How common is hearing loss in children, and what are the most frequent causes?
What characteristics of deaf children should be considered in planning their educations?
In the interests of equality, sensitivity, and political correctness, it is often claimed that deaf and hearing individuals are exactly the same, except for their hearing losses. To some extent, this attitude may reflect an understandable swing of the pendulum after years of society's treating deaf individuals as though they are deficient. At the same time, we believe that there is now considerable evidence to indicate that the experiences, knowledge, and strategies of deaf individuals often differ in some ways from those of hearing individuals, and that such differences are likely to influence learning.
At one level, the question of differences between deaf and hearing learners is a statistical, descriptive one. This chapter provides some basic information in that regard, including demographics, types and causes of hearing loss, and issues relating to educational placement. We discuss populations and their characteristics. At another level, however, the question of differences between deaf and hearing learners is about individuals. There, the relevant issues are more empirical than descriptive, and an interdisciplinary perspective becomes important. If deaf and hearing students were the same except for their hearing losses, then we would not have to worry about special educational methods, issues of social integration, or whether a local public school or special school program would be better for a deaf child. If deaf and hearing children were the same except for their hearing losses, we could put them in the same classrooms