10 things hearing people should definitely not be saying to the deaf
Updated: Aug 18
Ever wonder why the Deaf get so defensive when the hearing ask them questions they are absolutely tired of answering? Unfortunately, there are still a lot of us out there who don’t know how to talk to people who are Deaf and this can come across as pretty offensive and hurtful at times.
The next time you are with or around a person who is affected by hearing loss, here are some things you should be mindful of.
1. “Wait… you can speak?”
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of Deaf people can speak. This might be because they have received speech therapy during their lifetime.
However, some Deaf people do not talk because they are unsure of how to regulate their sound and words since they have never heard them. While some prefer to communicate orally, others are comfortable using sign language.
2. “H O W A R E Y O U?”
Sorry to break it to you, but no. Screaming at a Deaf person is not something you should be doing. Not only does this cause discomfort, but talking louder does not help the individual. What helps however is you facing them directly and maintaining eye contact.
3. “What are they doing…?”
Please do not point at people when they are communicating with each other through sign language or question them about why they are doing what they are doing.
A cultural and linguistic minority, they have their own means of communication and they do not need you gawking at them and making public places uncomfortable for them.
4. “Oh, so you’re Deaf and Dumb?”
When a marginalised group tells you they do not prefer you using a certain term, you listen. It’s not too difficult, I promise. This is not an invitation for you to argue.
The gran-daddy of all the labels projected on the Deaf/HoH community, here’s why this is offensive: dumb is a derogatory term that implies that the hearing are impaired in some way.
Deaf individuals have from time to time proved that they are just as capable and successful, if not more, as the hearing majority. Using this word manifests a built-in assumption that communication is only a privilege for the hearing.
5. “Oh, so you’re, like, disabled”
Disability does not equate to a lack of a particular ability. A disability is any condition that restricts your functioning in daily activities; having restricted opportunities in employment and education because of a lack of willingness on the part of the hearing is not the same.
They are not broken – the Deaf people do not want to be “fixed” by you. They are more than comfortable in their own skin. They see, behave, learn, think, look and function the same as the hearing majority. Different doesn't mean disabled.
Remember: Empathy, not sympathy.
6. “Wait, you can drive?”
Yes, you read it right – Deaf people can indeed drive just fine. While the Deaf continue to face discrimination when going to get their license, let it be known that they pose no threat to public safety.
The Deaf make use of visual cues and use them as strong indicators when it comes to emergency situations.
If you can drive just fine with your headphones or radio blasting music, so can they.
7. “I’m so sorry”
Deafness is not an illness. The Deaf community is an independent, cultural group and are capable of the same activities as the hearing. They don’t want your judgement or pity; what they need is for you is to instead be open, to share laughter and make conversation.
8. “S..o… I … w..a..s.. S..a..y..i...n..g”
What you shouldn’t do: talk slower.
This only makes it more complicated to lip-read and comprehend what the other person is trying to tell you.
What you can do: Engage in a typed conversation, interact through a pen and paper or the best of all: use sign language.
9. “Why don’t you just get hearing aids?”
Here is a myth: Hearing aids can cure deafness.
Here is a fact: Hearing aids can help you hear better.
Wearing hearing aids is a personal choice for each person – for some, the monetary cost is too much, for some it is uncomfortable to wear, and some just don’t want to wear them.
10. “You don’t LOOK Deaf”
My Deaf friend once said, “If only I got a dollar for every time someone told me that, I could probably repay Pakistan’s loan by now.”
You do not need to look a certain way to be Deaf. Similar to the hearing majority, they can be young or old, belong to any race, believe in any religion, and be of any creed.
While we hope there is no need to explicitly mention this in a separate point, do not ask Deaf people how to sign profanities. For all you know, you only look like a fool when you say that.