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10 Things You Should Never Say to a Deaf Person

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Lisa Koch

on 30 March 2014

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Transcript of 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Deaf Person

10 Things
You should never say to a Deaf person
We all occasionally say things we really wish we hadn’t: especially when meeting new
people. For some reason, meeting a Deaf person seems to really bring out those moments in people. In the hopes of helping you avoid these embarrassing moments, here are 10 things you should never say when meeting a Deaf person.
Oh, I’m sorry (and then walking away.)
Deaf people are really not that scary. When someone tells you they can’t hear you, try making sure you’re looking directly at the person when you talk to them. Speak clearly, but don’t exaggerate your lip movements. Or get a piece of paper or use your phone to jott down
what you’re saying.
How do you drive?
Deaf people use their eyes. How do YOU drive?? It's amazing how many people think that Deaf people cannot–or should not–get their driver’s license. Studies have shown that deaf drivers are no more likely to get in to an accident than hearing drivers, and actually tend to have lower accident rates.
Can you read?
On one hand, this question is understandable. After all, English might not be a Deaf person's primary or first language. On the other… guess what? Deaf people go to school, have jobs, and do everything that their hearing pals do. Oh, except hear.
Assuming that deaf people can’t read is just insulting.
I know exactly what you mean.
I think I have a hearing loss too.
Not being able to hear people talking when you’re in a loud environment is not exactly the same thing as being deaf or hard of hearing. People’s first instinct is to try to find common ground, and connect. This statement is supposed to show understanding and support. That said, it usually comes across as dismissive, and completely misses the point. When someone is telling you that they need you to look at them when you’re speaking because they can’t hear you, they’re not looking for you to say you know all about it. They’re just trying to let you know
what they need in order to understand you. Do that.
But you lipread, right? Can you tell me what the guy across the room is saying?
To this I say, lip reading is NOT a super power. It’s hard enough for a Deaf person to figure out what’s going on in the conversation they are currently having. Also, stop being a snoop !
Oh, I’m so sorry. Losing my hearing would be the worst thing in the world!
It has its down sides, for sure, but really it’s not that bad. This response makes a Deaf person feel like they are something to be pitied: and completely dismisses the awesomeness of Deaf culture. Even if you’re thinking this, please don’t say it. Just don’t.
But, you have hearing aids.
Hearing aids are pretty awesome, but they’re not miracle devices. They don’t suddenly “cure” hearing loss. Deaf people still need to read lips or use ASL to know what people are saying. Hearing aids tell them that people are talking: but it’s like catching shadows of words. Many hearing aids users have to fill in the blanks. If someone has hearing aids, don’t assume that
they can hear things– or that they can’t, for that matter.
People launch in to how the cochlear implant is a miracle . The decision to get a cochlear implant is a big one, and involves a lot of factors that you probably aren’t aware of if. Besides the fact that this question assumes that something is wrong that needs to be fixed, it’s a really personal, complicated question. If you’re going to
ask someone about CI, please be sensitive to that. And maybe wait until you’ve known the
person a while before you bring it up.
But you don’t sound deaf.
This is the reason many Deaf people don't use their voices in public. People have a hard time understanding that just because a Deaf person has good speech quality does not mean they can hear. It makes
them feel like they need to explain themselves.
Wow, your speech is really good!
There are several reasons why you should never say this to someone. For one thing, it makes the person feel awkward and self-conscious. For another, the underlying message is that speaking skills are to be highly valued, and praised. It implies that people who don’t have clear
speech are less intelligent, capable, or aren’t trying hard enough, which is not true at all.
"Speech quality" says nothing about an individual's intelligence or abilities. Some just happened to grow up with enough residual hearing to make speaking easier. In some ways, clear speech is a drawback – it makes it that much harder for other people to understand Deafness.

Have you ever said something you wished you could take back? What are some awkward/awful things people have said to YOU?
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