The Nature of Deafness

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THE NATURE OF DEAFNESS

DEFINITION OF DEAFNESS

Deafness is one of the largest categories of impairment in South Africa and encompasses the full spectrum of hearing loss – from mild loss of hearing to total deafness – yet as an invisible impairment it is often misunderstood and the severity of its impact upon both the child and his family is underestimated. It is believed that a better understanding of the concept ‘deafness’ will enable non-specialist educators to develop more effective classroom practices.

Although deafness is a multifaceted concept which, due to the complex nature of the condition, cannot be easily defined, Myklebust (1997:12) defined the term deaf as referring to those individuals in whom the sense of hearing is non-functional for the ordinary purposes of life. Deafness can also be described as the physical impairment that results in those affected by it being unable to hear, and usually brings to mind the need for hearing aids, speech therapy and the use of signing and gestures as a means of communication.

THE NATURE OF DEAFNESS

In order to understand the concept ‘deafness’, the concept ‘hearing’ must be understood. Hearing, which is sometimes referred to as audition, involves the gathering and interpreting of sounds.

Each part of the ear serves a purpose in translating sound waves from the environment into meaningful information to the brain. The outer ear is called pinna. It is the first point of contact between the individual and the sound. The outer ear gathers the sound and sends it down the auditory canal, or external auditory meatus. At this point, the sound enters the middle ear and sets the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, into motion (Schirmer 2001:2). What started as acoustical energy in the outer ear is turned into mechanical energy in the middle ear.…...

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