18 (More) Things to Never Say to a Deaf Person!

Do you struggle to know what is the right and wrong thing to say to a Deaf person?

You remember the list of 13 Things to Never Say to a Deaf Person I wrote a while back?

Well, since then I have spoken to some of my Deaf friends and have found more things to add to that list.

This time though, I wanted to add a positive element to it.

In a conversation I had with my husband he said that a lot of times you just don't know anything about Deaf people or that there's even a Deaf culture/community and the things people are doing aren't always because they're being malicious, but because they think they're helping.  People just don't know what the right thing to do is.

It was something to think about.

In this post you'll not only learn what not to do, but what to do!

Learn more of what not to say to a Deaf person. Read on for not just a list of what not to do, but what to do instead!

Don't 

"Wow you speak so well for a Deaf person."

Do

If you really want to comment on their speech, say it a different way.  The offensive part is "for a Deaf person."


Don't

"You must be really smart to be able to talk."

Do

Again, if you want to comment on their speech you could say, "you speak really well." or "You must have worked really hard on your speech."

Any level of speech is hard hard work.  Tons of hours and lessons.  Speech doesn't indicate intelligence.  You may mean well, but make sure what you're saying is actually nice and not demeaning.


Don't 

"Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?"

Do

You could ask them about the assistive devices they do use.  Or ask them about their decision to not use a CI or hearing aid (if they don't use them).


Don't 

"Have you thought about getting ear transplants?"

Do

Think before you speak.  There are no such things.


Don't 

"You have hearing aids, shouldn’t you hear normally now?"

Do

If you're truly wanting to know about their hearing aids, ask them a more in-depth and specific question.  What is their hearing loss?  How effective are their hearing aids?  Do they like them?  What are some of the hard things about using a hearing aid?

Cochlear implants and hearing aids really are a personal decision.

-  CIs are not a cure all.

- You do not hear perfectly like a hearing person does.

- They do not always work.

- They are not reversible.

- The surgery can be incredibly painful to recover from

- There can be complications.

- They are at least $30k. If they are what they want and use, awesome. If they don't, that's awesome too. Be respectful in the way you approach this highly sensitive topic.

Hearing aids mostly amplify the background sounds. You ever watched a movie where the soundtrack was loud, but you couldn't hear the actors? You turn up the volume but you still can't hear.  Or, pretend you're in a crowded cafeteria and you're trying to hear the person across from you.


Don't 

Assume they know every deaf person in the world – or care that you know someone that knows someone that has a deaf friend

Do

Try to find some other fun ways to connect with them.  They are more than just Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  They like other things too! Promise.


Don't 

"How can you work if you can’t hear?"

Do

Ask them what they do for a living.


Don't 

If they ask you to repeat the last sentence and you repeat the first sentence

Do

Pay attention to their request.  Listen to them. It's typically the last sentences that get lost in speech.  People look away, people mumble, their volume fades, or their words run together.  If they ask about a specific part of what you said, repeat only that.


Don't 

Talk to someone else instead of them.

Do

If you want to speak to a Deaf person and there's a hearing person with them to interpret, still direct your conversation to the Deaf person.  If there isn't you can write what you want to say to them. Do include them in the conversation. They want to contribute just like you do.


Don't 

"Wow, you don’t look deaf!"

Do

"Wow, it's nice to meet you!"


Don't 

Take advantage of them.

Do

Treat them as equals.


Don't

"Can you read and write?"

Do

Treat them as a "normal" person. They are just as intelligent as you are.


Don't

Don’t throw objects or stomp/bang at them to get their attention

Do

Politely tap them on the shoulder. Flick the lights. Wave.


Don't

Don’t stand there waiting for their conversation to end or duck through.

Do

If you want to get by and you can't get around them then just say excuse me and walk through quickly.


Don't 

Exaggerated gestures and mouth movements or move around.

Do

Speak straight on. Look at them, speak normal.  Keep your head facing them and your hands and other objects away from your mouth.


Don't 

I’m sorry… and give them the "funeral face."

Do

When you find out they're Deaf you don't have to make a comment about it really. If you feel the need, you can say something positive.  There's nothing to be sorry about.  They're not sorry, you don't have to be sorry.  Again, be respectful.


Don't 

Tell them they’ll be healed if they repent.

Do

Be intelligent.  Deafness does not come from a sin or their parents' sins.  This is just ridiculous and hurtful.  You ought to look at yourself and repent for being a jerk.


Don't

"Never mind," or "I'll tell you later."

Do

Include them in the conversation, the TV show, the fun.  If they ask you to repeat something repeat it.  Even if you have to repeat it a few times, please be kind and repeat it until they understand.

Every single Deaf and Hard of Hearing person I have spoken to says this is their #1 don't. They even joked saying it should be banned from ASL and Deaf culture. These words can put great gulfs between families and friends.  It can cause them to feel isolated and unimportant.  Please please please be aware of others.

 

I heard a lot of stories that were just so sad.  There are just some rude and hurtful people out there.  I don't think they're doing it just to those that are Deaf. I'm sure they treat everyone like that.  That doesn't make it less hurtful though.

I know you always mean well. I know you would never hurt someone intentionally. Don't think I doubt your sincerity or your friendliness.


When you see a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing please keep these Dos and Don'ts in mind.  If in doubt try to think of what you'd want someone to treat you.  But you know that!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with this simple tweet:

Tweet: I just learned the Dos and Don'ts of talking to a Deaf person.

 

Is there something you've been wanting to know about people who are Deaf? Please feel free to ask -- no one will judge you here.  I promise.

 

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