October 16th through 22nd is Invisible Disabilities Week. When you think of the term disability, it can be easy to think of something that you can see. However, there are numerous disabilities that are completely invisible. Deafness and hearing loss can fall into the invisible disability category. This is why many in the deaf community face wide-ranging misunderstanding from society. You may think, well, what about those who wear hearing aids, use sign language, and so forth; isn’t that visible? Maybe so, but there’s a lot more to it. That’s why we in the deaf community aim to spread awareness on these topics!
More on the Invisibility of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss and deafness differs for every single person. Thus, so does the visibility. For instance, if I’m wearing my hair down and am having a one-on-one conversation with a clear-spoken person in a quiet place, you may not notice as much that I have a hearing loss. However, if I were to pull my hair back, you would see my bright orange hearing aids. Or, if we were to switch environments, my loss might become much more noticeable in different ways. It’s important to acknowledge these wide-ranging differences. Just because something is not visible or obvious doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Just because something is not visible or obvious doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I choose to wear bright and bold hearing aids because this allows me express myself and proudly own my hearing loss. It also bridges that invisibility gap for me. It allows people to realize that I do actually have hearing loss.
All too often, invisible disabilities go invalidated. There are wide ranging misconceptions about these disabilities due to their invisibility. However, that doesn’t make one’s disability any less valid or real. One thing that comes up often in this regard is when people with invisible disabilities use certain accommodations. Many people with invisible disabilities who utilize accessible parking accommodations often hear that they don’t look like they have a disability.
A lot of deaf and hard of hearing individual hear the phrase, “Well, you don’t look deaf,” or “You can speak, so you must not be that deaf.” One may think, “Well, you seemed to hear me totally fine,” or “You have hearing aids, so why do you need a captioner?” These misconceptions go hand in hand with what it means to have an invisible or perhaps “sometimes-invisible” disability. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to remain aware of these misconceptions and refrain from judgement.
In order to eliminate these misconceptions and break the stigma around invisible disabilities, we must look beyond the surface. When we obtain that deeper sense of awareness and turn that into empowerment, not judgement, we can create a more inclusive world.
It’s also important to remember that just because some disabilities are in fact completely invisible, it Is far from invisible to the person living with it. You can’t see it, but we can feel it and we live it. Invisible disabilities come in all shapes and forms, like any other category of disability. It can come in the form of excruciating pain in a person who appears to be pain-free. A deaf person who relies on reading lips effectively may not always need to disclose that they are deaf. You just never know. All of that is to say, be kind, be open, and be accepting. For members of the deaf community, we can also continue to make a positive impact in this area by making our invisible disability visible through awareness, openness, and honesty.
Hi, my name is Danielle! I’m an Psy.D. graduate psychology student with an immense passion for writing and helping and inspiring others in any way I can. I am an anti-bullying and mental health advocate, blogger, and public speaker through my personal blog and social media campaign, “Compassionately Inspired”. I was born with a severe conductive hearing loss and hope to inspire others both in the hard of hearing and deaf community as well as the hearing community. “Everybody has a story”; that’s my motto and I hope my stories inspire you in one way or another.
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