10 Dumb Things the Hearing Say to the Deaf

10 dumb things the hearing say to the deaf featuring captain picard
10 dumb things the hearing say to the deaf... plus the bonus braille menu!

I am deaf, and have been since I was a child – and after asking hundreds of other deaf people about dumb things that have been said to them, I compiled a list based on the results:

10 Dumb Things Hearing People Commonly Say to Deaf People:

1. “You don’t look deaf!”

images

There is no way to look deaf. You don’t need to ever tell a deaf person, “you don’t look deaf!” because really, how could you look deaf? Carry a grammaphone around? Have ears of some type of better yet, something in American Sign Language (ASL) tattooed on your forehead?

2. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”

 

picard ears

A lot of people shout at us. But think about that for a second. Shouting at a deaf person. Shouting at someone who can’t hear?
Okay, it’s true that many deaf people can hear in various degrees, but shouting is almost always simply an exercise in rudeness and condescension, not to mention futility.

3. “DOOOO YOOOUUUUUUUU WAAAAAANNNNTT COFFFEEEEEEEEEEE?”

 

picard facepalm

Add talking uber-slowly to shouting.

4. “Oh hey! I sign too!”

 

picard signing

I can’t count the number of times someone has whipped out their hands and their own creative interpretations of signing a cat, rain or sun… “creative” being the operative word. But on the heels of this, you probably want to remember that:

5. Not All Deaf People Use Sign Language Either!

Although I have been deaf for most of my life, I only started to learn some sign language when I was 30.

Deaf people are not born knowing how to sign and if you become deaf, you don’t automatically receive an infusion of sign language along with your first hearing aid or gulp of silence.

 

6. “You can talk?!”

picard talk

 

Not everyone can talk, and not everyone enunciates like a hearing person does, yeah! Many of us deaf folk do indeed talk!

7. “So…you lipread”

picard frowning

 

Personally, I am a ninja at lipreading. I am a fierce lipreader, so good that most audiologists are shocked when they they discover how little I really hear. But I’m not the norm – many of my deaf tribe don’t lip read at all and many more still do lip read a bit but don’t want to use it as a means to communicate with a hearing person.

It’s a lot of effort on our part and it’s exhausting – so it’s not something to be taken for granted, if someone does it at all. Just sayin’

8. “Do you drive?”

double facepalm

 

Duh.

9. “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”

picard borg

 

A cochlear implant is the answer for some people but it’s not for everyone. You need to be profoundly deaf with no hearing to lose to get one at all, and for many deaf folk, being deaf is not only the absence of hearing but it is the presence of a culture, the Deaf culture.

Not everyone wants to hear – and not everyone would want to give up being Deaf, or would want their children to hear.

10. “I’m sorry”

shock

 

Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone told me “I’m sorry” in response to my telling them I’m deaf….. yeah….

11. “Oh, that’s okay”

– blank look –

[yay! she’s telling me it’s okay that I’m deaf!]

happypicard

***
And so…

Being deaf has had its difficulties but most of those difficulties are related to access. It’s hard to find and keep jobs, navigate the system and receive a solid education when society revolves around hearing in the way that it does

But hey! Being deaf isn’t a bad thing and it is certainly not something to mourn – it’s wonderful being able to reach up and turn my hearing aids off and enter a realm of total silence when my kids are screaming, better believe me on that.

– the end.

PS

Remember how I asked literally hundreds of d/Deaf people what dumb stuff was commonly said to them by hearing people? Yeah, well, the best response that I got was this:

– My husband and I (- both Deaf) – were in a restaurant and a waitress came over and saw us signing and said, “Oh you are deaf! Great! We just got some new braille menus!”

picard giggling

 

***

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
Did you SEE this??? I am shocked, to be honest. It reeks of invasiveness in the most personal possible way. https://t.co/tkXaPX2dfm - 7 hours ago
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82 Comments

  • Girl I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry… But it does remind me when I tell someone Maddison has Ds and they say sorry…

  • I don’t mean this to sound dumb or jerky, as I’m being completely sincere. But what would be the best way to find out someone’s best way to communicate, if I shouldn’t ask if they read lips or attempt sign language? That is, if (when) I meet someone deaf for the first time?

    • The best way to communicate with the D/HH at any time is by writing back and forth on paper or texting. It’s a bit more work, but at least no miscommunication or misunderstanding would happen.

      • Really the best? The two Deaf people I’ve known both insist on lip reading. The first woman would yank paper out of my hand when we first met and insisted I learn a little ASL. Isn’t it a matter of personal preference?

      • ONE way to communicate is by writing or texting. But saying it’s “the best way” assumes the person who doesn’t hear is fluent in English.

        English sentence structure is opposite most world languages. It is also second only to Chinese as the most complex language. Hearing people can learn English because we hear it everywhere via mass media which allows us to learn from other users.

        Culturally Deaf people’s primary language is ASL which has the structure of Romance languages like French. Sure, writing and texting may work but don’t be surprised if the response you get from the non-hearing person doesn’t make any sense to you.

      • Unless its small children who are deaf. I worked in the special education dept. for a very large school district and loved it! My deaf kids each had their own way of communicating to me or any one else once they realized that communication is what this stuff was all about. Two things to remember is patience and there is no one way to communicate. I’ve had people tell me special ed kids are difficult and for new teachers scary. I tell them its going to be one of best jobs of their life. I miss it terribly.

        • Best thing here would be that teachers learn sign language in all schools where deaf children are attending. And all school should offer pupils sign language courses

    • Hey Amanda, it is nice to see you asking with genuine compassion. There are probably different ‘best’ ways to ask because everyone is so individual, but I can tell you that I prefer people to simply ask me what I need in order to be able to communicate with them and/or feel included, etc. Rather than making assumptions about if I can do sign language or if I read lips, I like people to just ask how best to be ‘heard’ by me. Then I can tell them what works best for me in that particular situation. For some reason it’s just the way the question is couched vs folks making assumptions that I need them to speak turtle slow, to shout, to use exaggerated facial expressions and jazz hands, etc. When folks ask the way you do, without trying to guess or comically compensate, then I feel like they actually want to work with me and be able to relate to me. (Every situation is different so it is good for us to be able to adjust what we need…apparently ‘shave off your moustache/beard’ is asking too much though. boo. 😉 ) Hope that makes sense.

      • Lol – excellent answer! As with all human beings, all persons who are deaf are individuals, so what works for one doesnt necessarily work for everyone 🙂

  • Believe me or not … I once was asked “can I read?!” and I was working for the Justice Department doing nothing but type all day!! I go … ummmm … duh dumm!!

  • Although I am not deaf I can totally understand the utter ignorance portrayed here!! What a shame that people just speak with no thought process about the words that come out! I have experienced this in pregnancy, miscarriage, and now my pre-natal DS diagnosis. It’s as if anything that is not the “norm” classifies for total ignorance in conversation lol! I.E oh your pregnant?…was it planned?…why do you care lol! Oh you had a miscarriage well I guess it wasnt meant to be?…yeah that makes my grief so much less thank you said no woman ever… Oh gosh your baby will have down syndrome I am so sorry….for what? Im confused your sorry that my child has a third 21st chromosome what does this mean to you??? I truly laughed out loud at your blog I love your perspective and Im not gonna lie I am straight jealous that you can shut off the sound of fighting kids 🙂

  • Amanada – simply let the Deaf person take the lead and you can follow along with the conversation. If the Deaf person choose to speak, then you should use your voice along with him / her – making sure that the Deaf person has clear view of your lips, should they need to lipread you.
    If the Deaf person signs to you – you’ll know that you should use your signs in response.

  • I’m laughing!!! I get that all the time! Never stops. I am hard of hearing. Really I just say I’m deaf…. Love those 10 dumb things!!!!

    • Never to late to learn, more 🙂 I went to Tafe and completed a 3 year coarse on Auslan (Australian Sign Language) at 44 🙂 (see never to old …heehee 🙂 )
      I have two Deaf (older) Brothers, we mostly used what we called ‘Home Sign’ when we were younger, never got to communicate with their friends, always had to did it through my brothers.
      So regret that I had never learnt it at a much younger age.
      I don’t see my Brothers often (due to land distance).. But I do Skype with them when we have the chance… I also try to be around Deaf people as much as possible, this helps to keep myself in touch with their Sign Language, also to meet new people and to learn more about their Culture.

  • I sooooo loved this 10 dumb things! You might want to add a few things that I have been asked throughout my life…and yes, I am deaf.

    can deaf people drive?!

    Can deaf people marry and …(g.a.s.p) have kids?!

    I had to give them a serious blank look…with “Are you seriously asking me that?” Then I would mime out the actions of driving a car…

    Door opened, car key in ignition and turn it, seat belt on, adjust mirrors, looking back to make sure it s safe, changing the gears from parking to driving, double check the road, the. Drive…Not too hard, isn’t it? A lot of those actions require vision…..

    I had to shake my head at several people who asked that latter question about marrying and having children. I then would act out as a doctor checking everything but the ears… Everything else is in a wonderful working order!

    (Chuckles)…these people would blush to the root of their head once it dawned on them that being deaf doesn’t stop any of the bodily functions!!!! Lol

  • I have a hearing loss and I know that’s different but in response to number 5 I have had several people come up to me and start signing.(all adults and usually swim teachers) I know very little sign language although I signed a song in 4th grade chorus but I don’t remember many of the signs(only the one that looks like your buttering your forearm) or even the name of the song(though I wish I did)

  • Hello everyone n get tht same meesage bout 10 dumb n also i m hard of hearing miself n i got an person who ask me if i can read lip if they will be no interper n i told them sure n if not then write on paper n tht not an big deal… tht person was shock n think deaf or hard of hearing ppls cant do thing same as hearing ppls n i just sat there n lol hard…. we all r humans

  • Hahaha some of these are sooo bad. To be fair though, some places don’t actually allow deaf/Hearing impaired to drive. Especially in southern areas with a lot of unmarked railroad tracks.

    ….Even though eyes still function.

    Yeah. Because a deaf person is totally going to forget they’re deaf and not look.

  • Thank you for the article. How would you like people to respond when you tell them you are deaf or hard of hearing? Obviously “I’m sorry” is not it. But if someone says “OK” they could be processing the information. Would it be best to not respond at all? That seems a bit rude. I would like to understand better. Thanks.

    • I think saying “oh, ok” , “gotcha”, “all right”, etc is totally fine, personally; I just don’t like it when someone responds with “That’s okay”, with the emphasis on the “that’s” – you know? The former is just an acknowledgement which, like you said, feels weird to go without. But the latter is like a permission.

      Thanks for asking, Sue!

  • Hi all good info but why is it so laughable to wonder if you can drive considering you cannot hear horns honking, sirens etc.? Are there special devices which alert profound hearing loss people of these things? Just love to know, have a deaf foster sister and we were not taught sign (in fact neither was she as they wanted her to speak, until she was older and went to another school.) Please clarify and thanks again for all the good info. Gretchen

    • Well, it’s laughable (- or more like face-palm-able) for two reasons as I see it:

      1. being deaf doesn’t affect our ability to fundamentally operate machinery – I mean, our EARS don’t pick up much sound, but you don’t absolutely need your ears to drive and
      2. the emergency systems on the road include lights – ambulances and fire trucks have flashing lights and the signals are lights. so the really important stuff is covered

      • Hi again and thanks for the reply. Yes, true emergency and police units have flashing lights so that answers that but still wonder about honking horns in regular cars if for instance you were about to turn in front of someone or didn’t see a pedestrian say. I can only assume that you are possibly more careful when driving and pay better attention as certainly no other noise distractions.
        Good to chat with you and I loved the humorous device of Capt. Picard. Thanks Meriah. Gretchen

        • One of my ASL teachers told us that insurance companies love deaf drivers because they are so very vigilant, they are usually *less* likely to miss things like this.

          For what it’s worth, another ASL teacher–she was hearing–told us of a time she got pulled over and discovered the police car had been following her for quite a while, with the siren going the entire time. Even though her hearing was just fine, she had had the radio on in the car, and didn’t notice the sound of the siren over the music.

          So, the hearing don’t always even hear everything they’re supposed to….but think they will. The deaf, on the other hand, already instinctively notice more visually.

          (A totally random aside….I’m hard of hearing and have recently discovered that I get a lot of audio info through my sense of touch. For example, I can hear my neighbors talking if I put my hands against the wall we share….it’s pretty amazing how the brain uses other senses to compensate.)

      • I can’t remember his name,a deaf inventor created the mirrors so we can see all round us I think hence we have in our cars now

      • Dear Meriah, Grenchen has a point. the questions hearing people have seems insensitive but to us it makes sense. Instead of making fun of our ignorance, it would be more productive if the deaf uses their experiences to teach the hearing. We only want to understand. Once we know better, then only then we can we do better. It’s goes to say with any other differences we may have like racism, and prejudice.

        • Hi! I think this post could be what you are asking for: a teaching moment!
          But really… roll with this a bit and put yourself in our shoes, hearing this stuff EVERY. DAY. for YEARS AND YEARS. Patience runs thin and it’s good to be able to laugh at it.

  • Hi! I work at Costco. They pay very well and are open to hiring deaf folks. One of my closest friends at work is deaf, and has gotten employee of the month before. It’s a great company to work for and many of us have learned ASL just from hanging out with our 3 deaf co workers. Just wanted to let everyone know that Costco rocks in many ways!!!

  • Long time ago one of dumb that dude encounter me and speak with me, I told him that I’m deaf then he asked me to open my mouth and look at whole of my mouth then no respondedas if he feel sorry for me. Ugh!

  • Great post, but some misinformation about cochlear implants. You don’t have to be totally deaf with no hearing to lose to get one – at least not in many countries, including Australia – and many culturally Deaf people are deciding to have one without feeling that it diminished their culture at all. The Deaf community in most cities in Australia has many recipients. They still sign, they still have Deaf friends and they still identify as Deaf.

  • Funniest thing is when people know I’m deaf they talk to other people around me and I might as well not be there.. Or they lean close to my ear and umm I can’t hear that..
    So many for a long time ask why I don’t get hearing aids.. And if I tell them my reasons they basically turn away.. Its like oh well she is not trying.. Just want to be accepted for who I am and how I am.. That’s all.. Just smile and acknowledge me and that makes all the difference in the world.. Text me and ask how I am.. Come on face book these are places I can talk and love to talk.. Not many do though.. I don’t get dumb things said… I just get ignored basically… I’d much rather people said dumb things than nothing at all..

  • Today’s ignorant questions to my daughter when she requested an interpreter for me “what happened? Can she talk? How can she drive when she can’t hear?” (I could not believe it) much frustration.

  • I love Star Trek and Deafness… this blog… albeit quite sad from one perspective… from another perspective made me smile. 🙂

  • Wish i would read other people comments but picard.whatever that article pro,bly make in.80s….90s. In past parent wont learn to sign language. When their kid deaf . That hearing. Dont understand. Enen other people dont understand. Because parent hide them or dont out public much . When parent wont learn sign .there no communication between deaf. Etc. Who go to school. Prombly in under c class . Time change. Parent learn sign language. With deaf kids. Things getting better etc. I make this short story.
    In 90s. Everybody interesting to learn sign language. . . There no promblem. When deaf. People go to store etc. .they accept it ..
    But some of them not proper behaving. They give them dirty look. . Etc. If people dont know what deaf is .they are square .they are dumber. I dont want to go down the detail.. . .other thing people dont yell at deaf. If that happen they are square i mean not smart .low iq….. what i say true story. When i was i. Court. The judge believe my sister story . I try to say sonethin but judge threw me out. Cuz i was yelling. .i didnt. At all but later i learn something that was high pitch voice. .anyway i am struggle how to explain..
    Other subject. Some of my friend s try to whispering at my ear. They forgot. That i am deaf . .. that ok
    Some people tellingme. You talk good. Some say you talk better than my husband.
    Some people cant understand. Bevause
    Iask me if y want to know
    You know there so many people luke mexican cant talk english. Dont blame on deaf anymore.
    Hearing people think being blind is better than deaf. I dont think so
    I know somehow when i was little hearing aid not going to help . Cuz not one damn word i hear … when i graduate i got 10 offer from doctor for to surgery on my ear . Turn it down . I know it not worki.g but. I know ir can work when very young. And different school
    Oh hell i i got to stop . Oh by the way if deaf people want to hear their voice. When talking
    Put on helmet. . You will be surprise how loud it is. Try it. If anybody know that

  • Mr swaim the deaf teacher,prinpial. He a phd
    I was in office for hitting.nigjt watch man he ask me. Who the leader?i say i dont know. .i have no idea. Etc after he repeating 20times he say “you” then say. Why dont you give other to do it .i say there was 3 other boys bigger than me wont do it.. he say ok…and congratulation that watch man deserve it. And he is fired .so you not in trouble .hey give other boys do it this time.s
    I was fuckin shock lol.
    Hey he say i want to talk to you. About your future ..& blah blahbkah ihe say i know you can be very smart. And. Mrs swaim math teacher . Anyway he bitching at me about math. Etc. He foreseen. That i am spoiled that i have ajob already . Also say famaily will take advance of you etc blah blah
    I say no it not goi.g happen . That was 30
    Yrs ago. Damn motherfuck he is god damn right 100percent. I got to brag. I ok. I am was best worker than anybody even other company. Can do everything that other cant
    I can do mechanic. Forklift backhoe. Tractor that 100$ahr. I get pay 8fuckin dollars hr then uncle stole my 800.000that my dad left me. That all to say for now.

  • Hearing people.taking advantage of deaf.people cuz they cant speak back orwrite back. That what deaf people need to know. And ither thing is not fair lawyer charge 200ahr deaf. Cant expkain much so limit. While other. We need to change that somehow i pay my lawyer 15.000.00 owe him 13.000.00
    I have one more case left .i need a lawyer for estate planning for wills trust…
    Deaf people got to beware. Their family will lie. When the judge ask if that person in room. If not .person lost the will or. Other family member will take it

  • Dont worry what they say let them talk .and walk away l. Mostly they talk shit sbout deaf.dont worry about it. It is themself arre dumber if you tslk fback. You loose n

  • That true not all deaf know sign. Hey there alot mexican. Doing that they can use home make sign langusge. We dont have to worry about that. There many ways to communication

  • Deaf people who live in dorm for school got better prepare for future for themself than those hearing people that why there so many punk. That cant make their bed. That lead to wont do the wash the dish. Theygettiing lazy. Lead to worse. situation in their life .
    Hard to believe if they say dumb thing to deaf. .they are jealous. That what psychology say. . It is true.
    I wl be back.

  • Not only.hearing people.say dumb thing to deaf ..i have.witness my.deaf friend from class 75 a party at his house in fresno while i live 50 miles away.he told other deaf person he (that me)is troublemaker with his disusted look. My mind say What.! ,,,,i keep cool . Wait few min.. i walk up to him. .what did i do for trouble maker. What y talking about. He say oh i want to impress him that he dont hang around w me .
    Why that ?anybody understand ?let me be blunt. I have high valve in behavior matter and high leverage in family that i got to keep ny repulation clean. And respect other people splace among their people but they are deaf. That worse than hearing people say dumb thing to deaf . If i were troublenaker .i. no telling what will happen to his face. . Anybody feel me. ?
    I hope that person read it and realize i talking about you. That person isnt no better than me no natter what that i didnt use his name

  • Deaf people who never go to work receiving check s have no hobby or. All they do is talk negative about other because they have nothing else to talk about. ..while trying to set up club fir deaf. And get togethering once. Everymo. For bowling .. even fightingin bowling aley fuck itthat their life .i never come back again . Except see one friend from class 77 and for 38yrs
    Maybe that why. Hearing people think deaf dumb like that. That 10percent
    Other things hearing people think deaf dumb because that we didnt repond back fast .
    They thought they too good for us. That was the past .
    I need soneone to do to act as agent for me. I have a idea for deaf. Where ever. Resturant .fast food drive through..auto parts have something with computer. What to order. For better future etc. And.
    Got to go

  • “…or would want their children to hear.”

    Am I the only one who finds this a little disturbing? I get that people born deaf would be accustomed to it, and it’s not the most crippling thing in the world. But it’s hardly the same as being born with blond hair or left-handedness. You are lacking a sense that is very useful to interacting with the rest of the world. Who honestly would NOT want their kids to hear, if they had the capacity to make it happen?

    • It’s because there’s a deaf culture that they value and want their children to be a part of. That’s more important to them than an auditory sense they’ve never had or have learned to do just fine without. I’m not saying that they should purposely deafen their children and neither is the author, just that I can understand why they would want their kids to be a part of their own culture. Doesn’t everyone?

  • This was hilarious. I was born medically deaf, 90-95 db left ear & 110+db right ear. I am not culturally Deaf. I do not sign ASL, I lip read and speak.

    I have a few to add to your list.

    ‘When hearing people obnoxiously and sharply whisper your name from a distance and creep closer until you smell and feel their breath on your neck”

    Yes, this happens often. Most recently, it was my daughters boyfriend. My husband said to him, “You do realize you are whispering to a deaf person… Right?” He didn’t care and continued this rude behaviour.

    Here is another one, ‘When repeating yourself to a deaf person, stay consistent, do not continuously change your wording.”

    I lipread quite well but there are times I come across some hearing people who have speech impediments, mumble or simply talk too fast. They are fully aware that I am deaf. This incident happened just last week with my daughters boyfriend, “Rachel, what brand of milk do you buy?” I did not catch it the first time so I asked for a repeat, he then said, “What brand of Honey do you buy?” The third time he said “What brand of yogurt do you buy?” I got so flustered and asked my hearing daughter what was up. She told me that he changed from milk to honey to yogurt. When I answered his questions he couldn’t of cared less, he just chuckled.

    Good news, my daughter dumped that jerk 🙂

    Deafness is a gift. I wouldn’t change it for the world. To the above poster Reg Fife that said Deafness is not like being born blonde or left handed, maybe, maybe not. The world would be pretty vanilla if we were all born perfect. According to scientific studies, the cerebrum of a deaf/HOH child in the womb, adapts to the loss of hearing by developing stronger peripheral vision, sense of smell, touch, taste and sixth sense over their hearing counterparts.

    In other words, we’ve gained heightened senses and a unique perspective on the world around us. So perhaps it is us that should feel sorry for hearing people not being able to fully appreciate the taste of Grandmas apple pie or get a solid night sleep.

  • Just want to add my bit to this lively discussion. The other guy in Photo #1 with Captain Picard is Riva, an intergalactic mediator-diplomat played by veteran Deaf actor Howie Seago. We loved the episode of “Star Trek: Next Generation” that featured him as the lead guest actor. And were hoping that he would made a return appearance on the series.

  • Hi Meriah. I can see how this post has become so popular (I came via your comment in making sense of affiliate marketing. This is both highly educational and entertaining. I couldn’t stop laughing about the braille menu, but then it made me a bit sad. Some of the questions (like the driving) never would have occurred to me. Then, after reading it, I wasn’t sure when I saw “duh” as part of me thought duh either way. It’s good to understand that deaf drivers are probably better and safer drivers…and it totally makes sense now that I think about it and see it explained.

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