Things That Only Happen to Deaf People

Whether you’re a signer, a lipreader, a hearing aid wearer or a cochlear implant user (or maybe a bit of each of those), there are some things that truly only happen to a deaf person. Things that simply don’t happen to everyone else. How many have happened to you?

When you tell people you are deaf, they ask if you understand Braille.

You curse your cell’s auto correct function when you tell people that you’re “profoundly dead.”

Once in a while, you lose your hearing aids and spend the morning searching for them, before discovering them in the pocket of the pants you are currently wearing.

At an audiology appointment, you try to *beat* the audiologist by watching them moving their hands on the dial. This makes them irate.

You go to a deaf party just for the warm embrace of a hundred ‘deaf hugs.’

When you tell people you are deaf, they SHOUT at you. You don’t mind, even though it makes it harder to understand them, but the other people in the shop look concerned.

You are told by Deaf people – in a group situation – that you’ve put on a lot of weight recently. Everyone nods. This is completely ok.

You have scars on your forehead from bumping into lampposts in the street as you walk and sign.

You wake up on a long train journey to find all the passengers have changed and the train has arrived at the wrong destination.

You worry that the audiologist knows how much you love them piping goo into your ears when you have new earmoulds made. And that they’re enjoying it too.

You are regularly followed around by young children in shopping malls because they’re intrigued by your hearing aids.

You play the ‘deaf card’ in order to get onto the plane before everyone else. You feel slightly embarrassed as you overtake frail old people and families with children to take your seat on the plane. Then you get over it.

Despite changing your voice answerphone message so it tells people that you are deaf and they should text or email you, they STILL leave a voice message. That you can’t hear.

When you tell people you are deaf, they speak to the person next to you instead. Even when they’re not necessarily your interpreter.

You only realize the doctor has called your name out in the waiting room because everyone else is looking at you, bemused by your lack of response.

Halfway through having a great conversation with a Deaf friend at a bar, you’re bemused when the bartender doesn’t understand your order. You then realize you’ve given it to him in Sign Language.

When the lights go out at home, you spend a split second wondering whether there’s a power cut or whether someone’s just rung the doorbell.

You go to your car in the morning, only to find the alarm blaring. You turn it off, then notice angry looks in your direction from your neighbors. When you find numerous abusive messages tucked under your windscreen, you realize two things: 1. Your car alarm has been going off all night. 2. You may need to move house.

You see an interpreter signing a programme on television, but turn to your partner and comment on their recent haircut, rather than the quality of their signing (with the exception of Lydia Callis).

After a party at a deaf house, you realize you spent the entire evening in the kitchen. And so did everyone else.

During long conversations, you notice hearing people getting more and more uncomfortable at how intensely you’re focusing on their lips. You supress a smile and focus even harder.

You argue with your friend as you get on a train, and continue in sign language as you take your seat, even though they’re still standing on the platform. As the train leaves, you look around at everyone else sheepishly. You continue the argument by text.

You notice that some hearing people assume that you are a ‘good’ person when you tell them you’re deaf. You happily let them think that. You later feel disappointed in yourself when they realize you have the same failings as non-deaf people.

You meet a deaf person you’ve never met before, and they instantly ask “are your mother and father deaf?” closely followed by “which deaf school did you go to?”

You say goodbye to your friends at the deaf club, then say goodbye again an hour later, because deaf people always have “just one more thing” to talk about. Always.

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned My SongComing Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

Adapted from the (brilliant) original articles on the (even more brilliant) The Limping Chicken.

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63 responses to “Things That Only Happen to Deaf People

  1. I’ve got one better: when I tell people that I’m deaf, they look at me skeptically, & then argue, “No you’re not! You speak perfectly fine!”

      • Yes; that also happened to me 😀 One boy said to me: “you’re deaf? You are too pretty!” … WUT? I took it as a compliment, but it was weird!!

      • Yes!!! I get that response from other deaf people…apparently I still “don’t look deaf” even when I’m signing lol

    • “you don’t sound deaf” or “you speak really well for a deaf person!” …….. an ASL student just said that to me a couple months ago. uummmmmm ever heard of speech therapy?

      • Ha ha ha ha ha !!! People say that about my daughter alllllllll the time. It gets kind of annoying. They even say “are you sure she’s deaf? She speaks so well.” Ummmmm no, all those audio evals are a ruse so we can get hearing aids for no reason.

    • Haha, I too sometimes get replies like “You don’t look like deaf” and “No, you are not deaf”. XD

  2. Worse yet, when I tell some Deaf people, they challenge me, “No, you are not deaf… You act too hearing to be deaf.”

  3. Ironically, Kathleen said “Worse yet-“, I noticed many deaf people tend to have a “worst” experience competition to tell each other or what? Or it does apply to hearing people too?

    • Actually Chet, I had a good friend at the high school where I taught, another special Ed teacher who taught Visually Impaired students. When we met, she told me that people always asked her if she knew sign!

      Unfortunately, so many people have never met/interacted with a deaf or HOH person, so their only connection is thru the Helen Keller movie.

  4. You explain to Bank employee, DWP, council you are deaf and cannot hear on the phone as you lip read which is why you have attended in person they are very helpful…and then say if you have any further problems please phone them!!

  5. You can even get ‘you’re not really deaf’ from deaf people themselves. Nothing more disappointing than people who relay being discriminated against and then mirror the same back. Or ‘You’re in a hearing world’….or ‘You’ve lost touch with the deaf world’….oh please, there’s one world and we’re all living in it. Unless of course you’re in a world of your own. I find a majority…please note the majority…of deaf people to be very negative. There’s people dealing with worse. I tend to find hearing friends much more supportive and motivating…which may explain my ‘losing touch’ with deaf people.

    • Even with a “majority” of deaf people being “negative,” I still maintain that among the kinds of Hearing people I’ve gotten schlepped in with the past few decades of my life, the Deaf are still slightly BETTER. What I’m saying is that the Hearing people I have to associate with are bat-ass off-the-charts awful.

  6. I had a boy ask me if a truck I had just purchased was new. I said you need to speak up as I am deaf to which he replied ” Issssss thissssss yourrrrrrr newwwwww truckkkkkkk?? ” I looked at him and said ” I’M DEAF, NOT STUPID!!! “

  7. One wonders why hearing people were confusing with me when they speak to me in out of blue (when I look like normal person), and blabbing on about! I was brave enough to interrupted quickly and said “I’m profoundly deaf” and then all of sudden, it went quiet for a bit! I immediately added, saying “I can talk like normal but I only need to lipreading your lip, nice and clearly for me to make me understand what you are saying”. That must be sound like a bombshell to the hearing person, wonders why I talk if I’m profoundly deaf! They must be thinking I’m either a weird or what?

  8. when I tell people I am deaf..they start talking really slowly they think I am stupid..grrrrrrrrrrrrr

    • I don’t think they think you’re stupid. They just think it would be easier to you to understand it if they speak slowly. That’s because hearing people cannot understand lipsreading unless people speak very slow.

    • At least if you’re only deaf you have to tell people that before they start treating you like you’re stupid. I’m Native American. I have to tell people I’m a Math teacher before they STOP treating me like I look stupid. We’re opposites, here.

  9. I don’t know any body who is deaf, but I have seen how deaf people are treated in the street. Although this was, at times very funny, they are serious matters to be dealt with.
    I just hope I don’t treat deaf people like the bad suggestions.

    Juils x

    • We hereby deputize you, Juils! I have faith that you WON’T treat Deaf like the bad suggestion!

      Part of what I’ve always tried to do is be a good-will ambassador, both for myself, & others. I’ve always said that my greatest handicap is others’ crumby attitude. Just KNOW that YOU really DO get it! Bravo!

  10. I read this as a hearing person, with a deaf grandson.i can only hope that we treat him as we would anyone else. we try as he is greatly loved.

  11. I’m hearing, but am a CSW at colleges so see both ‘worlds’. I certainly have seen a few of these things happen, very frustrating!! Although, I do sometimes day-dream about conversations in past or up-coming and start signing to myself!! That gets weird looks! :-/

  12. Or when you realize that you read the entire movie…. Or when you go to a theater asking for devices for the deaf, and they give you descriptive audio headphones

  13. I live in Finland and in The Netherlands. When a hearing person comes to talk to me, I sign that I can’t hear. Then they ALWAYS change the language and speak in english to me, no matter where I am.. :p

    • Haha, I live in Norway, and people does the same thing! I.e. change language from Norwegian to English every time I sign or say with my good voice(!) that I am deaf and they should speak clearly, haha 😛 Do they think that English language is easier for “international” deaf people to understand? 😛 Maybe they think that there is only one international sign language?

  14. I have been told that I can’t be deaf because I speak well but w/an European accent. I must be from there, I’m not an American, etc. Also to people who talks to you and you dont acknowledge them, they tell other people that you are rude until we let them know that I’m deaf and they need to get my attention first by tapping on shoulder or something if they wanted to talk to me. Talk about them being embarrassed!

  15. I am an ASL teacher and interpreter and have many deaf friends. I have actually been asked if I can read Braille when telling people I am am interpreter too! Also, one big thing with some students is they always want to say or write “death” instead of “deaf”. I have no idea why but I respond, “I don’t think my friends are burried in the ground dead… DEAF not death.”

    Ironically, I’ve sometimes been told I look deaf when meeting new people at deaf events. I am not sure what deaf looks like though either.

    Loved the article. Made me laugh!

  16. Reblogged this on lolwutsure and commented:
    Loved this! Even though I’m not deaf, I was deeply involved in the deaf community when I went to Flagler and some of these things, culture wise, are totally true. Great read!

  17. I have a new audiologist that asked me if I knew how severe my hearing loss was. I have been hard of hearing all my life, my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in deaf education, and I have taught for 28 years. Duh!

  18. My favorite so far: When I gestured to a store assistant that I wanted pen and paper by miming writing, she obliged. After I asked my question, she wrote a question back: “Have you taken a vow of silence?”

  19. Hilarious.
    I’ve been involved with deaf people for so long as an interpreter, and i have a new daughter who is blind. It just struck me that I’m probably one of “those people” (the well-meaning clueless kind) around blind people. I don’t know protocols and norms yet.

  20. I’ll never find it okay to comment on other ppls weight so bluntly, deaf or not. I know that it is a “deaf trait” but it annoys me to no end, that ppl.seem to accept it as okay behaviour, just because its frequently happening. To me it is improper, unless we are pretty close friends. Period.

  21. When speaking to a hearing person, I mentioned something I had seen on the drive over. The person said, “you drive? How?” I got real sarcastic..”well, I put the key in the ignition, turn it, put the little gear shift in drive, hit the gas, and darned if the car doesn’t go!”

  22. I’ve had black college students tell me… I didn’t know black people were deaf, I thought only white people are deaf. It was weird question, then I found out that all the Deaf ASL instructors and deaf students were white.

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