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Helping the Deaf Population in China and India

Deaf Population in ChinaChina and India are mass-populated countries located in the world’s Northern Hemisphere. Both countries have a population of approximately 1.4 billion people each, which means a large population of those who are deaf or otherwise hard of hearing. Many citizens in both countries find it challenging to obtain help and resources for their hearing loss or deafness. However, this is slowly changing as they have made strides in helping the deaf population.

How the Deaf Population in China is Affected

According to Cochlear Implants International, an estimated 28 million people face some hearing loss in China. With this high statistic, many also face a higher risk of unemployment, less education and lower-income families than their hearing counterparts. Due to the social stigma and previous lack of resources, Chinese sign language is also less developed than in other developed countries.

Similarly, there are about 115,00 children with severe hearing loss in China and an additional 30,000 a year are born with hearing loss. Deaf children are given fewer resources to excel in school, as the curriculum focuses on speech and hearing.

Helping the Deaf Population in China

Despite the challenges, great strides are being made in helping the deaf population in China. China began gene therapy treatment in young deaf children, restoring some hearing in children who were otherwise 100% deaf. Zheng-Yi Chen, an associate professor who helped develop the study, said, “Now they can hear speech that is close to normal and one can hear a whisper.” However, this treatment only works on those with a gene defect from birth, a protein called otoferlin. People born without it don’t have a signal from the hair cells that make people hear.

This treatment is the first of its kind and only a few deaf children have received it as a trial. However, China has implemented more accessible resources for the general population. Deaf children receive cochlear implants as they are increasingly more affordable. China has also implemented screenings for newborns to intervene immediately if they detect hearing loss or deafness. However, audiology isn’t yet seen as a medical practice in China. Cochlear implants are performed by nurses, physicians and other professionals.

How Deaf Indian Citizens Are Affected

About 18 million people in India are deaf or hard of hearing, though the number could be much larger. Despite the large population, India needs more resources than China comparatively has. There’s no official recognition of Indian sign language and the use of it carries a heavy stigma, as many of the population are unaware of the nuances of deafness.

With no official recognition, children who are deaf are often forced to adhere to the standards of hearing people in school. As sign language is discouraged, learning is undertaken by lipreading and written communication, putting these learners at a disadvantage to their peers. This disparity further increases the illiteracy rate in India which sits at about 26%.

How India Is Helping the Deaf

India is slowly making some improvements with the help of a few nonprofit organizations, such as VAANI. VAANI recognizes that the hearing population of India lacks an understanding of deafness and seeks to help deaf children. In increasing awareness, families with deaf children can obtain government resources for their children. These resources can help families to avoid a future of poverty. VAANI helps by providing early intervention, educating families and improving communication.

Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Noida Deaf Society (NDS), have also stepped in to help deaf people in India lead self-sufficient lives and seek employment opportunities. These NGOs work to help them build employability skills and provide more inclusive learning environments for deaf children. NDS has successfully brought employment opportunities for deaf people in hospitality, retail, education and more industries.

Final Remark

There is still much work to be done. This is especially the case in India, however, both countries are making their way to helping the deaf population and be more inclusive. With the help of NGOs and other organizations, deaf people don’t have to be stuck in poverty and can lead fulfilling lives.

– Sabrina Betterly

Sabrina is based in Drums, PA, USA and focuses on Good News and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Freepik