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Things that happen when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together

when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together
What happens when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together? Our mannerisms shift.

I was at my winter camp for the US Deaf Women’s National Soccer Team (USDWNT) not too long ago. In the couple days following, I was with a hearing friend of mine. I continuously found myself pausing when she wasn’t looking at me. I also shook my hand in the ASL sign for “yes.” I did these things as if she might actually benefit.

Nearly all of us on the team live, work, and go to school in a hearing world. It’s entertaining to see how we adjust to communicating with each other. In conversing with some of my teammates, we talked about how it takes us a minute to readjust to our “real” lives post-camp. We also laughed about a few things that happen we’re together.

Hand Waving to Get Attention

We cover the spectrum in who wears devices and who doesn’t. As a result, we spend a lot of time waving our hands in front of people’s faces to get their attention. Many would say this is rude, but it’s perfectly normal in our world.

Convos in Spoken Word and ASL

When deaf and hard of hearing people come together, the forms of communication tend to include spoken word AND ASL to accommodate all. Sometimes we’ll see the occasional sentence start in ASL and finish in spoken word.

Misconception That We’re Ignoring Each Other

From the outside looking in, you’ll often see that one person is looking down at her phone while the others are chatting. Many would think we’re ignoring each other, but we’re not. Sometimes it can be hard to multi-task when it takes so much energy to watch or listen. It’s just a matter of where we focus our attention at that moment.

We’ll Stop Talking if Someone’s Not Looking

I mentioned this briefly, but because so many of us rely on lip reading or ASL, we’ll stop communicating if someone isn’t looking directly at us. I’ve done this many times to my hearing friends right after returning from camp. They always have to remind me that they can in fact hear me.

Most Common Phrase is “What?”

When I’m in the hearing world, one of my biggest insecurities is having to ask people to repeat themselves, sometimes more than once. When I’m with other deaf and hard of hearing people, I’m reminded that we ALL do it. And frankly, when we’re together, we don’t care how many times we have to ask someone to repeat themselves.

“I Can’t See You” – Another Common Phrase

This always makes me laugh because more often than not, you’ll hear people say “I can’t hear you” when referencing to something being said. For us, it’s “I can’t see you.” We rely a lot on visual cues, ASL, and lip reading to communicate. A lot of times when we’re together, we’ll hear somebody tell us to turn around or face a certain direction so we’re in their line of vision.

“Never Mind” is the Most Frustrating Phrase

We don’t say this to each other as much as we talk about the frustrations of our hearing peers telling us this. We sympathize with each other about the irritating looks we get from people when they have to repeat themselves. We’re way more patient with each other, saying something for a second, third, or fourth time. That being said, you will find us…

Arguing About What was Actually Said

This comes off more playful than serious. I think because we’re always deciphering what’s being said in our daily lives, when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together, we’ll bicker about what someone did or didn’t say.

Discussions About Batteries and Implants are a Regular Occurrence

Battery changes are a frequent event for us. While you’d think we’d have mastered the art of carrying them with us at all times, we haven’t. We’re often asking each other if our aids use the same batteries. If they do, we use one until we can access our own (at home). Occasionally, we’ll remind each other to bring our hearing aid and implant boxes with us because yes, we’re not very good at that either.

Shouting at Each Other Even When Devices are Not Worn

As I’ve said, many of us go about our daily lives in predominantly hearing environments, so we’re used to being vocal at all times. It’s probably one of the more entertaining things to see from the outside in. A bunch of deaf and hard of hearing people not wearing their devices, yelling at each other as if we might hear each other. And believe it or not, we will shout louder as if that’ll make a difference. I’ve done it. Maybe one day, we’ll experience a miracle!

When Dining Out, We Sit with Our Best Ear to the Outside for Maximum Hearing

This is a known and understood thing. When deaf and hard of hearing people are together, if they wear devices, a round of musical chairs takes place. It ends when everyone is seated with their best hearing ear out towards the majority of people.

No Need to Worry About Making Noise at Night

This is probably the best and worst thing about traveling with a group of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. You never have to worry about waking someone up for being too loud. On the other hand, sometimes we’re too loud for hearing guests staying in the same hotel. Case in point…

Banging on the Door Because We are Locked Out

This is similar to the concept of yelling at each other without our devices in. If we’re locked out of our room, we’ll bang on the door as loud as possible. We do this hoping that someone inside may hear us or at least feel the vibrations.

Stomping on the Ground

The hand waving is probably the lesser of two evils or rudeness when it comes to getting each other’s attention. We’ll stomp on the ground to send vibration signals. Sometimes we stomp because we just choose to walk that way and simply don’t know that the noise is loud to hearing people.

When We’re Together

We often internalize a lot of these things when we’re in our own “real world” lives. When a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together, we remember that we all deal with these things. We’re not afraid to adjust our communication methods when we’re together to make sure everyone is included and accounted for. It’s a place where we can laugh about our seemingly annoying habits and discuss our frustrations. I’ve had multiple hearing people tell me what an entertaining and joyful thing it is to watch and be a part of our unique group. We test patience and challenge creative thinking. These are the things that happen when a group of deaf and hard of hearing people are together!

Read more: Rewind: Reflecting Back on the Positives of Hearing Loss

What else can you add to this list?

Author Details
Ashley is a 29-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.