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For many people who are hearing impaired, the use of sign language is a easy means of communicating. However, not everyone is familiar with sign language or comfortable with the concept of learning to sign as a way of communicating with coworkers, friends, or family members. At the same time, many deaf persons prefer to verbally communicate with other people instead of utilizing sign language. Fortunately, there are both time-honored methods that help the deaf to learn to speak, as well as new approaches that make use of the latest technology.
In general, any process that involves assisting deaf people in learning to speak aloud is referred to as oralism. Since the development of formalized education for deaf people in the early years of the 18th century, oralism has continued to evolve. Much of the basis for these techniques was aimed at teaching deaf children to relate to the world around them. Over time, the oral methods that were found to be successful with children provided the basis for helping adults who lost their hearing later in life to be able to function in society.
One of the most enduring traditional oral techniques in teaching speech to deaf people has incorporated the use of both sight and touch in the learning process. This process involves the instructor placing the hand of the student on the instructor’s throat while forming specific words. The student learns how the lips move when a word is formed, and also get a sense of how the muscles in the neck move when a particular word is formed. While considered a process that involves a great deal of patience on the part of both student and teacher, the student begins to associate movements with the production of particular sounds. By replicating the movement of the lips and the manipulation of the muscles used in producing sounds, deaf people learn how to receive and send verbal communications. It becomes possible to understand what is being said through employing the sense of sight, and also learn how to verbally respond based on the proper sequence of muscle contractions and lip movements associated with pronouncing a given word.
Computer technology has more recently been a means of inventing new tools to employ sight in the education process for deal people. Visual presentations of facial and lip movements, accompanied by flashing the word that is being pronounced on the screen, allows deaf people to practice articulation in private. While not a substitute for working with a speech therapist who is fully trained in speech articulation with the deaf, computer software of this type can be a valuable support to interactive instruction by a profession, as well as practice with friends and family members.