To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Chapter 8 History of deafness and hearing impairments

History of Special Education

ISBN: 978-0-85724-629-5, eISBN: 978-0-85724-630-1

ISSN: 0270-4013

Publication date: 28 January 2011


Deafness and hearing impairments have a very interesting and ancient history. The term hearing impairments is used here to refer to any dysfunction of the hearing organ, regardless of the etiology, degree of hearing loss, and service provision implications. The history of hearing impairments can be traced back to centuries before Christ (BC). For instance, around 1000 BC a Hebrew law provided those with deafness and hearing impairments limited rights to own property and marry. Nonetheless, although this law protected people with hearing impairments from being cursed and maltreated by others, it did not grant them full participation in rituals of the temple (ASLInfo, 2010). People with hearing impairments were considered to be “subnormal” by great philosophers of that time. For instance, between 427 and 347 BC, Plato's philosophy of innate intelligence was the vogue. It claimed that all intelligence was present at birth. Therefore, all people were born with ideas and languages in their minds and required only time to demonstrate their outward sign of intelligence through speech. People with hearing impairments could not speak and were therefore considered incapable of rational thoughts and ideas. Indeed in 355 BC Aristotle was reported to have claimed that those who were born deaf would become stupid and incapable of reason. According to him, people with hearing impairments could not be educated because without the ability to hear, people could not learn. Greek which was spoken in his society was considered the perfect language and all people who did not speak Greek including people with deafness were considered Barbarians (ASLInfo, 2010).


Jonah Eleweke, C. (2011), "Chapter 8 History of deafness and hearing impairments", Rotatori, A.F., Obiakor, F.E. and Bakken, J.P. (Ed.) History of Special Education (Advances in Special Education, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 181-212.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited