You may not know any deaf people, but the chances are you will at some point come into contact with someone who is either deaf or hard of hearing. Going deaf is a common symptom of ageing, especially after 50; maybe the older members of your family are experiencing losing their hearing. I started to go deaf at age 16 and only began to wear hearing aids in my forties. I didn’t have them earlier because I was too proud and embarrassed. How stupid I was! Fortunately the stigma attached to wearing hearing aids has changed (much like the stigma attached to wearing braces or glasses). Here are my top 5 things NOT to do around deaf people, based on my own experiences.
1.) Say “It doesn’t matter” when your deaf friend asks what was said. It does matter! Everyone else heard the remark except the deaf person who is now at a disadvantage as they have lost the thread of the conversation. It now gets confusing for them and eventually they’ll stop listening altogether. Great! Now your deaf friend is left out. “It doesn’t matter” also makes the deaf person look unimportant, not worthy of a repeat, which is really upsetting. Repeating what was said is of course what should have happened. (I know, I know, it’s a pain saying things twice….)
2.) Whistle. As a hearing aid wearer, I can honestly say whistling is THE most annoying sound. My hearing aids pick up a whistle and amplify it tenfold. To a normal hearing person I imagine it would be like having someone scream in your ear. Ouch! If people don’t know I’m deaf (why would they? It’s not like I wear a badge or something), I politely ask them to stop and tell them why. Usually they’re very sorry!
3.) Shout in their ear. This is one of the worst things people do. Almost before the words “I’m deaf” have left your lips, some people are down by your ear shouting at the top of their lungs. This HURTS. Please don’t do this! Speaking slowly and clearly is easier to interpret. Telephone operators are guilty of shouting too. This just distorts their voice into a string of incomprehensible noises.
4.) Moan about the subtitles. We need them. Watch your favourite shows with the sound turned down really low and see how you find it! Or we can turn the volume up so high that your ears will bleed. Subtitles it is then!
5.) Wander off while talking to your deaf friend, turning your back or leaving the room altogether. (I know, that’s 3 in 1). I’ve been with my husband for over 20 years and he still does all 3 of these things. And every time he does, he has to say everything to me again. You’d think he’d have cottoned on by now that unless I can see his face while he’s speaking, I will pretty much not have a clue what he has said. At least he doesn’t say “Doesn’t matter”!
There you have it. My advice for what not to do around deaf people.
See you soon!