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Why dating in the hearing world is hard for deaf people

dating with hearing loss
Dating in the hearing world isn’t easy.

Valentine’s Day 2019 came and went. I celebrated with girlfriends. We pretended to be happy about our “singleness” while other friends were celebrating with their significant others. As I’m in my late 20s, the time bomb feels like it’s ticking more and more with each passing day. I can’t help but think about my own dating life, or lack thereof.

Dating is a weird complex. Guys and girls go about dating in completely different ways. How each party perceives a certain situation feels like ying and yang, black and white, but somehow people make it work. I haven’t figured dating in the hearing world…yet.

Adolescence

I became more and more aware of the guy-girl contrasting dynamic when I hit 12 or 13 years old, just as we were all hitting puberty. Conveniently enough, this is also the time when I started to notice more stares in my direction when I wore my hair up or when I would ask someone to repeat themselves more than once.

The early teen years are a confusing time for everyone. We’re all dealing with hormones and feelings that are completely new to us. For me, it was this apparent awareness that I was not like the other boys and girls. Something separated me from everyone else.

Throughout my middle and high school years, while other girls were becoming more inherently attractive to guys, I was just the friend. A lot of my guy friends were getting girlfriends as I watched and cheered from the sidelines.

I focused a lot on school and soccer, but I still felt like I had things to offer when it came to being in a romantic relationship. My parents always say I wasn’t looking at the guys who did like me, which is probably the case, but why didn’t the ones I like-like me?

Blaming my Hearing Aids

I blamed it on my hearing aids. Looking back, I know that was the easy way out. I hated the idea of being that person that got immediately rejected when a guy went to kiss me on the ear, and something got in the way! My hearing aids kept me from feeling and enjoying any sort of romantic moment. I knew the gesture of nibbling and whispering sweet nothings in my ear would never play out for me as it does in the movies.

“My hearing aids kept me from feeling and enjoying any sort of romantic moment.”

I feared the idea of a guy grabbing my head and making my hearing aids ring because there’s the fantasy that it’s the sexy thing to do. It’s most definitely not when all of a sudden an obnoxious noise goes off. Who wants to explain that whole situation in the middle of a nice kiss? I didn’t want to bring it up, and I knew the guys wouldn’t. Essentially, I sat in limbo. #momentruined #flushedcheeks

Fears of Intimacy

Because of these fears of intimacy, my guard was always up, and I pulled away from relationships before the possibility of rejection or embarrassment could take place. One time, after finally letting myself get close to a guy during my senior year of high school, the conversation about the “ringing” and “pulling away” came up via AIM chat. AIM CHAT! The question had been asked, so I had to answer, and that was that. We continued to date and kiss for a few months, and it was never brought up again.

For me, I had just revealed something huge, and I never knew how he felt about it. He ended up going back to an ex-girlfriend. I know it was just that, but it was hard for me to not think it might’ve been something else.

Throughout my college years, I continued to back off and shy away from getting intimate with anyone. I’m not a vulnerable person, and revealing the feelings and emotions associated with my hearing loss is perhaps the most vulnerable I can get. Instead, I focused on school, friends, family, and my eventual move to Los Angeles.

The Real World

Once I arrived in the city of angels, the reality of the real world hit hard! Meeting people was challenging, let alone meeting someone in a romantic capacity. There were dates here and there, but bringing up the topic of my hearing loss is not exactly a first date dinner conversation. At least I didn’t think it was.

One guy did ask me in a text post-date if I had a lisp (aka my deaf accent), and so I very surface-level explained the situation, and we’re still good friends to this day. It had me thinking about things in a completely different way, not necessarily in a good way; just one more thing to be self-conscious about!

Then I met this guy who I was, unfortunately, not attracted to, but who was someone I could tell would be a close friend. We connected right away, and it felt so nice to have made a genuine friend in LA outside of my Georgia (where I’m from) friends. As our friendship grew, our topics of conversation became deeper.

Finally, over a year into our friendship, I announced the details of my hearing loss, and he quickly realized what it meant for me to tell him that. I was super grateful to have someone that completely accepted it, asked me questions, and still had crush on me despite my “weirdness.”

After some time, he started dating a girl and I was dropped from the picture. I was more heartbroken about how vulnerable I’d been with him than I was about losing the friendship. Letting my guard down is not an easy thing, but I also realized that I finally felt a little contentment by exposing the full details to a member of the opposite sex.

Being More Open

I’ve spent the last year trying to be as open as possible about my hearing loss to anyone new I meet. I still find myself occasionally taking my hair out of its ponytail to cover my hearing aids if I’m about to meet a guy for the first time, but I’m much better than I used to be.

Read more: Dating with hearing loss: Date spots, cuddling, and lip reading in the dark

Career is always a big topic of discussion with friends and dates, so I think my decision to pursue roles like writing for this site have challenged me to speak about my truth early on. I still have a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that as I put forth the effort to meet someone, the right someone will come along and love me despite my hearing loss.

How have you navigated dating in the hearing world?

ashleyderrington
ashleyderrington
Ashley is a 28-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women's National Deaf Team. She's currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.