Yes, it is me. I am that angry lady.
When I was in grade 2 I had a severely hard of hearing girl in my class. It was the 80s, and the start of the great and awkward push for inclusion in my school district. My new classmate named “Carol” was unceremoniously placed in my class despite being at least 2 years older than every other kid.
Carol showed up one day in the middle of Grade 2. I suppose she was expected to blend in with her new classmates by osmosis or something because to my knowledge nothing was ever done formally to help this process along. It didn’t help that she was much larger than any of us, and that she spoke much too loudly. She was also known for having daily outbursts that were hard to understand due to her distinctive “deaf” accent. To summarize, 7 year old me found her terribly scary and I avoided her like the plague.
Sadly, I wasn’t alone.
As I grew up my perception of hard of hearing or deaf people being on the angry or scary side didn’t change so when I found out that I was going to be joining the their club I wondered …..Will that be me?
Now I am not saying that being deaf or hard of hearing makes you an unpleasant person but there are definitely more opportunities for being annoyed or for misunderstanding to occur. What I want you to know is that these upsetting situations happen often as the direct result of the actions of our clueless hearing friends.
(That is probably you.)
Basically for me – now that I’m deaf – I have found that there are some surefire ways guaranteed to set me off.
So, would you like to know what they are?
OK, here we go:
- I am tired. Trying to “hear” when you have hearing loss is exhausting! First, you are trying to read lips, to decipher anything you can hear, or to observe body language. Then, you add that to what you may know of the context or conversation topic to try and fill in the gaps. All of that information goes into your brain, gets tossed and around, and then hopefully you manage to process what was being said – sort of. Sigh. So, at the end of the day or after a long meeting – I am done. Finished. Please go away and come back in 30 minutes and try again.
- You tell me “nevermind”. Please stop! This phrase is so condescending to someone like me. It is true that not every word people say is essential information but since when did that have anything to do with it? Banter, funny comments, small talk – I still enjoy these things so I would appreciate it you would make the effort on my behalf, or stop reminding me that these forms of communication are now less available to me now due to my disability.
- You tell me that you will call me later or that I should give you a call….um, really?
- You speak FOR me. I don’t think I have to explain this do I? I can speak for myself thank you very much.
- You find out I am deaf so you start speaking to me via my hearing friend, or family member. Ok, I am right here? Look at me please, that is how I read your lips. If I need what you have said repeated or help from my friend I will ask them myself.
- You poke me again and again to get me to look at you – Yes it is true that it is acceptable in the hard of hearing and deaf community to tap someone on the shoulder to get their attention. The key word is: tap. One time. (And no Dad, using your fork to tap me is not ok – not ever!).
- You show me pity. Let me correct on this one you right now – the attitude I am looking for is “how can I help you hear?” not “You poor thing”.
- You share my medical information or my disability with others without my consent. I am not sure why people feel they can do this but it happens all the time. Disclosure is alway my decision. I don’t care how uncomfortable the situation gets it is still my decision whether or not to say anything so please zip it.
Now, sometimes I do keep my cool. Other times any one of these scenarios will awaken the sleeping bear – it’s unpredictable so I would say better to be safe than sorry.
However, if you chose to ignore these warnings and then are subsequently attacked by this angry deaf lady some time in the future all I can say is: I warned you.