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8 things not to say to someone with hearing loss

8 things not to say to someone with a hearing loss

A while back I did a blog on ‘10 Misconceptions about Hearing Loss’ so as a follow up blog I’d like to share some other insights that I’ve noticed when people ask me about my hearing loss. It’s great to be inquisitive and ask questions about hearing loss, but there are some common sense things that you may want to know, so you don’t offend deaf people.  

I’ve experienced a couple of these situations and they can become very awkward. I thought by sharing these with you, I hope you can either relate with them or help to share this blog to raise deaf awareness!

8 Things not to say to someone with a hearing loss 

  1. “You can’t do _____ because you’re deaf.”

    I had an awful experience with a teacher at school, who told me I couldn’t do media studies because I’m deaf. Deaf people can achieve anything, so don’t let someone tell you that you can’t. In some ways it may make you feel more determined to complete goals!

  1. “Turn your hearing aids up!”

    People can sometimes be very impatient, especially when it comes to repeating themselves. Just because we may not have heard you the first time, doesn’t mean you should give up. Try saying it again, otherwise rephrase it. But never tell a person to turn up their hearing aids up. It won’t make your voice any clearer!

  1. “Never mind” or “I’ll tell you later”

    This saying is many deaf people’s pet peeve! We deafies want to be included in conversations just as much as hearing people do. Just because we can’t hear doesn’t mean we should be left out. If we don’t understand, please don’t say “never mind” or “I’ll tell you later” because you won’t! We’ll really appreciate it if you do tell us.

  1. “Do you use Braille?”

Firstly, if you say this to a deaf person, you’ll either make us laugh or we’ll be offended! Braille is for people who are blind. It’s a communication method where they feel dots, representing a language. Deaf people can see, so we can read. Instead, we often use sign language to communicate instead of speech. 

  1. “It annoys me when you can’t hear me”

    Well, firstly it’s not our fault! We have a hearing loss. Please don’t get frustrated if we don’t understand you. Like I mentioned above, try saying it in a different way, or writing it down. It’s equally frustrating for us if we can’t hear you, but we will try and make it work if you can too.

  1. “I know sign language”

    I don’t know if it’s just me as an oral deaf person, but as soon as a hearing person finds out I’m deaf, they sometimes say “oh, I know sign language” or “do you sign?” I don’t know why people assume all deaf people can sign, it’s like another language. You wouldn’t ask an English person if they speak French? If you do know a little bit of sign language, that’s great! Maybe find out if the deaf person uses it first.

  1. “You can speak?”

    I’m not sure how to comment on this one, but a hearing loss doesn’t mean our mouth doesn’t work. If a person with hearing loss has access to technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, they can often hear certain sounds, like speech. If we can hear this, alongside speech therapy or other methods of learning to speak, I think you’ll find that there are quite a few deaf oral people. It’s sometimes but not always those who use sign language that may have restricted speech due to heavy efforts focused on signing, rather than speech.

Listen in: Hearing Loss Simulator: Understanding Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

  1. “You don’t look deaf”

    What do deaf people look like? Are we pictured as mysterious creatures with no ears? Are we robots with magnets on our ears? I think we look like a normal human being!

Has anyone said anything particularly strange to you as a deaf person? I’d love to hear any stories you may have in the comments below!

Author Details
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak Sky Q hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn’t prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, previously working as a Marketing Executive and now as an Events Coordinator for a deaf organization, as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.