Better Deaf-Friendly World

New technologies are being developed to help the deaf and the hearing-impaired community thrive in the world of talking communities.   These technologies are life-changing and have significantly helped the deaf and hearing-impaired people function normally.   These new devices and development open new opportunities to the deaf community in their home, school, workplace, and community.


Hearing loss can be from mild to profound.  There are estimated to be 360 million people worldwide suffering from deafness and hearing loss caused by either hereditary disorder, genetic disease, prenatal exposure to disease, use of some drugs, ear infections, exposure to excessive noise, injury, and aging.  According to Vicky Zhang, PhD and co-authors, “having problems with communication in social situations, resulting in feelings of disconnection from the world around them.” Treatments are being developed to aid them.  Besides treatment, many deaf-friendly communities are working together to help the deaf and hard of hearing


Educating the Deaf

Some schools are already prepared, equipped, and trained to be deaf-friendly. “School today is the place where all children learn the distinction that hunter-gatherers never knew—the distinction between work and play,” Peter Gray Ph.D. wrote.  These schools use the technology of speech-to-text systems which makes studying easier for the deaf and hearing-impaired students.  This technology translates spoken words to real-time texts and also provide a text file of the lecture.


Deaf in the Workplace

The Video Relay Service (also known as video interpreting service) is a system using a computer and a web camera.  This service allows the deaf and hard of hearing individuals communicate over video telephone.    The system is widely used in the workplace.  This system allows the deaf people improve their level of communication, thus, making them more confident and productive.


Uber is one of the companies that hire deaf and hard of hearing drivers.  In partnership with the Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), they developed an online video support guide that goes directly into their app.  This features flashing trip request, text-only communication with the riders, notifying the riders that the drive is deaf or hard of hearing.  This gives the deaf and hard of hearing drivers the opportunity to earn a living.


Alert Devices, Safety First

There are also gadgets used at home for the deaf to live a safer and comfortable life. “Exposure to technology isn’t all bad,” Jim Taylor Ph.D. says.  Alarm clocks that vibrates can be placed under their pillow to wake them.  It also has a flashing light.  In case of fire, a fire/smoke detector with a bright flashlight that warns a deaf person if there’s smoke or fire can be installed.   A phone flasher light also warns them when the phone is ringing.


Another safety gadget is the vibrating bracelet which is something a deaf person can wear.  This bracelet tickles the wrist when sound is detected around the house like a phone ringing, doorbell, and sirens.


Deaf in the Social Environment


Communication is made easier with these gloves.  It translated real-time sign language into readable text which is relayed via Bluetooth to a computer or smartphone.  This way communicating with friends and other people around here gets better.


It’s not easy to have disabilities or live with people with impairments.  People are working very hard to break the barriers through the development of these high-tech gadgets and systems.  This is not only to give them hope but to make them feel that they are also part of the society.  Advancement of modern technology is slowly making this world become a deaf and hearing-impaired friendly.   Anyone in their own simple way can also help give them a happy, comfortable, and safe environment to live in.

Are Gene Therapy And Cell Regeneration The Future For Deaf Community?

More than 30 million Americans are deaf of which causes and severity vary with each person.  Some people with hard of hearing use hearing aids to help improve their hearing.  But others have to suffer the implications of being deaf, until when no one knows.

“They certainly understand that they’re outsiders in the hearing world, and no matter how good their skills at speaking and lip reading, they may never completely fit in,” writes David Ludden Ph.D.

Almost 80% of the 30 million have the irreversible type deafness.   The remaining percentage have a profound hearing loss.  These profoundly hearing-impaired persons have few damaged sensory receptors in their ears called hair cells.



Role of Hair Cells

A cochlear implant is surgically placing electrodes into the cochlea.  These electrodes bypass hair cells, stimulates the cochlea’s hearing nerve, and transmits the impulses to the brain perceived as sound.  This then allows some deaf to comprehend speech without doing lip reading, listen to music, talk to someone on the telephone, and basically, live a normal life.

“Dr. William House surgically inserted the first cochlear implant in 1961. Most considered his idea to tap into a deaf person’s auditory nerve radical and invasive. Today, thousands of formerly deaf patients around the world now have the ability to hear because of cochlear implants,” writes Jeffrey Pickens Ph.D.


Hair Cells Regeneration

New findings show it might be possible to regrow damage hair cells.  Each ear has 15,000 hair cells.  Exposure to loud noises is what causes it to be irreparably damaged that lead to hearing loss.  While other parts of the ear can be repaired when damaged, repair of hair cells has not yet developed.  Continuous effort is being made to make this possible.   The idea arose when they were able to regrow cells in the intestinal lining.   Using the same method, they were able to grow hair cells in mouse cochlea successfully without inducing any drugs.   Hair cells grow naturally.



It is fascinating to know that there is hope for the hearing-impaired people to be able to hear again.  But even if the research turned out to be successful, not all deaf can benefit from it.  It will not work for those with an inherited hearing loss.  It is further explained that if a person’s hair cells damage is due to gene mutation no drug yet can fix the problem.  Even if they regenerate, they will still be dead hair cells because it will have the same mutation, unless gene mutation is fixed through gene therapy.


Will Gene Therapy Works

Gene therapy is one of the newest research for recovering hearing of the deaf by fixing defective DNAs.  Various tests in mice are showing positive results and giving hope to the scientists that it might be the ultimate answer to cure deafness.  Gene therapy worked in mice but still needs to be tested to other animals and human cells first before it can be stated that gene therapy is the future for the deaf to be able to hear again.

“Not long ago, this was science fiction. But today, gene editing is possible, and recently it has become much easier with new technologies such as genome sequencing and Crispr. These are helping to develop practical, clinical applications,” writes Marty Nemko Ph.D.

More research and test are still needed to be done to conclude if these hair cells regeneration and gene therapy are the future of those individuals suffering from deafness.   More patience, determination, and positivity is needed until such time that doctors can replicate hearing.

It may take more years to perfect these types of newly found ways of recovering hearing, but it is exciting to think that one important discovery of our time may help a lot of people with hearing disabilities.