4 Phrases to Skip When Interacting with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community
Whether you’re meeting an individual with hearing loss for the first time or interacting with someone you know well, the basic rules of conversational etiquette apply: Think before you speak. Talk in a normal voice. Be polite and attentive.
Trying to connect with an individual with hearing loss without understanding their culture can make you come off as rude, however unintentionally. Try to avoid these four phrases at all costs.
“… for someone with hearing loss.”
Maybe you’re complimenting their speech. Maybe you’re impressed by their career choice. Maybe you’re amazed at their parenting skills. All wonderful things to say! But when you end your well-meaning comment with “for someone with hearing loss,” you’re being demeaning, not nice. How would you feel if someone said, “for a woman” or “for a man” when remarking on your situation?
If you must comment on their speech, consider saying something that alludes to how hard they have worked to achieve that ability, such as “You speak very well. You must have worked really hard on that.”
“Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”
Cochlear implants (CI) can be a sensitive subject. Not only are they expensive, they can be painful to recover from and don’t always work. The decision to NOT use a CI may be a financial choice, a medical choice - and sometimes even a personal choice. The hard-of-hearing and deaf community does not see deafness as a disability, but as a cultural identity. If the person you’re speaking with communicates well using sign language and lip reading, they may have no desire to use an assistive device, and be offended by your assertion their life choice is wrong.
“How can you drive if you can’t hear?”
Many well-meaning hearing people find nothing wrong with this question, but it’s really quite insulting. Hard-of-hearing and deaf individuals are excellent drivers. In fact, studies show that deaf drivers are no more likely to be involved in car accidents than hearing drivers. Deaf people are not distracted by radios and cellphones, and recent studies show that deaf adults have better peripheral vision than hearing adults.
“Never mind, I’ll tell you later.”
If ever there were six words that could be strung together to make someone feel isolated and unimportant, it’s these. Sometimes it can take a while for an individual with hearing loss to understand what you’ve said. Perhaps you turned your face away or covered your lips slightly when speaking. Whatever the case, brushing off the conversation because you’re frustrated can have a lasting effect. Be patient and take time to communicate.
Want more tips? Learn the 5 Common Mistakes Made When Communicating with the Hard Of Hearing.