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Hearing management

Updated 04 December 2017

Deaf people read body language faster

Deaf people who use sign language are quicker at recognising and interpreting body language than hearing non-signers.

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Deaf people who use sign language are quicker at recognising and interpreting body language than hearing non-signers, according to new research from investigators at UC Davis and UC Irvine.

The work suggests that deaf people may be especially adept at picking up on subtle visual traits in the actions of others, an ability that could be useful for some sensitive jobs, such as airport screening.

“There are a lot of anecdotes about deaf people being better able to pick up on body language, but this is the first evidence of that,” said David Corina, professor in the UC Davis Department of Linguistics and Center for Mind and Brain.

Corina and graduate student Michael Grosvald, now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Irvine, measured the response times of both deaf and hearing people to a series of video clips showing people making American Sign Language signs or ”non-language” gestures, such as stroking the chin. Their work was published online in the journal Cognition.

“We expected that deaf people would recognise sign language faster than hearing people, as the deaf people know and use sign language daily, but the real surprise was that deaf people also were about 100 milliseconds faster at recognising non-language gestures than were hearing people,” Corina said.

Modifiable communication

This work is important because it suggests that the human ability for communication is modifiable and is not limited to speech, Corina said. Deaf people show us that language can be expressed by the hands and be perceived through the visual system. When this happens, deaf signers get the added benefit of being able to recognise non-language actions better than hearing people who do not know a sign language, Corina said.

The study supports the idea that sign language is based on a modification of the system that all humans use to recognise gestures and body language, rather than working through a completely different system, Corina said.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

UC Davis is a leader in brain science, with three major centres — the Centre for Mind and Brain, the Centre for Neuroscience and the MIND Institute — that bring together experts from across the university to work together on topics ranging from autism and memory to meditation and the effects of music on the brain.

(EurekAlert, Press Release, January 2012)

 

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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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