5 ways deaf and hearing cultures are different
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
The historical mistreatment from the hearing-dominated society towards people who are deaf have led to the formation of Deaf culture. The culture of this community is defined through the engagement of a wide diversity of people with varying levels of hearing loss. Being D/deaf is about more than just whether or not a person has the ability to hear or respond to sound, or not. People who are D/deaf have their own narrative, as well as their own expressive genre and accounts about their deaf experience in society. Being an active part of this community means you share history, a mode of communication, cultural diversity, traditions, and even societal struggles with each other.
Even though D/deaf and hearing people are both human beings who can feel similar emotions and think similar thoughts, their ways of life and medium of language stand at a difference.
To understand the needs and heritage of this community and shift the public frame of mind, Deaf awareness is crucial.
Here, we look at the comparison between the cultures of both communities to realise the diversity of the lesser known culture of deaf people.
1. Deaf people can be very direct.
In Deaf culture, it is normal to express what one is thinking through sign language without a filter instead of trying to hide it behind subtlety and formality, which is a common custom in the hearing community.
2. Deaf people use an expressive medium of communication with each other.
The body language and facial expressions used by people who are hearing are subconscious. However, in the Deaf community, these body movements, hand gestures, and facial expressions are conscious and considered some of the most important and foundational elements of their communication.
For instance, waving a hand in front of a D/deaf person’s face or constantly switching the lights in a room on and off in order to try and get their attention is unacceptable and offensive. It is the equivalent of holding your hand over someone’s mouth to prevent them from speaking.
3. There is a great significance of eye-contact in the Deaf community.
To communicate with each other and the world using sign language or the lip-reading method, Deaf people have to look at each other while doing so. Meanwhile, hearing people using speech and depending on the sense of sound look away and break eye-contact at any time or point during a conversation.
A hearing person’s lack of visual connection doesn’t make an impact on the delivery of a message or the quality of communication, whereas a D/deaf person’s does.
4. People who are D/deaf have a connection with each other.
D/deaf people are engaged with each other through the community. According to the deaf ways of life, they are able to have an effective communication because they all understand their community members better and know the kind of behaviour to expect from their peers.
5. Deafness is an identity for Deaf people.
Hearing people have the tendency to naturally look down upon and express pity for people who are deaf. In deaf culture, deafness is embraced and their identity is celebrated, and not regarded as a disability or genetic defect. Being deaf is a key aspect of what defines who they are as a person. This is why the term “hearing-impaired” is often frowned upon by some D/deaf persons, as it implies that they have an imperfection which is something inherent to their nature.