not. Only about 30% of spoken English is visible on the lips. This is because many speech sounds have identical mouth movements. For example: p and b look exactly alike on the lips.
Many people that read lips are hard of hearing.
MYTH: All Deaf students are mute.
FACT: Some Deaf speak very well and clearly; others choose not to use their voice if they think that they are difficult to understand or have problems gauging their pitch or volume.
However, most Deaf people do have the physical ability to speak and therefore, they are not technically “mute”.
MYTH: People who are Deaf are "deaf and dumb."
FACT: The inability to hear affects neither native intelligence nor the physical ability to produce sounds. Deafness does not make people "dumb" in the sense of being either stupid or mute. Deaf people, understandably, find this stereotype particularly offensive.
MYTH: People who have unusual sounding speech are mentally retarded.
FACT: There is absolutely no correlation between the physical production of speech and intelligence.
MYTH: All deaf people use sign language.
FACT: Many deaf people use American Sign Language exclusively while others us a variety of educational sign systems. Some who are “medically deaf” do not use sign language.
MYTH: Deaf people are less intelligent.
FACT: Hearing ability is unrelated to intelligence. Lack of knowledge about deafness, however, has often limited educational and occupational opportunities for deaf people.
MYTH: Deaf people can't use the phone.
FACT: Special telecommunication aids (TTYs/TDDs (teletypewriter)/ videophones and ring signalers) have been developed for deaf people.
MYTH: All deaf people use hearing aids.
FACT: Many deaf people benefit considerably from hearing aids. Some may only be able to hear loud environmental sounds such as a fire alarm or a car horn. Still others may not benefit at all.
MYTH: Hearing aids restore hearing.
FACT: Hearing aids amplify sound, but do not correct hearing. They have no effect on a person's ability to process that sound. In cases where a hearing loss distorts incoming sounds, a hearing aid can do nothing to correct it. In fact, it may make the distortion worse. A hearing aid may enable a person to hear someone's voice, but not be able to understand distinct words.
MYTH: Deaf people lead totally different lives than other people.
FACT: Most deaf individuals occupy their time just like hearing people. They go to work, marry and raise families, drive cars, use the phone, go shopping and pay taxes. Of course, individual differences exist. Chances are good that when you meet a Deaf person, you will share several similar interests that you can explore together.
MYTH: Deaf people cannot appreciate the arts because they can't hear music, movies, etc.
FACT: Anyone who has ever had the privilege to see a performance by the National Theatre of the Deaf will realize the error in the above statement. Throughout history, deaf individuals have participated in and contributed to the performing arts. Beethoven is one example. Today there are deaf artists, dance troupes, and actors. Captioning of movies and other audiovisual media is helpful for deaf citizens, and this practice should be continued. As long as there is rhythm and visual image, deaf and hard of hearing will be valued performers and patrons of the arts.
(Metro Regional Service Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People; Minnesota Department of Human Services)