Learning and being aware of Deafness, hearing loss, Deaf culture, and Deaf identity can be extremely helpful to the Deaf people in your community.
Since you never know when you might run into someone who is Deaf, we’re sharing 10 things to be aware of for Deaf Awareness Month, thanks to HearingLikeMe.com:
1) If someone doesn’t respond to you, they may not be able to hear you.
Don’t assume someone is being rude or ignoring you when you speak and they don’t respond. More likely than not, they are deaf or simply didn’t hear you.
2) Every deaf person has their own preferred methods of communication and language.
Everyone has their own preferred language and preferred communication. Some deaf individuals may choose to speak, sign, both, or neither of the two. Some may choose written communication or other method of communication that works best for them.
3) Some deaf people may not identify as “Deaf”
There is a wide spectrum of Deaf Culture and Deaf Identity. Just because one’s hearing loss is classified as “Profoundly Deaf” doesn’t mean that they identify as a full member of the Deaf community and vice versa. Some may prefer the term “Hard of Hearing”, others may identify as deaf (not fully Deaf but not hearing).
Read more: Celebrating the diversity of deafness
4) Social situations and various environments may be different for deaf individuals.
Social situations can be sometimes challenging for those who are deaf. Trying to keep up, communicate, and follow along with conversations can pose a variety of challenges.
5) No two deaf people are alike.
Everyone is different. What might work for one deaf person may not work for another.
6) Deaf does NOT mean “dumb”
Although the term “Deaf and Dumb” is not as prominent as it used to be, some may continue to carry that impression/stigma. This is far from the truth. Many deaf people lead successful and fulfilling lives in a wide variety of professions.
7) Deaf people don’t often consider deafness as a disability.
While deafness is considered an invisible disability, it does not mean that Deafness makes people disabled. It simply means they can’t hear or have different ways of hearing and communicating.
8) Using hearing assistive technology is a personal choice.
A lot of Deaf people hear the question “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant or hearing aid?” Not everyone chooses to use hearing assistive technology for a variety of reasons and everyone has their own preference and way of life and communicating.
9) Deafness is often invisible.
Deaf people may often hear the phrase “well you don’t seem Deaf.” Many deaf individuals learn various ways of adapting to communication that work for them, so it may not always be so apparent that someone is deaf.
10) You don’t need to feel sorry for deafness.
Often when people learn that someone is deaf or hard of hearing, they’ll say something like “Oh, I’m so sorry.” While most people probably mean well, there’s truly nothing to be sorry for. Many are happy being deaf because it’s who they are and they have our own ways of navigating life and communication.
Here are some ways to help spread awareness this deaf awareness month and any other time:
1) Don’t give up or assume people are ignoring you — try another way.
If someone doesn’t reply to your greeting or something you said, try using hand gestures, nonverbal communication, or writing to get their attention. As mentioned above, it can be easy to assume someone is just being rude or ignoring you but more often than not, this is not the case.
2) Please be patient.
Deaf people may need repetition sometimes and sometimes even a few times before they fully hear you. It can be frustrating but please keep in mind it’s just as frustrating for them too.
3) Learn some basic signs.
You don’t have to be fluent in sign language to communicate with the Deaf community. Knowing some basic signs can always help if you do run into someone who signs.
Read more: How to learn sign language
4) Remove the labels.
Refrain from using terms such as “Deaf and Dumb”, “impaired” or “disabled” as these things can be offensive and a false representation of the deaf community.
5) Don’t judge people for their preferences or personal choices.
As mentioned above, everyone is different. All have different preferences in terms of communication, technology, language, and educational settings, etc. that work for them.
6) Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Many may refrain from asking questions in fear of offending. However, Deaf people actually appreciate it when you get to know them and are genuinely curious. They don’t expect you to know everything about their community so it’s totally okay to ask questions to become more aware.
7) Make eye contact and face people when you’re speaking.
Deaf people rely heavily on facial cues, lip-reading, and nonverbal communication. They can’t understand what you’re saying if your back is turned.
8) Don’t treat them differently.
They may need some accommodations, but that doesn’t mean you have to treat them differently. They are just as human as you are and just want to be included and accepted.
If you or a loved one might benefit from hearing aids, LSH may be able to help.