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From:  Steve/Dianne Parkhurst
Date:  Thu Aug 19, 1999  8:19 am
Subject:  Deaf population

Dear Valerie and everybody,

As we were surveying the SLs used in Spain we came up with the same problem
you have been discussing in regards to the number of Deaf and users of SL.

The problem with statistics is that there are so many different variables
that affect the numbers. For example, if you include everyone between the
ages of 1 - 101 with any degree of hearning loss, you would have about 10%
with significant hearing loss. If you consider the degree of hearing loss
(say, mild hearing loss--however you would define that), you could probably
raise that figure to about 50%. If you were to say what % of people will
experience hearing loss in their life you would hit nearly 100%. You see
this all gets a bit ridiculous! (I remember reading a book once called "How
to Lie with Statistics"--very interesting.)

Anyway, so what did we use? We found a survey done in the US in 1972
(reference at the end) that basically defines deafness as the inability to
audibly distinguish speech without the use of a hearing aid. They
specifically studied those who went deaf before the age of 18. The found
that those who went deaf after they were of working age, perhaps married
with families, belonged to social clubs (etc.), functioned differently than
those who went deaf while still in school--before they built their social
networks. So of the population surveyed, they found about 2 in a 1000 or
0.2% in this category.

We then found several medical reports in Spain that led us to the same
number. These reports say that aproximately 1 in a 1000 children is born
deaf and another 1 in a 1000 goes deaf at an early age.

Of course not all persons with hearing loss sign. In the US study they
asked persons with significant hearing loss how they rated themselves
according to their ability to sign. About 80% rated themselves as Fair or

Now, take into account that the US has fairly good deaf education and many
deaf people get some exposure to signing. This is not true of every
country. There are some countries that are better at getting deaf kids into
Deaf schools where they learn SL (whether it is allowed or not) and there
are many countries where many deaf kids are either integrated or not
educated and only those in the big cities have much chance of learning the
SL well.

So how can you possibly come up with any kind of accurate count of how many
people in the world use a SL? Even if I stretch my mind I cannot imagine
(based on the studies I have read) that there would be 2 in 1000 world-wide
that would use SL as their preferred mode of communication. (I use the term
"preferred mode of communication" because the HH person or some spouses or
siblings of Deaf persons who prefer to use the spoken language are not
going to be "reached" by materials written in a SL--written materials in
the spoken language would "touch their heart" better.) But hey, if you are
going to quote statistics you need references and proof, not just

So, I would use the 0.2% figure as the number of persons in a population
that would likely use SL or if given the opportunity would use SL.

Here is the reference for the US study:

Schein, Jerome D. (Director), Marcus T. Delk, Jr.
1974 The Deaf Population of the United States. Silver Spring, The National
Association of the Deaf.

Hasta luego,

Steve Parkhurst

  Replies Author Date
1757 Re: Deaf population Valerie Sutton Thu  8/26/1999

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