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Deaf Mutism- Causes, Precautions, & Cure!

About 6.3% of the people in India suffer from significant auditory issues.

Our ability to hear and speak enables us to experience this world. Interaction helps people experience emotions like love, happiness, support, and togetherness. Individuals suffering from congenital deaf mutism can feel excluded, especially in a world where speech is the primary form of interaction.

To support such individuals, it is essential to educate everyone. We can introduce sign language into educational curriculums and make public places disability-friendly. To achieve this, let's first start by understanding deaf mutism. This blog will discuss the condition's meaning, symptoms, and management techniques. Dive right in!

What Is Deaf Mutism?

If you go ahead and search “deaf mutism meaning in English,” you will be met with a basic definition. According to Google, when people with congenital deafness also develop an inability to speak, the condition is known as deaf mutism. Interestingly, this definition comes from a misconception. Back in the day, people believed that the ability to speak could only be developed through hearing. We have moved past this belief now. 

Deafness may interfere with an individual's speech development, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to mutism. Children born with congenital deafness may not have any exposure to spoken languages. However, with early diagnosis and hearing aids, this issue can be resolved.

Hence, the modern approach doesn’t club deafness and mutism together. 

What is Congenital Deaf Mutism?

Now that we have established that the term congenital deaf-mutism may not be scientifically accurate, let us learn about the root cause of a ‘deaf mutism’-like condition. Congenital deafness is also known as congenital sensorineural hearing loss. The term is used to describe hearing loss present at birth or developing shortly after. This hearing loss may be partial or complete. This condition may develop due to underlying deaf mutism genetics. Another reason may be certain abnormalities during foetal development.

Individuals suffering from congenital deafness have little to no exposure to spoken languages. Hence, they may struggle with communicating verbally. A phenomenon that gave rise to the term “congenital deaf mutism.

The good news is that early diagnosis of the condition and the use of hearing aids can help patients develop speech ability. This is why early diagnosis is important. 

In the next section, we will examine some early symptoms of congenital deafness in babies. Observing these symptoms can help your child’s development.

Early Sign of Congenital Deaf Mutism

Identifying signs of deafness in newborns or infants may be difficult. This is because they don't have a well-defined ability to respond. It is easy to confuse symptoms with just a lack of development. Hence, here’s a list of a few signs that you must not ignore & speak to your doctor about:

  1. No startle response: This is the most distinct sign of potential deafness. If your child doesn’t show a startled response upon hearing a sudden sound, it may indicate hearing impairment.

  1. No babbling: Newborns begin to babble at around 6 months of age. This is their way of experimenting with sounds and speech. If your child shows delayed or no babbling, it is advised to see a healthcare specialist. 

  1. Delay in speech development: If your newborn shows delayed or no speech development over the years, that may be a sign of auditory issues.

  1. Irritability: When children face challenges expressing themselves, they may feel irritated or frustrated. This is not a clear sign, but if your child seems unable to communicate their concerns, that may indicate possible hearing issues.  

  2. No interest in sound-producing toys: Children find interest in them because they startle them. That may also be a sign if your child is not interested in such a sound-producing toy.

If you see any of these symptoms in your newborn, it is best to consult your doctor. Early detection of deafness is a great way to minimize its impact on a child’s life.

Treatment and Prevention

There are no cures for congenital deafness, but certain management techniques can be used to increase its impact on an individual’s life. Some of these techniques have been listed below:

  1. Hearing screening: Going for a newborn hearing screening at early stages can be a great way to diagnose the condition in time.

  1. Hearing aids: Hearing aids amplify sounds. This ability makes them the perfect companion for children or people with partial hearing issues. 

  1. Cochlear implants: These implants substitute the damaged part of the ear. They interact with the auditory nerve directly. They can be great for individuals with profound hearing loss. 

  1. Speech therapy: Speech therapy helps individuals with auditory impairments in developing speech. Therapists help patients learn communication strategies to reduce the negative impact of hearing loss.

  2. Communication alternatives: Communication alternatives like sign language can also be a great management technique for congenital deafness. Access to these alternatives ensures that individuals with hearing loss can express themselves effectively.

The earlier we identify the signs of deafness in a child, the more effective these management techniques will be. So watch for the important signs and stay in touch with your doctor.

Final Thoughts

Congenital deaf mutism has no cure, but it can be efficiently managed. The right combination to reduce the impact of deafness on a child’s life is to diagnose it early on, & start using various management tools.

At the same time, these steps can be taken individually; as a society, we need to create more space for differently abled people. Introducing sign language courses in school curriculums can be a great way to make the world a better place for people coping with partial or complete deafness.


The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri 

+91 9811618704

Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.

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