The Differences Between Deaf Culture and Hearing Culture
Hearing people outside of the deaf community often aren’t aware of the existence of deaf culture. As with other cultures, deaf culture comes with its own set of values, convictions and socially acceptable behaviors. It can sometimes be difficult to understand what differentiates the two communities.
Check out the key differences between deaf and hearing culture:
Body Language: Body language is crucially important in deaf culture. Much like how it would be rude to walk out of the room when someone is talking to you, in deaf culture, it is considered rude to look away when someone is signing to you. Similarly, body language such as posture and facial expression can completely change the meaning of a conversation for a deaf person but may only subtly change meaning for hearing people.
Similarly, it is considered incredibly rude to grab a deaf person’s hands while they are signing. In the deaf community, this is the equivalent of holding your hand over someone’s mouth to prevent them from speaking.
Direct Language: In deaf culture, it is unnecessary to “beat around the bush” when describing someone or something, even when speaking plainly would be deemed rude in hearing culture. For hearing people, describing someone as “the man with the large nose” might be considered rude, but—for deaf people—this would merely be considered a concise and accurate description.
Deaf, Not Disabled: In deaf culture, deafness is embraced and is not considered a disability. Because of this, the term “hearing impaired” is frowned upon by deaf people, as it implies that they are lacking something. For people in the deaf community, being deaf is part of who they are. This can be difficult for hearing people to understand because so much of their ability to communicate with one another depends upon their ability to hear.
It’s also important to note that, in certain situations, hearing people can be a part of deaf culture. This is generally the case when a hearing child is born to deaf parents. These children often hold the same values and worldviews as other members of the deaf community, despite the fact that they are hearing.
It can be difficult to understand the deaf community from the outside looking in, but by understanding the differences outlined in this blog and by avoiding phrases like those mentioned in our 4 Phrases to Skip When Interacting with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community blog, the two communities can make steps towards understanding one another.