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July 11, 1977

The Causes of Profound Deafness in Childhood: A Study of 3,535 Individuals With Severe Hearing Loss Present at Birth or of Childhood Onset

Author Affiliations

University of Virginia Medical Center Charlottesville

JAMA. 1977;238(2):167. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280020071036

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Profound congenital deafness is one of the most devastating disabilities that afflicts man. Not only is the deaf person isolated from his fellow man by an invisible, nearly insurmountable barrier of silence, but he is frequently thought to be mentally retarded and treated as such. He does not respond to verbal communication, and his attempts at speech are painfully awkward. Speech, being an imitative function, is almost impossible to learn for the profound, congenitally deaf person. That this condition usually occurs in a person of average or higher intelligence compounds the frustration. It is an ironic cruelty that the word "dumb" is frequently used to mean stupid, and a deaf and dumb person is frequently considered to have a low intellect.

Compared to the blind, the deaf are shortchanged in the allocation of funds for the handicapped. Vocal rehabilitation expenditures for totally blind youths average $6,167 annually but only $2,068