Deafness/Hearing Impairment


Hearing impairment affects people of all ages. The degree of loss may be mild to severe. Some people with hearing impairment are able to be assisted with hearing aids. Other types of impairments are not affected by hearing aids. Each individual’s adjustment to hearing loss is different, depending on

  • the degree of hearing loss
  • the type of loss
  • the age of onset
  • the individual’s own coping mechanisms and attitudes.

There are a few terms to describe those who are deaf or have hearing loss: pre-lingually deaf, post-lingually deaf, deafened, and hard of hearing.

Pre-lingually deaf

People who are pre-lingually deaf are either born without hearing (congenitally deaf) or lose their hearing before the age of five years (adventitiously deaf). Both speech and language are affected to varying degrees. The person who is pre-lingually deaf communicates primarily through sign language, fingerspelling, and writing, but may possess enough speech and speech reading ability (lip reading) for basic social expression.

Post-lingually deaf

People who are post-lingually deaf are those who become profoundly deaf after the age of five years. Although they possess no hearing for practical purposes, they have had normal hearing long enough to establish fairly well-developed speech and language patterns. While speech generally is affected, it becomes quite understandable once one is accustomed to their speech patterns.


People who are deafened are those who have experienced hearing loss after completing their education, generally in their late teens or early 20s and upward. They have fairly comprehensible, nearly normal speech and language, but they need instruction to acquire useful speech reading.

Hard of hearing

People who are hard of hearing may have been born with a hearing loss or subsequently experienced a partial loss of hearing. While they have acquired speech normally through hearing and communicate by speaking, their speech may be affected. Their voice may be too soft or too loud. They understand others by speech reading, by the use of a hearing aid, or by asking the speaker to raise his or her voice or enunciate more distinctly.

Sign language is used primarily by deaf people throughout the world. It differs from spoken languages in that it is visual rather than auditory, and is composed of precise handshapes and movements. This language has evolved in a completely different medium, using the hands and face rather than the voice. It is perceived by the eye rather than the ear.

Sign language is not a universal language shared by deaf people of the world. There are many sign languages that have evolved independently of each other. Sign language portrays the image, identity and culture of the country that the deaf community belongs to. In Malaysia, we have Malaysian Sign Language (Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia, or B.I.M.).

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