17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss

questionmarks.jpg17 Misconceptions about People with Hearing Loss shares great information answering many common questions I get from people. Some are afraid to ask the questions in fear of insulting someone. But I welcome them.

Here I share my responses to the 17 misconceptions from my experience…

  1. Everyone with hearing losses uses sign language and reads lips. I know a drop of sign language, which I’ve picked up here and there like I’ve picked up words in other languages. My dad and grandmother lost their hearing as they got older. Neither knew sign language nor how to read lips.
  2. Talking louder will help a person with hearing loss to understand. No, it puts us in an awkward situation. It *is* possible to talk too loud to me, but I can’t be sure if it’s someone’s normal volume or trying to do me a favor. Either way, I don’t want to risk hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s all about annunciation.
  3. Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal. I wish! I’ve used both and I still cannot hear a conversation on the phone, from behind me or on TV.
  4. People with hearing loss are stupid, mute and unsuccessful. I run a successful full-time freelance business. Before doing this, I had a great career in both the government and in telecommunications. A recent article discusses two employees at a large local company, one is an engineer. Unfortunately, if we dare ask “What did you say?” or don’t look like we understand, we’re perceived as stupid.
  5. People with hearing loss tend to be older adults. I was born deaf. ’nuff said. I’ve met many deaf kids my age over the years.
  6. People with hearing loss are defined by their hearing loss. Hardly. I’m a wife and mother first. Then a writer and volunteer. Being deaf does motivate me to work harder. I’m as much as a lefty as I am a deafie.
  7. Having hearing loss is shameful. Some folks who lose their hearing as they get older do struggle with the loss just like we all struggle with different things that come with aging. But as a person who was born deaf and never experiencing hearing like the average person, it’s not shameful. However, it’s true that some folks are in [denial about their hearing loss](http://www.palmbeachpost.com/health/what-s-the-no-1-reason-boomers-don-162193.html).
  8. When people with hearing loss miss something, it’s OK to tell them, “It’s not important,” or “I’ll tell you later.” Yeah, my brother did this to me all the time as closed-captions weren’t around until I was a teen. But I know he did it because it’s easier. It’s no different than when kids ask their parents what they were talking about to each other. They just don’t need to know everything.
  9. People with hearing loss are rude and pushy. From my view, I don’t like lose track of the conversation or force myself not to care what people are talking about. So in my anxiousness to stay on track, I might come across as pushy when I don’t mean it.
  10. People with hearing loss mostly hang out with other people with hearing loss. I’ve had very few deaf friends over the years. The only ones I know are from social networking. However, it’s true that some folks do all they can to be active in the community with other deaf people. It’s no different than Jewish people interacting with each other, Blacks and so on. You’ll find this in every race, culture and creed.
  11. Everyone who needs an assistive listening system can use ear buds or headphones. I can’t use ear buds at all. They’re not loud enough and they don’t reach my hearing aid. I use headphones and switch my cochlear implant to T-Coil to shut out regular sounds and only hear what comes through the headphones. The T-Coil has been around since I was a kid. Great invention.
  12. The wheelchair symbol represents universal access. It represents people who need to know if there’s access for someone with mobility challenges.
  13. Hearing access isn’t needed because it’s so rarely requested. “Many people with hearing loss are so accustomed to there being no accessibility accommodations that they don’t inquire about it unless it is publicized.” Very true. I’ve gotten to the pint that if someone tells me about a video, I don’t bother to check it out unless they say it’s captioned or has no words.
  14. People with hearing loss read braille. My husband ran into this when he was moving to Washington, DC, and I hadn’t yet joined him. Riding in an elevator, a coworker, who knew I was deaf, asked if I could read braille. Sure, I can rub my ear all over it and know what it says. Not really.
  15. Providing access for people with hearing loss is very expensive. I can caption my own videos for zero cost. (OK, we won’t go into the fact you need a computer and Internet connection.) We can also access relay services online.
  16. Deaf, hearing impaired, handicapped or disabled one is as good as the other. Even I get lazy and say “deaf person” referring to me. But it’s true that the correct way is “people who are deaf or hard of hearing.” Using “deaf person” or “blind person” implies there’s nothing else to the person. Some deaf people (see?) prefer to be known as “deaf person.” I also get lazy and say “hearing impaired” instead of “hard of hearing.” I’ve used all three terms. The only thing I don’t like is “handicapped.”
  17. Companies or accessibility experts with no background with hearing loss can know what best meets the needs of people with hearing loss. Not all companies have the ability to hire someone to be an expert. That’s why you do research, ask questions and contact experts.

Image credit: Chris Baker


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  1. This is really helpful, Meryl. Needless to say, there’s a lot here I didn’t know. Now the question is, how does one find out? Is asking questions acceptable (like, for point 16)? Or is it like everything else: some are OK with it while others find it a pain to answer the same questions over and over?

    • Meryl on January 13, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Robert, it depends on the person. With me — you can ask ANYTHING. Feel free to email, DM … whatever you’d like.
    If you want to ask someone else, you can ask: “Can I ask a question about X?”

  2. This is so helpful and I really appreciate the education. There were things I did not know (like T-coil). I also had to laugh about the Braille, we humans say and do such funny things! lol

    • Merylkevans on January 13, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Karen, of course the T-coil isn’t without a flaw. It can have humming sounds coming through it and blocks out the music. Just a matter of moving to a different spot until it stops.

  3. Great article! The only other one I’d add is: “Hearing loss is a rare condition, so providing access shouldn’t be a priority.” There are 36 million people in the United States with a significant hearing loss. That’s almost 14% of the population! And, as you said, by no means are they all over 50. There are plenty of kids, teens, and younger adults with hearing loss.
    Also, since I’m a CART provider, I’m always surprised at how many people think that the only options for access are ASL interpreters, assistive listening devices, or non-verbatim relay services. Many people with hearing loss whose first language is English can benefit from onsite or remote CART (Communication Access Realtime Transcription), but only if they know about it and make a specific request for it.

    • Merylkevans on January 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

    StenoKnight, first thank you for being a CART provider. You rock! You reminded me of an important point that I missed. If possible, provide captions or text as an option before ASL because more people know English than ASL. I know the ASL users will not like hearing this and will make an argument, but consider those who lose their hearing later in life.

  4. About #4 – Ya, I notice you cleanup up on Word Challenge!

    • Merylkevans on January 13, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Bill, 🙂 Practice, practice, practice. Instead of getting to Carnegie Hall, I scored decently in Word Challenge.

  5. “Riding in an elevator, a coworker, who knew I was deaf, asked if I could read braille. Sure, I can rub my ear all over it and know what it says. Not really.”
    LOL. This made me laugh. 🙂
    Thanks for posting this!

    • PinkLAM on February 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I can relate to all of these, but #1, 2,8, and 11 are things I’ve noticed the most. When I was in elementary school, someone went up to me and started signing too me. It was actually during school, so I found it quite odd(it was an adult). Never did figure out what they wanted…
    I just hate when I go to see a play or musical, they have the “ALD’s available here” sign, and they hand you a little amplifier with earbuds! Now I don’t really bother with them, because even the neckloops tend to be really staticy.
    I couldn’t care less about terminology. Although I was once referred to as “hearing-disabled” and I just thought that sounded extremely awkward. I think the person was trying to be politically correct, but they were pretty unsuccessful with that too.
    I can’t get over the braille story. Too funny!

    • Elle on July 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I’m an SLP using auditory-verbal techniques with young children with hearing loss and I run into these myths all the time. When I tell someone I work with deaf kids, I can count to five and wait for the inevitable question: So you know sign language really well? In this community it’s mostly an issue of education and awareness – the state school for the Deaf is in the metro area, everyone they ever knew who was deaf as a kid went there to learn ASL, and the general population just isn’t aware of the technology we have today. FWIW, I try my best to see these questions as an opportunity to educate people so that later, perhaps a person with hearing loss won’t have to suffer based on that person’s assumptions.

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