I get this question a lot of times. Do deaf people have voices inside their heads like the rest of us? If yes, what do they hear? And how are they able to do that?
Well, as it turns out, the answer is a vague it depends.
The reason is that there are a few factors that come into play. Factors like the level of their deafness and the magnitude of their vocal training.
For example, those who were born without the sense of hearing and only learned how to communicate using sign language will actually think in sign language. You know that inner voice inside you that tells you the girl you’ve been staring for hours is, in fact, cute? Well, deaf people have that one too. But it’s using sign language, instead of the annoying other you.
However, those who were born deaf but undergone through vocal training which eventually helped them speak, will occasionally think not only in sign language, but also in the vocal language they learned because their brains generate the tone or sound of the vocal language they learned. But still, the common method of thinking for deaf people is in sign.
For the ones who aren’t completely unable to hear, or could try using hearing aids, they will often think and hear their inner voice than they could hear using their hearing aids.
What’s interesting about this is that we could argue that blindness is more serious compared to loss of hearing in terms of effect on the brain. And we’re not implying that the mental capacity of deaf people is higher than those who are blind. What this means is that language is an integral component to brain functions, and by this we refer to any language; be it sign or spoken. This is because the brain needs to have some structure of a language that it could decipher and that could turn into what we call inner voice.
There have been research that suggested language’s importance in forging memory, abstract thinking, and self-awareness. Language, in its own way, helps the brain understand itself. This could also be the explanation why people who were born deaf and didn’t get any sign language training turns to be mentally handicapped until they learn to do some sign, and nothing is even wrong with their brains physiologically.