When I was going deaf the first thing I always had to tell people, from the check-out chick, the railway ticket seller, to new friends, was that I was deaf. And invariably some smart arse would say ďpardon what did you say!Ē They thought they were being so original, so clever and witty. And it bugged me no end!
So I thought there are some things you should never say or do to a deaf person.
1. Donít sneak up behind them. You may think itís funny when they jump but startling someone isnít funny.
2. Donít make deaf jokes. Donít say ďpardon Ė what did you sayĒ. We have enough trouble saying that for ourselves. And we hear this Ďjokeí so many, many, many times. I laugh politely every time some one says it to me but after 40 years Iím sick and tired of it.
3. Donít whisper in their ear. They wonít hear and will probably be unsettled by the closeness.
4. Donít get frustrated if they donít hear or understand you or they ask for a repeat. They want to clarify what youíve said and make sure they heard right. Be fair and repeat what you said. Maybe even repeat it in a different way with different words to help understanding.
5. Donít tell them they missed out on something (like a party) because you hadnít been able to get in contact with them. This rubs it in - tells them they are inadequate.
6. Donít ignore them. Help them to understand what is going on.
7. Donít expect them to do things they canít. For instance, donít expect them to answer the phone if they canít hear on it, or can only hear poorly.
8. Donít cover your mouth, turn away or talk to them from behind. They wonít hear and both of you will feel frustrated.
9. Donít ask them if they can drive. Theyíre deaf not blind!
10. Donít insist they put their hearing aid in. And donít ask them why they donít wear it all the time. Hearing aids may not help that much, they are uncomfortable and for some people donít really provide much benefit.
11. Donít expect them to listen to the radio or watch tv or go to the movies. These are frustrating situations and we often prefer not to go.
12. Donít get annoyed if the deaf person withdraws in a social environment. Understand that being deaf is incredibly tiring just trying to keep up with what is going on.
13. Donít suggest they learn sign language. If you donít know sign language even if they learn how would that help them?
14. Doní tell them to go and get a better hearing aid. Understand that hearing aids only help with volume and rarely with clarity, and as a personís hearing deteriorates clarity becomes worse.
15. Donít complain about feedback from a hearing aid. We canít help it and we canít do much about it.
Do recognise that being deaf or hard of hearing is difficult. The world we once knew no longer makes sense to us and we struggle to cope. Understanding makes our lives so much easier.