Deafness and Hearing Loss

Deafness and hearing loss may come in a number of different forms, contrary to stereotypes about those with hearing impairments. Moreover, deafness is far more common than you might realize

In feact, deafness and hearing loss have become common occurrences in today’s world. Still, you may not fully understand the definition of the terms. According to experts, to be deaf is to have a hearing impairment that is so pronounced that an individual has significant difficulty processing the words or other sounds he or she is exposed to

Loss of Hearing Bridges the Generation Gap

One can lose one’s hearing at any age, making it an “equal opportunity handicap.” Tens of thousands of school-age children are considered to be hearing-impaired. According to one U.S. Department of Education estimate, during the 2001-2002 school year, more than 70,000 students from age six to 21 received special services because of a hearing disability. Still, the actual number of children with significant deafness and hearing loss may be much higher, given the fact that many of them may be categorized according to other disabilities they possess. 

For the most part, students are classified as deaf if they have a loss of hearing larger than 90 decibels. Their impairment may occur in one ear or both ears. Generally speaking, hearing impairment is categorized as slight, mild, moderate, severe, or profound. Therefore, there are many levels to hearing impairment. 

Types of Hearing Impairment

Researchers have identified four types of hearing impairment. If someone suffers from a disease or obstruction in the outer or middle ear, it is characterized as a loss of hearing that is conductive. Such a condition can usually be treated with a hearing aid or with surgery. In a sensorineural case, the sensory hair cells of the inner ear have been damaged. In such a case, the loss of hearing may be mild or profound. 

A mixed case usually refers to both conductive and sensorineural loss, while a central loss is caused by damage to the nerves or nuclei of the central nervous system in the brain or in the pathways to the brain. 

Reason for Hope

Yet, if you or someone you love has been diagnosed with deafness and hearing loss, there is tremendous hope. Medical and educational advancements are enabling deaf people to thrive. Deaf culture is also quite rich, improving the quality of life for us all. 

If you are among the hearing, deafness can seem hard to fathom. Most of us rely heavily on auditory means of learning about the world and about each other. We listen to our parents, to our teachers, to our brothers, sisters, and friends. We make decisions not only based on things we’ve seen, but things we’ve heard as well. We may love to listen to the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement . . . the birds whistling above our doorsteps . . . or the music flowing from our car radios. In other words, it can be difficult — if not impossible — for us to imagine a world without sound. 

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Hearing Deafness

For those who have their hearing deafness can seem difficult to comprehend. However, thanks to advancements in educational opportunities, children with a hearing impairment can access a number of vital services that can enable them to develop intellectually at the same rate as their peers. 

For the Hearing, Deafness is a Difficult World to Understand

If you are among the hearing, deafness can seem hard to fathom. Most of us rely heavily on auditory means of learning about the world and about each other. We listen to our parents, to our teachers, to our brothers, sisters, and friends. We make decisions not only based on things we’ve seen, but things we’ve heard as well. We may love to listen to the sound of raindrops hitting the pavement . . . the birds whistling above our doorsteps . . . or the music flowing from our car radios. In other words, it can be difficult — if not impossible — for us to imagine a world without sound. 

A Hearing Loss Does Not Diminish Intelligence 

However, it is important for us to recognize the fact that, just because someone is deaf, that does not mean he or she has lesser intelligence. In fact, he or she may not have any learning impediment at all. Yet, it is true that those who are deaf may require special educational services in order to achieve their academic potential. 

Types of Services Available 

There are a myriad of educational services available to those who cannot hear. These include: 

  • Speech and language training
  • Interpretation services
  • Amplification services
  • Closed captioning of film and video
  • Note-taking assistants
  • Sign language instruction
  • Text telephones

Even with these services, children who do not hear well may face a number of challenges in terms of mastering vocabulary, grammar, and other aspects of language. Therefore, they may need to rely on sign language, finger spelling, or what’s commonly referred to as cued speech. Caring, competent teachers and teachers’ aides can assist such children to excel both academically and socially. 

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Some 90 percent of deaf children are born to parents who can hear. Consequently, it’s also important that support services be available to parents who are trying to cope with a child’s auditory disability. If parents have never had to deal with a family member with a disability, they may need instruction and additional support. This is because, for the hearing, deafness can initially be a mystery, but it is a mystery that can be understood over time. 

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American Sign Language

American sign language may be one of the least-understood languages in the world today. In fact, its very complexity is also part of its beauty.

American sign language has certainly enriched our culture by tapping into the creativity of the deaf. Still, most members of the hearing community do not comprehend it. For the uninitiated, it is a complicated language that depends not only on hand and arm movements, but on body postures and unique facial expressions. While it is certainly not the only means of communication available to deaf people, it is among the most popular in existence today. 

Common Communication 

It has even been said that the method is the 4th most common language in the U.S. It should be noted that sign language can differ from region to region and from country to country. For instance, the British have their own form of sign language, which reflects some of the expressions unique to the British Isles. 

The Beginnings 

It should be noted that the exact origins of this form of sign language are unclear, although it’s believed to have been derived from the French. It was apparently used by the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, which was established by the famous Thomas Gallaudet. 

The Need to Practice 

The fundamentals of this language may be easy to master, but it can be difficult to become proficient. Therefore, a great deal of study and practice is needed in order to use the language appropriately. What you might not realize is that sign language contains its own unique grammar, punctuation, and syntax. For instance, in order to pose a question in this language, you need to raise your eyebrows and open your eyes wide. You may also need to tilt your body forward in order to communicate the question effectively. 

While signing can be exhausting, it can also be quite rewarding. There is, in fact, no better feeling than for a hearing person to be able to communicate with a non-hearing person using sign language. 

Summing It Up 

American Sign Language is a tremendous national treasure. It is a communication tool that has brought Americans, both hearing and non-hearing alike, closer together. Without this unique, vibrant language, it would be difficult to bridge the gap between the hearing and the deaf worlds. 

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Learning Sign Language

Learning sign language may not be as difficult as you think. Each day, hearing-deficient children and their parents around the world enter the intriguing world of American Sign Language. 

Easier than Ever

Learning sign language was once considered an almost impossible goal by a number of people. There were many reasons for this. For one thing, sign language is a visual means of communication—far different from the spoken word. For another, it could be hard to convey idiomatic expressions in terms of sign language. In addition, sign language can require a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and drive, disqualifying those with less than a healthy amount of determination. 

Some Positive Signs 

Yet, learning this language can be far easier than you might imagine. To begin with, if a deaf child is born to deaf parents, he or she should be able to pick up the rudiments of sign language quite easily — just as a hearing child learns the spoken word from hearing parents. However, if a child is deaf and the parents are hearing, the parents may end up learning sign language along with the child. 

Other Options 

It should be pointed out that there are other options aside from sign language for communicating with the deaf. These include oral means, auditory-verb means, and cued speech. The success of such communication methods often depends upon the time that the parents are willing to invest in teaching their children. Still, for social reasons, parents — both hearing and non-hearing — may decide that it’s best for their children to learn how to sign in order to ensure that they are steeped in deaf culture. 

Starting Early Pays Dividends 

It is best for a deaf child if he or she is introduced to sign language early in life. In fact, the earlier the better. It has been shown that the initial six months of life are the most critical in terms of mastering language skills. Therefore, it is important that infants be screened for possible hearing loss. If a child is diagnosed with deafness early, his or her parents will have plenty of time to help the child hone communication skills. 

Learning sign language can be an important milestone in a deaf child’s life. It can help prepare him or her for school and for social activities. And it can help the child to develop the means necessary to make his or her needs known. Whether sign language is considered a child’s first or second language, it is definitely a language worth learning.

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Hard of Hearing

Hard of hearing or deaf? In fact, in today’s world there may be little concrete difference between the two.

When you hear the phrase “hard of hearing,” advanced age may come to mind. In our culture, we often associate hearing loss with the process of aging. While it is true that hearing impairments may occur as we grow older, just because you’re a senior citizen doesn’t necessarily mean you will experience a hearing loss. 

It’s important to recognize the fact that a hearing loss can occur at literally any age. Anyone from a newborn to an elderly person may experience a hearing impairment. Therefore, it is important that treatment be available for deaf people at various ends of the age spectrum, as well as everywhere in between. 

Definition of Terms 

The official medical definition states that, if your hearing loss is profound, you are considered to be deaf. However, if your hearing impairment is something less than profound, you are classified as hard of hearing. Yet, there is also a cultural definition of deafness. If you, in fact, identify yourself as a deaf person, you will be considered a deaf person. 

Corrective Devices 

You may find that your hearing loss can be significantly overcome through the use of hearing aids. With the help of such devices, you may be able to understand words and sounds to such an extent that you no longer consider yourself to be deaf. 

Similarly, cochlear implants can help deaf individuals to master the spoken word. Whether or not to obtain cochlear implants may be as much a social issue as a medical one. A number of deaf individuals are proud of deaf culture and do not want to abandon it, even if it means living with silence. As a result, it’s important for you to consult with not only your doctor but also with friends and family to determine if cochlear implants would be appropriate in your particular case. 

The Beauty of Sign Language 

Whether you’ve been deaf all your life or became deaf over time, chances are you will benefit from learning American Sign Language. It is a language that will help you to communicate effectively with much of the deaf world and, because of its popularity, you may find that it’s also the best means available for you to communicate with hearing persons as well.

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Deaf Education

Deaf education has made tremendous strides in recent years. Parents of deaf children quickly learn that they need as much education as their children do in order to deal effectively with their children’s situation. 

It All Begins at Home

Deaf education is a hot topic for discussion in educational circles these days. Debate continues to rage about how best to meet the educational needs of the deaf child. Also, there are arguments as to the true mission of education of the deaf. Should it be designed to help the deaf “make it” in a hearing world? Or should it be directed at assisting deaf men and women to thrive in their own culture? 

Some Things to Consider 

Deaf children have understandable difficulty mastering the English language. Still, there are numerous resources available to help them understand America’s native tongue. One popular technique is something called manipulative visual language, or MVL. This tool assists deaf children in visualizing sounds that they are unable to hear. 

In addition, you can find product catalogs that feature goods that can promote literacy among the deaf. One book recommends utilizing posters, dialogue journals, and a writer’s handbook to help deaf children progress in their studies. 

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Interactive Resources 

There are also a number of interactive resources you should consider using with your deaf children. For instance, the Institute for Disabilities Research and Training features computer software aimed at conveying key concepts to deaf children in a fun, entertaining way. The Institute is also known for its Con-SIGN-tration memory game series. 

You can also obtain American Sign Language translations of stories from, along with videos tailor-made for deaf children from the Public Broadcasting Service. Also, has produced a “Read With Me” video series which includes sign language translations of well-known children’s stories. You’ll find that videos are an incredibly helpful way to encourage your deaf child to master the fundamentals of the English language

Deaf education may also include browsing through a number of websites that specialize in literature to assist in teaching deaf children. One of the top sites is, which offers a number of intriguing downloadable documents. You might also want to check out Gallaudet University’s Signs of Literacy Project website, which includes information about the connection between American Sign Language and literacy. The World Wide Web has turned into a phenomenal resource for deaf teaching aids.

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Deaf Culture

Deaf culture has come into its own in recent decades. It has been celebrated on film, on video, and in literature. Still, if you’re new to the deaf world, you still may be a bit puzzled about all that deaf culture entails. 

Defining What We Mean

First of all, it is important to define exactly what we mean by the word “culture.” Social scientists say culture is characterized by a set of behaviors practiced by a group of people with their own language, traditions, and values. Culture is based on community, a group of like-minded folks who have common interests, desires, and even coping techniques. 

The Critical Component 

Perhaps the most critical component of the culture of the deaf is American Sign Language. This language is a source of great pride for people who experience deafness. Among the deaf, mastery of sign language can be seen as a source of solidarity. Good storytelling is also considered important among deaf individuals, for it is in telling their stories that the deaf find solace and strength. 

The Marriage Factor 

Marriage has also emerged as an important part of the culture of the hearing impaired. It has been said that as many as 90 percent of deaf adults in America marry other deaf people. In many cases, these couples desire a child who is also deaf so that they can hand down their culture to another generation. 

As a result of the stigma of mixed marriages, it might be said that the deaf community is often set apart from the rest of society. This should not be considered a form of bigotry, but rather an open admission that the culture of the hearing impaired is markedly distinct from the culture at large. At times, deaf individuals may feel torn between the deaf world and the hearing world — particularly if they were born of hearing parents. 

Deaf culture also celebrates the achievement of non-hearing people in the arts and other aspects of American life. As a result, deaf children have a number of role models they can turn to for mentoring and support. The common language of the deaf also provides them with a means of socialization that helps them guard against self-absorption. 

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Deaf Children

Deaf children don’t come with instruction manuals. Thankfully, however, there are plenty of resources available to help parents of these children find the information and support they need.

Deaf children, in many respects, are not all that different from hearing children. They can be fascinated by a passing butterfly . . . devastated by a sudden rainstorm . . . rejoice in digging into a pile of autumn leaves. However, in other respects, hearing-impaired children are definitely distinct from their peers. They have their own way of communicating…their own way of looking at the world . . . and their own way of interacting, both with each other and with the hearing world at large. 

Bridging the Cultural Gap 

Hearing parents may have particular difficulty relating to non-hearing children. Since they do not share the disability, they may have trouble being able to foresee the kinds of challenges their children will face. Smart parents recognize this and seek out resources that can help them bridge the cultural gap with their children. 

The Importance of Networking 

When you are the parent of a deaf child, you quickly learn the value of networking. It can be tremendously educational and edifying to be connected with other parents of hearing-impaired children. You can trade ideas and learn from others how to become a strong advocate for your child. 

One national network, known as the Key Parent program, promotes better communication, improved education, and an enhanced quality of life for children who are deaf. The Key Parent program even offers training in effective parent-to-parent communication. The program is appropriate for parents of children of any age and any degree of hearing loss. 

The Key Parent program is an outgrowth of ASCD, an organization dedicated to ensuring that children with a hearing impairment have comprehensive communication access in their communities, schools, and homes. As a result, ASDC partners with parents to improve the day-to-day living and school activities of the deaf

The raising of deaf children can certainly be a challenge, taxing a parent’s resources, time, money, and patience. But as any parent of a deaf child will attest, the rewards of rearing a deaf child far outweigh the negatives. With appropriate support and resources, you can help your deaf child reach his or her full potential and become a productive, well-respected member of both the deaf community and the community at large. 

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Baby Sign Language

Baby sign language isn’t just a cute fad. It’s actually a proven way to improve your infant’s communication skills.

Baby signs More

You may have heard about baby sign language, but you might be in the dark about what it entails, or why it would be appropriate for your infant, diagnosed as deaf or not. To begin with, it’s important to recognize the fact that signing for babies is not simply for the deaf. Nor is it designed for super-parents — those who would like to see their children ace the SATs by the time they’re 12. And using sign language with your baby does not guarantee that the child will not experience some form of speech delay. Still, it could be quite beneficial for your baby — in more ways than one. 

The Science of It 

To begin with, using sign language with a baby is only natural. Mothers and fathers often use visual cues when trying to communicate with their offspring. In this way, they can ascertain what their baby needs and what the child is thinking. 

In addition, it’s a scientific fact that babies tend to develop muscles in their hands before they develop the muscles needed for them to talk. As a result, developmentally, babies can easily sign before they speak

Moreover, babies have an inherent proclivity to sign. For instance, an infant may point to a bottle when he or she is hungry…or to a blanket when he or she wants something warm to snuggle with. Babies may also use their hands to convey fears and thoughts. 

Lessons from Research 

Lessons drawn from scientific research show clearly that it can be quite easy to expand natural forms of communication with babies to include sign language. Such a technique can also help a baby to acquire speech. You might begin by signing the words for diaper change, bedtime, and eating. In addition, you might choose to sign the names of things that seem to capture your baby’s interest, such as the family cat or the child’s big sister. It can also be beneficial to sign during an activity, such as when feeding the child or when getting the child ready for bed. 

Eventually, your baby will mimic your signs, indicating that he or she has, indeed, grasped the concept. You’ll be thrilled, knowing that you are truly communicating with your child through baby sign language

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A mind-blowing novel by John F. Egbert! 

Synopsis of “MindField”

What would happen if most of the people in America became deaf almost overnight? Chaos? Financial collapse? Anarchy? 

None of the above? 

“MindField” is a thrill ride with a message; a premise torn right out of today’s headlines. A terrorist cell ignites an aerosol dispersion of what is thought to be a deadly bacteria-spinal meningitis. It quickly spreads from a small town in Montana to nearly 30 states, eventually affecting more than 3-4 million people-an epidemic of nation-threatening proportions. 

Homeland security, the CDC, the EPA, FBI and the NSA spring into action. The first city is quarantined. As the disease spreads and fears mount, martial law is established by the recently elected Libertarian President. The year is 2010. 

However, the problem isn’t death – it’s deafness. The physical symptoms of the disease disappear after three weeks, the only remaining symptom is that all those who are stricken become permanently deaf – a common side effect of spinal meningitis. 

First, telephones become useless. Air traffic control shuts down. Police and all emergency services stop. Few people understand sign language outside the deaf community, including most of those in government positions. 

The United States is turned inside out, a country where more than a third of the inhabitants can’t hear. An underground government is formed deep beneath the NORAD facilities in Colorado. It is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions – or is it? 

…and this is just the beginning. 

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“A Great Read!”

In “MindField,” people are forced to listen with their eyes, to learn to communicate in a way that is fluid, graceful and nearly symphonic – American Sign Language. 

Finally, people are forced to pay attention to each other, to listen deeply, to listen with their eyes and hearts for once instead of trying to talk over or through one another, to slow down and not only smell the roses, but see them. 

“MindField” is a fast paced, plot driven suspense novel with a pleasant surprising, and incredibly potent message about the way we might live our lives if we all had to listen with our eyes and hearts, and how the world might be a much better place for it. 

“MindField” is a compelling, thought-provoking tale that takes us on a neck-snapping ride of intrigue; at the intersection where civil rights, national security, technology, and humanity collide. Ultimately though, it makes us look at the ways we try to understand the world around us and within us, leaving us wondering – what if? 

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Here are some comments from a few of the folks who’ve read my book, “MindField”:

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Mindfield. The story is a compelling tale that puts a unique spin on terrorism. It really made me think about what would happen should a large part of the population go suddenly deaf and how everyone would react to this situation. 

Most of the entertainmnet we see or read regarding deaf people shows them as token handicapped characters. By contrast, your book portrays deaf people as sensitive heroes that are not handicapped at all! I hope many people get a chance to read Mindfield, because the story really brings to light the way the hearing world views deaf culture.

Eric Rankin, Writer 

My name is Julie Storck and I am a student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, as well as a tutor for the American Sign Language department there. I recently read the MindField and would like to encourage others to take the time to do the same. MindField enlightens the world of Deaf and hearing culture without any “preachy” undertones. 

I like that the author chose to write a fictional book to express his views. It allows the reader to truly become engaged in the subject. One doesn’t even realize that they are learning while they enjoy reading this novel. 

I think the best part of this book is that it allows the reader to question his or her current way of thinking. A hearing reader may begin to realize how much hearing individuals and organizations rely on hearing. As many individuals in this book become deaf questions start to arise such as “how would I feel if I was deaf?”, “would I be limited?”, “how would I communicate with family and friends?”, “how would I want others to treat and view me?”. I think these are all important questions so that one may come to a better understanding and respect for Deaf culture. 

MindField also displays some of the techniques hearing individuals use to “improve” deaf people. American Sign Language, although becoming more popular, was often shunned and oral education and other “cures” pressed upon individuals. Even in times of emergency when much of the population in this book was becoming deaf, no deaf individuals were included in the “recovery process”. What a perfect resource…left untouched. Issues like this are addressed indirectly throughout the story. 

MindField is filled with suspense and enjoyment while still addressing an important issue. Enjoy!

Julie Storck 

I just finished your book and I loved it. Thank you so much for the book, I will give it to my wife to read next.

Kirk Boyer 

What a great story it turned out to be! CONGRATS. We will need to continue to find ways to broaden this project so we have hundreds of you around the U.S. Thank you very much!

Larry Bos 

John Egbert’s MindField is a must read novel. Some of the best and boldest writing about what if our nation turned deaf? Hilarious and relevant, full of political games and yet passionately honest, this book represents the best of contemporary Deaf literature. 

I sat on the edge of my chair, immersing myself in everything in it. All roads in this book lead to The White House where they get educated about the language and culture of the Deaf, namely, American Sign Language, and its communication antitheses. Imagine listening to this media presentation: “Most of you are newly deaf.” 

From Audism to Oralism, John Egbert introduces numerous stereotypical terms not found in contemporary dictionaries and encyclopedia. Although I have some problems with following the storylines for the book conclusion, no one’s ever written this way about the real Deaf world before. Maybe it was because no one’s ever understood.

Carl Schroeder, Owner of Kalalau’s Korner 

Hi – I got your autographed book as a Christmas gift from my parents, Bonnie Jo and Steve Gemmill. Just wanted to drop you a note to let you know I really enjoyed your book. Just finished it this morning. Grin. Hope you will write more of the same – I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories.

Stevie Naeyaert

Excerpts from student’s book reflections of MindField at a University.

Each quotation below is from different students.

“MindField has absolutely helped me to better understand the deaf culture and really made me happy for choosing to take ASL course.”

“This book was written in a style that made it easy and enjoyable to read, I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about the deaf culture or get an idea of what it would be like to become deaf.”

“You don’t have to hear anything when someone you like or love smiles at you. That one simple visual says volumes and warms up your soul like words are hard to pressed to duplicate.” (page 244)  that is my favorite line in the book. I now understand that ASL is a language that is completely full of emotions. One simple facial expression can speak a thousand words.”

“Although MindField was difficult to begin, once I got started, it flew by. The writing style was notably more expressive than most other works of fiction, especially with regards to vocal tone.”

“This book has definitely helped me understand the deaf community and American Sign language better.”

“Overall the book MindField is a creative way to introduce speaking students to the deaf culture and community. I enjoyed reading this book and took away a lot of facts and thoughts that I think will help me appreciate ASL and the culture a lot more than I used to.”

“I think the book was filled with great metaphors for what is really going on in the world and how a lot of things go over looked and unseen if you allow them to. It is clever and insightful with a fictional story line that keeps your interests.”

“The book was inspiring to me. I think overall this book has many underlying messages about the society, government, the deaf and what it really means to be human with what ever senses we have. It was a very well written and empowering book.”

“MindField is a novel that gives a reader useful information while keeping them entranced in a beautifully put together piece of fiction. There is so much that I have learned from this test that I have never really thought of before. I have been very humbled by my ignorance of the complexities of deaf culture”

“MindField was a wonderful piece of very plausible fiction with a very powerful message. This book shows the deaf community in a light that I had previously never seen. I felt that the book was very well written and organized, the large number of chapters made it easy to keep up with the multitude of characters and events happening all around the world.”

“Overall I am very grateful to have read this book, MindField, because I feel it gave me the best possible chance to be able to relate to the deaf culture. I feel like I understand it a little better now and understand a bit more how they perceive the world. I also really liked the plot. It had a hidden message that you didn’t even realize you picked up on until the very end of the book.”

“The novel MindField, provided me with such an important message about communication. This story provided me with a better understanding of the needs and desires of deaf people and caused me to have such a strong desire to learn sign language.”

“I was most impressed with how much I enjoyed this book. Honestly, when reading the information about the book, I didn’t think that I would be interested. However, after the first chapter I was hooked. I literally would not put the book down for hours on end. The book was very well researched as well as written.”

“What impressed me most about the book is that not only was a captivating read with a great plot and believable characters, behind it was the stories and experiences of what people face every day of their lives. Making this realization gave the book much more depth and substance.”

“I believe that this book has helped me to better understand the deaf culture as well as ASL. I had never really learned about either before taking this class and I think this book was a perfect supplemental reading.”

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