Communicating with the Deaf

A reader provides tips for communicating with someone who is deaf and she says that deafness is not a visible disability, which can be nice as well as difficult. The good: You’re not instantly judged when you meet strangers unlike other disabilities. My daughter has a friend who has an arm that stops at the elbow and kids teased her at their sleep-away camp.
The bad side. When I was a teen, I went shopping with my mom in a mall clothing store. I was trying on clothes and my mom had gone to look for something elsewhere in the store. The sales person was talking to me on the other side of the closed door. I either had my hearing aids off (to avoid squealing) or I figured someone was talking to someone else.

Of course, she was talking to me. My mom returned to my door and started talking to the sales person. They were having a friendly conversation and it came up that I wasn’t responding. Mom explained why I didn’t respond and the sales person admitted thinking I was a snob because I didn’t reply. All ended well as we had a good experience once we got past that.
It still happens. When I see feet outside my changing area door along with a voice, I give them a generic reply saying that I’m doing fine and don’t need anything. I also run into situations like a grocery store, for example, when someone is trying to get around me. I try to avoid these by ensuring my cart doesn’t block anyone and by not standing in the middle of the aisle.
Then there’s the person who talks loudly thinking she’s doing me a favor. But the problem is, I don’t know if that person’s voice is naturally loud or she’s trying to help me. So I fear letting her know that it isn’t necessary because it might offend the person.
I just need people to look at me when they speak and form their words clearly. Unfortunately, some people mumble and I’ll never understand them. Don’t want to offend others by admitting I can’t understand them and how they should talk to me. It feels like I’m offending the way they talk — which might be perfectly clear — but not for a lipreader.
A good friend of mine tells people (strangers included) to make sure they look at me when they talk because I’m hearing impaired. It’s embarrassing. Like a child’s mother looking out for her. I know my friend means well and that I should be the one doing it — but sometimes the situation makes it uncomfortable or it isn’t the right time to say something. There are a few factors that determine when I let someone know. For instance, when I started taking tennis, I privately let the instructor know before we started.

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  1. […] them makes a difference just like I taught the second graders about deafness. I’ve met people who thought I was a snob (among other things) because I didn’t respond or ignored them. I educated them and their […]

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