15 Things Deaf People Have To Deal With That You've Never Thought About

While it is incredibly difficult to understand exactly what it’s like to be deaf, most individuals are aware that hearing difficulty comes with a unique set of challenges. This forces those who are deaf to experience the world in an entirely different way than the rest of the population, and not always how you'd expect.

Although problems associated with a complete lack of hearing might seem obvious, there are myriad everyday, specific obstacles deaf people have to deal with, like communicating in the dark or dealing with cochlear implant prejudice. Often, these can be the hardest parts of being deaf, despite the fact that everyone else usually takes them for granted. So, let's learn about what being deaf is like, that we might be more compassionate in the future. 

  • Not Getting Announcements At Public Places And Events

    Anyone who has been to a public event or had to stand in a train station while traveling will be familiar with public address systems. These loudspeakers can give vital safety information to the public, and make sure that any changes or delays can be communicated quickly. For someone with hearing difficulties, though, this poses a series of problems.

    As these messages are often not relayed visually, it is incredibly easy for deaf people to miss the announcements altogether if they're not constantly on guard. In the worst-case scenario, it can mean missed departures, especially if no one is around to let them know what's going on.

  • People Talking Slowly Throws Off Lip Reading

    People Talking Slowly Throws Off Lip Reading
    Photo: Ananian / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    One of the first things people do when they realize someone is deaf is switch to a much slower form of speech. This is usually done as people assume it will help in lip reading, allowing for more deliberate pronunciation. The truth, though, is that this just makes life more difficult for anyone attempting to lip read.

    The hard of hearing who use lip reading rely on people to speak naturally. This is how they learned to recognize the shapes humans make when they talk, so they can interact with others on a more comfortable level. Changing to a slower rate of speech also alters the way your mouth moves, and generally makes it harder to understand what is being said.

  • Communicating In The Dark Is Next To Impossible

    Communicating In The Dark Is Next To Impossible
    Photo: Fabric / Wikimedia Commons

    For most people, communicating in the dark is relatively easy to do. For those with hearing difficulties, nighttime and dark spaces such as bars or concerts pose their own unique problems. After all, the deaf rely almost exclusively on visual stimuli, like lip reading or sign language, to communicate with others.

    Without adequate light, it can quickly become almost impossible to speak effectively with others. It's just too dark to see anything that could be interpreted effectively. Even dimly lit rooms can pose massive problems for the hard of hearing.

  • You're Constantly Jumpy, As You Never Know When Someone Is Approaching You From Behind

    Anyone who has ever worn headphones while listening to music and had someone sneak up behind them will understand this everyday problem that impacts the deaf. With only visual clues and, in some instances, the vibrations of the ground, deaf people can easily get frightened if a person comes up behind them unexpectedly.

    For some, this leads to a constant "jumpy" feeling, as they can rarely be completely comfortable no one is sneaking up on them from behind. 

  • Having To Rely On Touch To Get The Attention Of Others

    Having To Rely On Touch To Get The Attention Of Others
    Photo: Tip Tap / via Vimeo

    Getting someone’s attention when you want to speak with them is often as easy as calling their name. However, when you are deaf, this system is hardly appropriate. You would never be able to hear the call. That's why, in deaf culture, touching each other to get attention has become much more normalized.

    Firm but polite tapping on the shoulder is a common practice, but those who are not familiar with the deaf community may be unaware of this. It can lead to confrontations or misunderstandings when those born with hearing feel someone touching them without warning.

  • Sign Language Is Far From Universal And Leads To Lots Of Misunderstandings

    Sign Language Is Far From Universal And Leads To Lots Of Misunderstandings
    Photo: daveynin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    As odd as it might seem to the unfamiliar, sign language is not a universal dialect. Different countries have their own standards, and even the differences between British Sign Language and American Sign Language are significant. Add that to the fact that regional areas have their own specific variations, much like accents in spoken languages, and you get a lot of common misunderstandings.

    Even professional interpreters can easily sign the wrong word, due to slight changes in meaning or by accidentally using incorrect hand movements. This can be especially problematic in formal or official situations, where mistranslations can cause lasting harm, such as in legal situations or hospital visits.