Deafness prevents a person from hearing sound. There are different causes and types of deafness, some of which are permanent and some of which may be reversible. Damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve is generally permanent, whereas sound waves simply not reaching the inner ear could be caused by a number of treatable conditions, like fluid buildup or a punctured eardrum.
Diagnosing deafness is usually fairly simple and straightforward, and involves several basic tests to determine whether or not a person can perceive sound waves. Depending on the type of deafness, methods may include removal of ear wax, surgical procedures, medication, hearing aids or cochlear implants. Not all types of deafness are curable or treatable and not all people with deafness may choose to undergo treatment.
Although the loss of one of the senses may result in some obstacles or difficulties, people with deafness are still fully capable of leading happy, productive and functioning lives. Some people with deafness identify with Deaf Culture and communicate with American Sign Language (ASL). Many who spend time around people who aren’t deaf struggle with feeling left out or isolated and face a great deal of discrimination and lowered expectations. Some people are surprised to learn that many of those with deafness are fully able to communicate, complete higher education and/or start a family. Although people with deafness tend to be pigeon-holed together, they are all unique and have different causes and levels of hearing loss, different struggles, different preferences and different identities or associations.
Deaf culture is a close-knit community of people who share the rich language of ASL and enjoy being connected with other people who have deafness. Other organizations exist to provide information and resources about deafness.