Deaf&Dumb is the term commonly used to describe persons who, through deafness, are unable to hear the spoken words of others, and who, consequently, remain dumb. Deafness is the cause, dumbness the consequence. Thus the term “deaf and dumb” is a misnomer, for the deficiency is single, not two-fold, although in the result it affects the two organs of hearing and speech. The term “deaf and dumb “is that which is used in every European country, and has its equivalent in every Continental language; but the Americans have dropped the word “dumb,” and now always. speak of the “deaf” simply.

Children who lose their hearing at an early age through disease or accident, very soon lose the power of speech, and ought to be sent at once to a good school for the deaf. Such cases of acquired deafness ought to be treated separately, and not classed among the deaf and dumb.

Deafness is either congenital or acquired. Congenital deafness arises from some natural cause which deprives the child of hearing from its birth. Acquired deafness arises from disease, accident, or other causes. The deaf are divided into two classes – the totally deaf, and the partially deaf: the latter being subdivided into five classes: that is, into (a) those who perceive the human voice when it is used close to the ear, without being able, however, to distinguish the separate sounds; (by those who can distinguish the vowels when they are loudly pronounced in the ear; (c) those who understand (but with difficulty) some words known to them when these are clearly pronounced in their ear; (d) those who, without effort, understand all that is clearly pronounced in their ear; and finally (e) those who can hear the raised voice, but not sufficiently well to follow general conversation, or to attend to what is going on in a class of hearing children. All those coming within this division are fit subjects for schools for the deaf and dumb.

Hearing children acquire speech by imitating the sounds they hear spoken by others; the deaf, unable to do this, remain dumb. Medical science being of no avail, the deaf have to find their solace in educational treatment. As we have to deal with want of hearing, a substitute has to be found for it, which in some cases is done by signs, in other cases by acquired speech and lip-reading. The eye in all cases has to perform the double duty of hearing as well as of seeing. The power of reading what others say, from the face and lips, is called lip-reading.  There are, at present, three methods for teaching the deaf and dumb; first, the German, or Pure-Oral System, which teaches by articulation and lip-reading exclusively; secondly, the French or Sign-System, which employs artificial signs and a manual alphabet; and thirdly, the Combined System, which tries to unite both the preceding ones, making use of signs for conveying instruction, and teaching articulation as an accomplishment. A fourth system, called the Aural System, makes use of hearing trumpets and other artificial means, with the partially deaf, with a view to develop the amount of hearing they still possess, and turn it to account as far as possible.

Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in humans today. As per WHO estimates in India, there are approximately 63 million people, who are suffering from Significant Auditory Impairment; this places the estimated prevalence at 6.3% in Indian population. As per NSSO survey, currently there are 291 persons per one lakh population who are suffering from severe to profound hearing loss (NSSO, 2001). Of these, a large percentage is children between the ages of 0 to 14 years. With such a large number of hearing impaired young Indians, it amounts to a severe loss of productivity, both physical and economic. An even larger percentage of our population suffers from milder degrees of hearing loss and unilateral (one sided) hearing loss.