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Sharoff, R.L. (1962). An Aspect of the Problem of Distorted Communication. Am. J. Psychoanal., 22(1):102-104.

(1962). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 22(1):102-104

An Aspect of the Problem of Distorted Communication

Robert L. Sharoff, M.D.

My Interest of the problem of communication and the disturbances in communication among people has been focused most specifically on one group. This group comprises people with profound hearing loss from birth or early infancy. This hearing loss has been so great and the onset has been so early that these people have never been able to establish verbal communication in the normal way, that is, by hearing other people talk. These are the people referred to as the “deaf.”

It is about this particular group that I wish to make my remarks and report my observations, and then see if my observations can have any validity concerning the problems of communication among normal hearing people inside and outside the therapeutic situation.

The earliest descriptions concerning the deaf emphasized the fact that for the most part they were regarded with great fear and very little understanding. Often they were treated as mentally retarded, as imbeciles or psychotic. One of the prime reasons for reacting to them this way was the apparent inability to communicate with such people and the subsequent assumption that they were incapable of communication. Here an implicit assumption was being made by the hearing population, namely, that communication can occur only through verbal means. Later, another assumption was made. Not only could communication occur only through verbal means, but it had to be in the structure, form, and context that the user was familiar with. I will return to this when I discuss the problem of communication among the hearing, and the meaning these assumptions can have in hampering attempts at communication.

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