Are Deaf people neurodivergent?

Muffinator

New Member
Autistic signer here, curious about perspectives from both Deaf and hearing. Neurodiversity is not well-known, so let me explain two important terms: Neurotypical - This means your brain works the way most people's brains work. You think, speak, act, and process input in the typical way. About 9 out of 10 people are neurotypical. Neurodivergent - This means not neurotypical. So anybody whose brain works different (diverging) from the typical way is neurodivergent. In other words autism, bipolarity, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, epilepsy, OCD, schizophrenia are all examples of neurodivergence. How this relates to deafness is because of neuroscience: When one of the seven senses is not present, in this case hearing, the parts of the brain that are usually "for hearing" don't just sit there doing nothing. They take on other duties. Language also makes a difference. For example, brain scans show that the facial expression of signers come from the language parts of the brain instead of emotions. Hearing people of course being the majority are mostly neurotypical. Do you consider deafness a neurodivergence?
 
Being deaf isn't the same as having a mental disorder such as autism or dyslexia. It's losing hearing, not contracting a disease. I've seen many arguments over whether hearing and deaf people think alike, so I'll leave it up to them. But for the most part, my answer is no.
 

LoveBlue

Well-Known Member
Being deaf isn't the same as having a mental disorder such as autism or dyslexia. It's losing hearing, not contracting a disease. I've seen many arguments over whether hearing and deaf people think alike, so I'll leave it up to them. But for the most part, my answer is no.
Your statement seems to imply that you think autism and dyslexia are diseases. I don't agree.
 

jonnyghost

Well-Known Member
Being deaf isn't the same as having a mental disorder such as autism or dyslexia. It's losing hearing, not contracting a disease. I've seen many arguments over whether hearing and deaf people think alike, so I'll leave it up to them. But for the most part, my answer is no.
You don't contract autism or dyslexia :lol:

The brains of deaf people are the same as everyone elses. Some are autistic or dyslexic and some are "neurotypical". How they use them may be different. Culture and language differences affect how we think as well as sensory differences.
 

dogmom

Well-Known Member
I'm familiar with the term "nuerodiversity" <and have worked in social services with people with severe/profound autism>and would consider it for myself, as I have learning disabilities <not dyslexia>. I was waiting for Deaf folks to come on before I responded. I'm hoh.
 

Bottesini

Old Deaf Ranter
Premium Member
Pure vanilla deaf are divergent by having a wider field of vision than hearing.

But deaf people also can fall on the autism spectrum, so ...
 
A

atmannel

Guest
I would not... although certain centers/parts of the brain are used in processing and producing sign language etc. The brain is still "neuro-typical", Deaf brains are still classified as typical, the same as "hearing" brains are they simply use different centers of the brain when processing language.
Deaf is Deaf, the only difference is visual processing, not auditory. So your answer is No.
 

ambrosia

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Unless there were other factors involved I'd guess no. They use a different language, but just using a different language wouldn't mean their brain worked differently.

I noticed you didn't include blindness in your list neurodivergence. If you think just having a loss of sensory input changes the way the brain works would you include it? Are you asking of strictly profound deafness where hearing aids are not beneficial? So excluding hoh people, I'm excluding myself not because I don't like the idea of being divergent :D but I'm late deafened. I doubt my brain would change how it worked mid way through my life. I may pay more attention to what I see and more aware of my peripheral vision but it still doesn't really change how my brain processes the info.
 

Muffinator

New Member
If deafness alone counts as neurodivergence then blindness certainly would as well. That reminds me of a documentary that I can't remember the name of: A paid research participant was blindfolded 24/7 and taught how to read braille. After just two weeks, the researchers were able to demonstrate that her visual cortex was helping her read the braille. So actually yes, your brain CAN change how it works mid way through life. Someone who was profoundly deaf since birth obviously isn't the same as someone who became hard of hearing in adulthood, but the HOH adult isn't the same as a lifelong hearing person either. Back when anybody could just declare themself a scientist, there was this idea that you're born with all the brain cells you will ever have, and senility/dementia is caused by having less brain cells as they die off. Then this idea was challenged by neuroplasticity, which discover all sorts of cool things. One example is that people with brain damage who lose some skills can regain those skills, just like healing from a physical injury. We are neuroplastic our whole lives, not just as children.
 

dogmom

Well-Known Member
My understanding the classic definition or description of neurodiversity does - not - include things like deaf and blind.

What I read was that it was things like: LD, autism, mental illness.
 

ambrosia

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I did some more poking around and I'd have to say no, deafness is certainly not neurodivergent. They are neurological disorders, basically dealing with the brain and nervous system-that's what neuro is. Tourette's, autism, epilepsy, dyslexia the autism spectrum are examples. Deafness does not really effect how your brain works, processes.
 

mfh18

New Member
I have a friend well versed in autism research. She commented (and gave permission to share):

"On being deaf (or blind, or mute) and neurodivergence: if someone lost hearing due to damage to the inner ear or to the eyes, those things usually happen later in life and are medical. If there is something in the brain that causes deafness or blindness, then the reason is neurological. Those people are always neurodiverse by definition. Not always autistic, but always neurodiverse.

The brain, especially for younger people, reroutes its resources. So, if an 18 month old lost hearing due to a neurological reason, then the brain would reroute all the resources used for auditory processing, causing strengths in other areas (usually visual since it's so important for communication).

Autism is an uneven distribution of resources in the brain, so things are processed or rerouted. A lot of autistics can hear sound/volume, but they can't understand the sounds and find them unpleasant or painful. This would be considered low auditory intelligence.

I would say that autism and becoming deaf early in life or being born deaf would have similar presentation. Autism isn't one thing specifically. It's thousands of things. I'd say, too, the social differences of not having others "speak your language," being outcast by default, not being able to interpret tone, etc. would make it even more similar in autism in presentation.
So, yes and no? I think deaf people and autistic people make great friends though. You ever notice the high number of deaf people who are social justice warriors, and autistics are, too. And they tend to be exponentially more genuine and less materialistic (like autistics)."
 
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