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Why I got a tattoo to remind others of my single-sided deafness

single-sided deafness

I was born deaf in my right ear. This was picked up at some point in my early years, but regardless nothing was done about my hearing loss.

One of the particularly irksome things about living with single-sided deafness; if the people around you aren’t made aware of your hearing issues, you can totally pass as someone with full hearing capabilities.


To make it loud and clear that I am deaf in one ear, I decided to go a different route to remind people about my single-sided deafness.

Creating my own way to tell people about my deafness

In my early twenties, I decided to create a permanent visual cue to the lack of hearing on my right side, as well as pay a very tongue in cheek homage to it. I got a ‘mute’ symbol tattooed behind my deaf ear; to indicate that that ear was on ‘mute’.

It took years for me to reach the point where I felt like I needed this tattoo to remind people about my deafness. These are the experiences I had that led to my tattoo.

single-sided deafness

When my hearing loss was first noticed

In my early years. I also suffered a number of painful and prolonged ear infections as a child and eventually had grommets inserted. These were then removed a number of years later.

In my mid-teens, I was finding single-sided deafness increasingly difficult in a noisy classroom environment where you’re sitting in rows/having people sit on my deaf side. I asked my GP if there were any solutions to this increasing frustration in my life. They referred me to a specialist who turned out to be very unhelpful and quite standoffish. They said that as I still had hearing in one ear, I should just ‘get on with it’ and there was nothing that could be done to help with my deaf ear.

Read more: What is single-sided hearing?

Living with single-sided deafness

After that, I gave up trying to find solutions and tried to ‘get on with it’. This was easier said than done because as I got older and moved on to University and eventually full-time employment, I found living with single-sided deafness more difficult rather than getting easier.

Every time I met a new classmate, a new co-worker, a new friend, I had to apologetically explain my situation all over again by saying, “Sorry, can I sit on this side? I’m deaf in this ear… Sorry, can you say that again, my hearing’s not great, I missed what you said.”

Then I would fret about coming across as being difficult or awkward, and half the time people didn’t understand my communication needs. Often times they would continue to talk at me on my deaf side… great! In the end, I just kind of gave up. I rarely bothered informing people about my deafness and accepted the fact that this was an annoyance and a frustration that I would just have to ‘suck up’ and accept as a fact of my life.

And that is one of the particularly irksome things about living with single-sided deafness. This is all well and good until the person sitting on your deaf side, at work or school, continue to try and start a conversation with you, but you don’t hear them. They then just think you’re ignoring them and then you quickly earn yourself a wholly unwarranted reputation of being ignorant, rude and stuck-up (I speak from experience).

How my tattoo helps communicate my deafness to others

I am by no means ashamed of my single-sided deafness (and nor should I be) but having to keep informing (and reminding) people of it became a bit tedious.

This is especially helpful for when I am in loud or new environments and talking to someone. If they are talking to my deaf ear and I can’t hear them, they might see the symbol, put two and two together and realize that I’m deaf in that ear. That way they will know I wasn’t just being rude and ignoring them. The tattoo has actually proven to be pretty effective and is helpful for my friends who are aware I’m deaf in one ear but can’t remember which one.

I’m by no means saying that everyone with hearing issues should go out and get a tattoo (although tattoos are awesome) but more that it is so important to be upfront about it with people who you meet and don’t be ashamed or afraid to remind people of your situation.

Learn about single-sided hearing solutions here!

I was born with single-sided deafness (in my right ear) and am currently a user of Phonak CROS B-R hearing aids. I love cats, gin, music and films. I seemed to have earned the nickname Ariel/Little Mermaid due to my long red hair. This pleases me immensely. Mermaids4life.