According to a recent report by Hootsuite and We Are Social, there are over three billion social media users, and a majority of those users are teenagers. They say it’s the generation of the ‘Digital Age,’ and although there are negative perceptions that go along with teens using social media, deaf teens often have a different, more positive experience with social media use.
For teens with hearing loss, social media is an important tool used to communicate with one another. We cannot depend on our hearing to communicate, so social media is a way of connecting with people that doesn’t involve hearing. It also helps to bring the deaf and hearing community together.
In the past, people with hearing loss used to rely on letters or notes to communicate with people, when sign language wasn’t an option. With more people appearing online, these “old-fashioned methods” are no longer the preferred methods of communication.
Although studies such as this study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine show that social media can lead to social isolation, there are also studies that show how deafness leads to social isolation.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much.”
What is unique about social media to the deaf and hard of hearing community is when social media is used properly, it counteracts the social isolation that is a part of deafness. As isolating as deafness can sometimes be, social media can provide a resort where we are seen as equal and there are no barriers for them. Two Phonak hEARos speak to this experience and the positive effects that social media has had on their socialization.
“… when social media is used properly, it counteracts the social isolation that is a part of deafness.”
Phonak hEARo, Karen Putz, a profoundly deaf water-skier describes that writing and passing notes were the equivalent of social media when she was a teen.
“I was an early adopter of social media when AOL launched back in 1985,” she says. “I moderated forums and chats. Now, I love social media, it equalizes the playing field if it’s done visually. It’s allowed me to tap into a bigger society and create relationships with people around the world. It can be isolating if you are the only deaf or hard of hearing teen, so social media can provide opportunities for them to connect with one another.”
“It can be isolating if you are the only deaf or hard of hearing teen, so social media can provide opportunities for them to connect with one another.”
Angie’s experience with social media
Angie Aspinall, another Phonak hEARo and founder of #HearingLossHour explains that “social media didn’t exist in my teens but when I suffered from sudden hearing loss in my 40’s, Twitter became a lifeline. It was there 24/7. It was always offering something new and also friendship. The first person I told I’d gone deaf was someone I made friends with on Twitter. Her reaction helped me tell others.”
Read more: #HearingLossHour: Share your hearing loss stories on Twitter
As a young deaf adult, I use social media all the time and have done so since my teenage years when social media became popular. Whether it’s to see what’s happening in the world or to keep in contact with family and friends, I use it all the time. Sometimes I don’t realize how much I rely on it!
Throughout in the years, before I started using social media, I hoped and searched for a deaf role model. I never found one because it was much harder to connect with other deaf people. I was the only deaf person I knew in my town. This left me feeling isolated and without anyone I could relate to.
Social media provided a way for me to connect with others. In fact, it was one of the factors that inspired me to set up my blog. Now, I love sharing stories with my followers, especially teens who are D/deaf to inspire them and let them know they’re not alone in the challenges they face.
Read more: How Deafie Blogger became a writer with hearing loss
It’s also a great way for me to engage with my followers and to share my experiences with the deaf community. There are numerous Facebook Deaf and Hearing loss groups which I am a part of, and there is a #HearingLossHour chat on Twitter every month.
The HearingLikeMe community can be found on various social media platform, including the new Facebook Community group, which brings people together to talk about their experiences being deaf or hard of hearing.
Also, there is a strong sense of community on Instagram. The most popular hashtags used are #coolhearingaids and #hearinglosswontstopme and #deafiscool, which are used to break down stigmas. It’s also a great way to reach out to those who might be struggling with their hearing loss journey. Offering the positive aspects of living with hearing loss can make a difference for anyone with a hearing loss. A simple message, comment or like, can let someone know they’re not alone.
I’m excited for the future of social media, at the touch of a button/screen, so we can connect, engage, share, reach out and find support, which brings with it a sense of inclusion, belonging, togetherness and unity. Who knows what’s next?
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