When thinking to yourself, you’ll often hear your own voice, or a version of it, speaking back to you within your own headspace. For deaf people, though, it can be different because many in the deaf community have never heard a voice or sound before, so how could they “hear” a voice inside their head? Well, continue reading to discover if deaf people have an inner voice.

Human thought and communication

Language affects everybody’s thoughts. The majority of people think in words. An English-speaking person will generally think to themselves in the English language, while a Spaniard will typically think in Spanish, and so on.

Many people also think to themselves in signs and images; whatever they may be most familiar with. This also applies to people from the deaf community.

A person who was born deaf has only ever known communication through the form of signs and images, like British or American Sign Language, so it is very likely that a deaf person will communicate internally the way they do externally.

Interestingly, some deaf people have learned to speak through vocal training. These individuals may well have an inner voice because they have learned to communicate through spoken word.

Also, people who are hard of hearing who wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant will likely experience some internal language, depending on how much they can hear.

Whether it’s signs and images, spoken word or sign language, our respective language is key to our internal communication.

What is sign language?

Sign language is a way of communicating using hand gestures and movements, body language and facial expressions, instead of spoken word. Like any language across the world, there are different variations based on the location it is being communicated, such as Italian, Spanish or British.

British Sign Language (BSL)

In the United Kingdom, sign language usually refers to British Sign Language. This is the most commonly used language used by the deaf community, with over 125,000 people using BSL.

BSL is the first language of around 87,000 people, English their second and possibly even a third for others. British Sign Language is more than just hand shapes and movements. Lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements are important too.

It was only in 2003 that British Sign Language was officially recognised as a language in its own right. However, it has always been a complete language with its own vocabulary, grammar, word order, social beliefs, behaviours, art, history and values. British Sign Language also has regional dialects around the UK, just like spoken word has accents.

Anybody in the UK who is born deaf will more than likely learn BSL as their first language.

How Seashell has helped the deaf community

Seashell Trust has a long history with the deaf community, dating back to when our first school opened. In June 1823, at Manchester’s Corn Exchange, Robert Philips and William Bateman opened their school for deaf children in Salford. 

Originally, eight girls and six boys were given places funded entirely by the public. Within four years demand had grown and a purpose-built school was needed.

After the second World War, the school was moved to Cheadle Hulme, which saw students move into new accommodation. At that time, increasing numbers of deaf children joined the school.

The Royal School for the Deaf, as Seashell was then known, became a school for children and young people whose needs could not be met in mainstream educational environments.

In order to reflect the changing nature of their setting, Seashell began to use the name ‘Royal School for the Deaf and Communication Disorders’ and focused on developing communication skills for people with a variety of sensory impairments and learning disabilities.

In 2008, Seashell Trust was chosen as the new name for the charity to honour its history as a school for deaf children. The name was inspired by the conch shell, which resembles  the shape of the cochlear or inner ear. 

Today, young people with hearing impairments represent a significant proportion of Seashell’s student body. All of whom have additional complex needs such as CHARGE syndrome, autism and severe or profound learning disabilities.

Contact Seashell

If you’d like to find out more about what Seashell does, and how we could help you, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0161 610 0100 or email us at info@seashelltrust.org.uk.