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.
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.
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.
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.
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.