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"Super Abilities of Deaf People"


 

Evan Lawrence

1/08/14

 

Super Abilities of the Deaf
 

            Although the focus of any case of deafness has been upon what Deaf individuals cannot do, it has more recently come to general attention that there are a lot of advantages to being without hearing.
 

            In 2012 a young boy with mosaic trisomy 22 informed his mother that he would no longer wear his hearing aid because super heroes do not wear them. A plea was sent by his mother to Marvel comics and a new character was created to inspire the hard of hearing. This character was named Blue Ear who was able to invent a super hearing device which allowed him to hear cries for help or even “an ant hiccup on the other side of the country”. (Michelle, 2012).
 

What the creators of Blue Ear failed to recognize is that there is a whole array of advantages to being WITHOUT hearing. While the removal of one of our precious senses has seemed for centuries as a disadvantage with the focus placed entirely on what is lost, recent studies have changed the mindset of the scientific community by demonstrating some very useful advantages. These studies have found that if a person is born Deaf or loses their hearing at a young age then the area of the brain devoted to processing hearing does not go to waste but is remarkably reorganized to help process the remaining senses. This phenomenon of converting brain power deprived of stimulus to help support and augment other senses is known as cross-modal neuroplasticity. As a result, it has been demonstrated that individuals born Deaf can process peripheral vision and motion better than hearing individuals. In addition, “the researchers found this neural reorganization affects how Deaf individuals perceive sensory stimuli, making them susceptible to a perceptual illusion that hearing people do not experience.” (Bates, 2012).
 

Another incredible advantage of being Deaf or hard of hearing is that it will often be accompanied with the ability to speak via signed gestures (sign language). Being bilingual in general would, of course, be a huge advantage in life but signing has some very specific advantages different from any other type of language. Take very specific scientific discussion as an example; at first glance it would seem a disadvantage to have to spell out complex scientific terms or to create understandable gestures but many Deaf students feel as though signing is much easier to understand than spoken explanation. In one little adjustment to either speed of motion, facial expression, etc… a signing individual could portray exactly what is being demonstrated without having to follow with lengthy explanation. “Such elegant personifications of tricky scientific concepts leave some Deaf students feeling sorry for those who rely on their ears.” (Quenqua, 2012).
 

            A Deaf football team from Little Rock, Arkansas has turned their shared, quick language into an competitive advantage which has lead them to many victories over bigger teams from hearing schools. They all already share the most efficient way to speak to their coach and each other from across the field without the other team being able to understand any of it. A hearing team will often times try to simulate this with invented gestures to avoid having to huddle up and yell over all of the noise but they aren’t likely to become as quick and precise as a team of Deaf athletes. The coach of a Deaf football team can tell a player exactly who to block or where to pass the ball and the other team would be clueless. (Mitchell, 2013).
 

            Yet another advantage of being Deaf is revealed in studies of the of parents who signed to their children (as is common in the Deaf world). In 1998 a development study was designed and initiated involving two groups of infants between the ages of 10 and 20 months of age. This cross sectional and longitudinal study involved one set of parents actively encouraging their babies to use gesturing and preverbal communication to see if this would affect cognitive and subsequent language development. These children were “so highly motivated to communicate that they often spontaneously recruit such “symbolic gestures” as a way around the obstacle posed by the articulatory demands of verbal words”. Three important results for the study included the infants using symbolic gesturing if encouraged to do so, an indicated advantage for the signing group in receptive and expressive development, and the signing children scoring significantly higher on the Bayley MDI at 24 months of age. They were then again assessed after their second grade year with the WISC-III results indicating a continued outperforming for the singing children six years later in the Verbal Sub-Scale, the Performance Sub-Scale and to the Full IQ. (Acredolo, 2000).
 

            Even though those people who do depend upon sound in so many aspects of daily life could not imagine life without it, there is no doubt that there is a silent world out there filled with advantages for those living there.



References


Acredolo, Linda P. & Goodwyn, Susan W. (2000, July 18). The longterm impact of symbolic gesturing during infancy on IQ at age 8. www.babysigns.com. International Conference on Infant Studies. Retrieved 09 Jan. 2014: < https://www.babysigns.com/index.cfm?id=113>.


Bates, Mary. (2012, Sept, 18). Super powers for the blind and Deaf. Scientific American. Scientific American, a division of Nature America, Inc. Retrieved 29, Dec. 2013: <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=superpowers-for-the-blind-and-deaf>


Castillo, Michelle. (2012, May, 27). Marvel team creates Deaf superhero called Blue Ear in honor of boy. CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 29 Dec. 2013: <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marvel-team-creates-deaf-superhero-called-blue-ear-in-honor-of-boy/>


Mitchell, Meredith. (2013, Sept. 13). Deaf Leapards feel they have advantage on football field. www.thv11.com. THV11 a Gannett Company. Retrieved 10 Jan. 2014. <http://www.thv11.com/news/article/279615/2/Deaf-Leopards-feel-they-have-advantage-on-football-field>.


Quenqua, Douglas. (2012, Dec. 3). Pushing science’s limits in sign language lexicon. www.nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 10 Jan. 2014. < http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/science/sign-language-researchers-broaden-science-lexicon.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&>.

 

 


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