← Return to Hearing Loss Experiences - Can you find humor in some of it?

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It's amazing to know that prior to the 1980s very little research was being done on communication disorders; hearing loss in particular. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) did not have an institute for this until 1988. Other institutes within NIH had been in place for over a century. And, it wasn't until HLAA was incorporated in 1979 as Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc. (SHHH) that people with partial deafness; the hard of hearing crowd, had an identity of their own, separate from the deaf population. (The name change took place in 2006 to allow more visibility on the internet.)

Because the hearing mechanism is placed deep in the skull, the prevailing medical attitude back then was that little research could be done in that area of the body except on cadavers. That all started to change in the 1960s when Graeme Clark of Australia developed the concept of being able to electronically stimulate the auditory nerve to get signals to the human brain for interpretation. The House Ear Institute in California was also pioneering this technology. This is the Cochlear Implant. (CI)

The prevailing belief was that the auditory nerve was 'dead or dying', thus the brain did not get what it needed to understand speech/sounds. The CI research has evolved amazingly over the past 50 years. Most importantly, researchers learned that most people with hearing loss had a live and functional auditory nerve. It was the tiny hair cells in the cochlea that were dying, thus most with hearing loss experience it as happening progressively. By bypassing the cochlea to stimulate the auditory nerve, they have been able to bring back hearing. CI's started as single channel technology and are now many times that. At first they only delivered sound. Today they deliver speech to most recipients. Now, that is truly a modern miracle. And, of course, hearing aids have come a long, long way in this time frame going from analog to digital, adding BlueTooth streaming, etc.

We all know that eye glasses have been around far longer than hearing devices. Correcting vision is done externally for the most part. It's hard to compare, isn't it? I feel so fortunate to be livng in a time where I've been able to benefit from the advanced technology of the last few decades.

We've all heard of Helen Keller, the woman who was both deaf and blind, and all she achieved in her life. One of my favorite quotes from her is "I am both deaf and blind. Blindness removes us from things; deafness removes us from people". How do you feel about that statement?

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Replies to "It's amazing to know that prior to the 1980s very little research was being done on..."

Helen Keller's comment is exactly right. Having studied and taught the medical history of the great musicians (from Bach on), I note that there have been numerous blind musicians (organists, e.g.), who have had successful careers and good lives. Deafness spells the end to any performance career (e.g., Beethoven), although composing is still possible. And deafness does certainlhy cut you off. I have had blind students in my classes, and they seem to do OK, and people like them and try to include and help them. I have never had a hearing-impaired student, so it must be much less common than blindness or visually impaired students.

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