DEAFNESS: LIFE, LEARNING, USE OF OTHER SENSE ORGANS TO COMPENSATE AND LEARN.
Mannat kaur Bhatia
Final year Mbbs
Govt medical College, Patiala
It is an often repeated idea that deaf people can compensate for their lack of hearing with enhanced vision or other abilities. The musical talents of Ludwig Van Beethoven, who, by the end of his life couldn’t hear his own work, are cited as examples of deafness conferring other advantages. He introduced the world to his most famous symphony, the Ninth Symphony- well after deafness had overtaken him, an irony that produced one of the most poignant moments of his career.
As awe-inspiring as Beethoven’s life happens to be in the movies, does that sort of advanced ability have any basis in real life ? It is known that “ by clenching a stick in his teeth, holding it against the keyboard of his piano, he could discern faint sounds “. So, how does this compensation work?
The most beautiful thing about the brain is its plasticity. There’s a quirky phenomenon where people who lose one sense can join near-super abilities in others, especially if that sense is lost in early life. The brain is highly adept at re-wiring itself if it thinks it can function more efficiently. Thus, if you lose your sense of hearing, the brain is not going to let this huge territory that is the auditory cortex and its processing go to waste. This energy is shifted to the other senses, deepening these significantly.
Thus, although deaf people leaping across rooftops sniffing out bad guys from around the corner might be a bit of a stretch, yet solid research has shown that it is far from impossible. Brain is a miraculous machine and people born deaf have better peripheral vision, motion-detection abilities and a heightened sense of smell.
Cochlear implants as a technology has helped improve the quality of the life of people with hearing loss. A very significant challenge that these people are faced with is being able to juggle work and family. Because after a long day at work lip-reading and making sense of communication, it is a feat to listen to your son’s recount of their day, especially with a lesser support mechanism than usual. To make these less stressful, it is imperative that the deaf be educated on setting communication rules at work as well as home.The sound of silence wouldn’t sound as bad then, isn’t it?