According to Robert Cooper, a Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Kentucky, a mute is defined as a person who cannot speak. Dr. Cooper states that the causes of muteness range from brain damage as a result of a low Iodine diet during the baby's formation, to brain injuries, substance abuse, strokes, Selective Mutism and various other causes. In many cases, the causes of an individual's muteness can remain undetermined during an entire lifetime.
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The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) released an Intensive Care Nursery House Staff Manual focusing its last pages in Perinatal Substance Abuse. They determined that approximately 11 per cent of infants are exposed to alcohol and/or illicit drugs before delivery. Opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and tobacco are the most abused substances by expecting mothers. These substances, according to the UCSF, can have serious adverse neonatal and long-term effects. Muteness has been attributed to prolonged substance abuse that resulted in fetal brain damage, and in both auditory and speech impairments.
One of the most common causes of a person's muteness is being born deaf. "Hearing is critical to the development of speech and language skills, as it is through listening to others that children learn how to pronounce sounds and words, how to pace their verbal speech, and how to use correct tone, pitch and cadence in their speech," according to Speech Disorder. Another common denominator among individuals suffering from muteness is Autism. Neurological disorders such as Aphasia, Apraxia of Speech/Dyspraxia and Friedreich's Ataxia, also play an important role in causing muteness in people suffering from any of these conditions.
Selective Mutism is a common form of muteness among children. "Researchers believe that most selective mutism is a form of social phobia: that is, an anxiety disorder that reflects inhibited social actions for fear of embarrassment or concerns that others will judge them negatively," according to the NYU Child Study Center. Children who suffer from sexual, physical or emotional abuse, along with children who were extremely anxious since their toddler age, often opt to deviate from their speech capabilities and remain silent. According to NYU's Child Study Center, most children who develop Selective Mutism do not undergo trauma, but have a highly anxious personality from an early age.
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- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Selective Mutism
- UCSF Children's Hospital.Org: Intensive Care Nursery House Staff Manual: Perinatal Substance Abuse
- About Our Kids.Org: NYU Child Center Study: Selective Mutism Causes
- Speech Disorder.Co.Uk: Expert Advice on the Causes and Treatments
- Mad Sci Network: Neuroscience: Re: Questions About Being Mute