The case of partial or total inability to hear, which is defined as deafness, hearing impairment or hearing loss, is not a rare thing in the world. According to the WHO data, 360 million people worldwide, i.e. over 5 % of the world’s population (328 million adults and 32 million children), have disabling hearing loss ranging from mild, medium, severe to profound loss (“Deafness and Hearing Loss”, 2013). Despite their physical disability, the patients with hearing impairments, using special devices, manage to perceive sounds and music that fills the world.
Deaf people can sense music, enjoy concerts and other musical events because they sense vibration in the part of the brain that other people use for hearing. According to Dr. Dean Shibata, “The perception of the musical vibrations by the deaf is likely every bit as real as the equivalent sounds since they are finally processed in the same part of the brain” (“Brains of Deaf People”, 2001).
A fruitful interaction of medicine and technology produced advanced hearing aids in a diversity of models and styles. The deaf have a possibility to pick up sounds with the help of hearing aids, ear phones, assistive devices, or cochlear implants. A hearing aid is a tiny electronic mechanism that is constructed to fit in or out the ear in order to make hearing possible. The hearing aids are classified into three groups: in-the-ear (ITE), behind-the-ear (BTE), and in-the-canal (CIC). A cochlear implant is another hearing means that can help a deaf person to enjoy music, hear musical intervals well enough to reproduce them. It is a chip that is implanted by a surgeon in the patient’s skull.
The device’s effectiveness with its pros and cons influences on the patient’s choice between aid and implant. The hearing aids have advantages and disadvantages in comparison to each other. As ITE and ITC aids’ construction consists only of one-piece mechanism, they are more comfortable in utilization. The user can easily insert and remove the device. These aids possess a wide choice of functions that are easily controlled by a user. What is more, they are available in cosmetically skin-tone matching appearance, but they are more susceptible to ear wax. BTE aids come in handy and improve the interaction process in the surrounding full of noise because they are less susceptible to acoustic response. Nevertheless, two-piece construction of BTE aid with the actual hearing aid, fitting behind the ear, causes discomfort for people wearing eyeglasses. Moreover, BTE aids are more susceptible to environmental elements of the wet weather (“Hearing Aid Styles”, 2003).
In comparison to cochlear implants, the advantages of hearing aids are revealed in greater control over the prosthetic device, greater affordability, greater flexibility, accessibility for repairs, and easier maintenance. E. Rhoades (2000-2001), comparing hearing aids with a cochlear implant, points out that the former
“… do not “mess” with the body’s biology to quite the degree that cochlear implants do; with an aided severe hearing loss, understanding men on the telephone may be easier; for those with severe hearing loss, may be greater ease in discriminating of low frequency sounds, and may better enjoy bass sounds of music” (p. 3).
Drawbacks of hearing aids are hidden “… in limited hearing assistance in high frequency range; ear molds and their acoustic feedback issues may be repetitive, time-consuming, aggravating; hearing aids for those with severe loss need to be fitted carefully, assertively, and well-monitored” (Rhoades, 2000-2001, p. 4).
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As for cochlear implants, they are very useful for patients with intense hearing loss, make possible for a deaf to use a telephone what is not always achievable with other aids, improve the perception of high frequency consonants perception. Despite all the advantages of cochlear implants, their application is connected with several limitations: environmental, practical living, surgical, insurance and cost, programming, and functional issues. Though hearing aids are not cheap, they do not cure hearing loss, cause discomfort at first they can improve the way people hear by giving a greater sense of different sounds and vibrations and their sources.
It is well-known for medicine that the causes of hearing loss and deafness can be divided into congenital causes (maternal infectious diseases, birth and after-birth complications) and acquired causes (infectious diseases, injuries, medication, age, or environment).
Nowadays being born deaf or acquiring of hearing loss is not such tremendous tragedy for the deaf as it was several centuries before. Advances in technology help the deaf cope with their problems. History of deaf culture is full of vivid examples of bright musicians and famous personalities, who managed to deal with challenge and developed a love for music, or other talents. Because of limitation in paper volume we name only several famous people in history and reveal their cases of hearing loss.
One of the first notable figures in deaf culture is Helen Kelleran American activist and author. She became deaf and blind at the age of 18 month because of complications after meningitis or scarlet fever.T. A. Edison’s case of deafness is ascribed to scarlet fever that he had as being a child, and chronic middle ear infections that were untreated. Exceptionally talented personality in the realm of music is Ludwig van Beethoven, who created and played music even after being completely deaf. His hearing loss is attributed to maternal infectious disease.American singer, songwriter, and pianist J. A. Ray was partially deaf (right ear) because of an injury sustained at the age of 13 after the accident during a Boy Scout event. “W. Elsworth (Dummy Hoy),an American the most accomplished deaf player in Major League Baseball history,became deaf after suffering from meningitis at age of three” (“Famous Well Known People”, 2008, p. 7). Gertrude Ederle, an American competitive swimmer, suffered from poor hearing since childhood due to measles and later became deaf. The first deaf writer Pierre Desloges deafened at age seven from smallpox. Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the first Girl Scout organization of America, got her impairment because of a foreign body in the ear. A grain of rice was thrown into her ear at the wedding. It became lodged in Juliette’s ear. Ear drum was punctured and became infected as the result of removing the grain. It caused her to become deaf in that ear.
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To sum it up, deaf culture is rich in examples of well-known names and ordinary people who dealt with their physical impairments, no matter congenital or acquired, with the help of hearing devices and inventions. We can admire hundreds of strong willed people suffering from deafness, who never let their physical disabilities stop them from fulfilling their dreams, creating and listening to music.