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It’s hard to find a hairstylist that “gets” you.  I put off going to the hairstylist for this reason.  When I lived in Atlanta, I finally found a lady I just loved, through a coworker.  I was sad to move from the area, mostly because I had to leave Addy behind!!!  You might think I’m kidding.  I assure you the thing I miss most about living in Atlanta is my hair stylist.
I’ve had the “hairstylist horror stories from hell” (the old triple “H”) since living in Minnesota.  Though I don’t think that the horror relates to my hearing loss so much.  The first few people I had cut my hair (went back to coloring myself) were just so so.  They were nice enough, and understood I wasn’t going to hear them.  Then, they never spoke to me again the entire time they cut my hair.
Next came my brilliant idea of embracing my natural gray — I love the white Bride-of-Frankenstein striping of my gray, but don’t love the all over salt & pepper look.  I had highlights put in my hair when I had it colored.  So why not use my natural highlights and lowlight the rest?  Well, I’ve yet to find a stylist who says this is doable, but I have no clue why not?
Four stylists later and I’ve been shown the “why not?”.  Cruella De Vil looked matronly compared to the worst version of trying to get this look!!!  I finally gave up and had my son’s girlfriend set up an appointment with her mother who lives in the cities. I just had her give me all over color and highlights.  Not bad, but not what I wanted.
Here I am months and months later, and I have 4 inches of natural that flows into an ugly, faded, and washed out reddish brown.  It looks really ugly next to graying dark brown hair.  My hair has no reddish tones, and is very dark brown, almost black.  Getting a natural looking color that is close to my own is tricky.
As for what I do to handle the communication problems… from the get-go I say, “You need to know that I’m deaf and read lips. If I can’t see you, I can’t hear you.  Without my glasses I’m blind, so am also really, really deaf.  I’d love to chat, but it’s difficult unless you get my attention first.  You need to make it clear you are talking to me.  Otherwise, I’ll just assume you’re chatting with others around you.
Sometimes this makes a hairstylist jumpy and they are very noticeably self-conscious and ill-at-ease.  However, I’ve learned these types of people are ill-at-ease with any deviation from the norm, so it’s not me, it’s them.  Others aren’t that ill-at-ease, they just figure “…why talk to her when she can’t hear?” and I’m afforded a silent hour while they fiddle with my hair.  I don’t like either.
Other times, you get someone who takes in all that your little “I’m deaf…” speech means and then disregards it all and talks like there is no tomorrow, never looking at you or even caring that you can’t hear them.  These kinds of people are only interested in hearing the sound of their own voice, and I know many people like this in life.  They just drone on without a care, oblivious to the fact that the listeners around them aren’t really listening or interested in what they are saying.  At times like these, I’m glad I’m deaf.
And then you strike gold!!  You get someone who processes what your “I’m deaf…” speech means, they reason in their own mind what that might require from them, and then they do their best to put you at ease and accommodate you, while treating you like you are human.  Even more important, they treat you like your deafness isn’t really a big deal, which it isn’t, when you find people who are willing to communicate with you in a way that you need them to.  Addy was this kind of stylist.  I miss her.


  1. I always dread having to use the phone to make an appointment. I will stop in and make an appointment in person rather than use the phone. Or I will set up my next appointment before I leave. I would love to be able to make an appointment by email.

    I think my hairstylist “gets it” although at first she didn’t. She works in a small shop so if it’s just the two of us, I enjoy a chat with her. For a while I was able to schedule appointments at times when only she was there. Her availability has changed though and if all the other stylists are there and the radio is playing, hairdryers are going, etc.. we don’t have much conversation at all.

  2. This is a huge worry for me! My mom is 73 and she’s been my hairdresser since I was in high school. She still works, actually — very part time, but still out there cutting hair. 🙂 Anyway, I am completely deaf when my CI processors are off — so there’s no conversation happening unless I can see someone’s lips directly. With my mom, she just comes to my house to cut my hair. My husband says she still chatters and talks to me the whole time she’s cutting — LOL — even though I don’t respond. I never realized that until he told me just now!

    But when she finally retires, I dread having to ‘learn’ the process of going to a salon and dealing with various people (shampoo girl, hairdresser, etc.) when I am totally deaf. Even worse, I have very naturally curly hair and it is SO difficult to find someone who can cut curly hair. I may just cut my own darn hair when my mom retires!!

  3. I usually do stop in and make an appointment in person, but it’s not because I don’t want to use the phone (I’ve had a CapTel phone for years and just got a new CaptionCall phone)… it’s more my wanting to check out the salon and talk to the person that will be cutting my hair beforehand. I really liked the person who gave me the worst color job I’ve ever had, and she was very chatty and accommodating to my hearing loss, but was a horrible hairstylist. :o)

    It is nice if a salon offers email as a way to make an appointment, and I can’t fathom a business not doing this on request, but I do know not all are accommodating.

  4. Lucky you, Wendy!! I’m sure it’s very convenient and nice having a mother that is a hairstylist.

    I went for years cutting and coloring my own hair because I was too self-conscious (I think that was less about hearing loss than it was about personality traits — diffidence and self effacement — I needed to change) about getting my hair done. I’ve come a long way, in the last decade, toward becoming comfortable with how I present hearing loss to others, and actually like getting out there and doing “normal” things that used to cause me worry.

    For the most part, I’ve found really nice people who try to do their best to accommodate me, though all aren’t comfortable. So, it’s a great way to educate people about hearing loss and what it means.

    What I realized… I was uncomfortable with my hearing loss for many years — worried I wouldn’t hear someone or would somehow inconvenience them because of not being able to hear — so I think I made others uncomfortable. It’s amazing what an attitude change can do!

  5. Yes, I agree. It’s hard to find a good stylist! I’m glad I’m not alone in cutting my own hair … a good friend/hairstylist taught my husband how to touch up my roots before she moved away. I let my hair grow out (while cutting my own bangs) and get a cut maybe once a year.

    When going to a new place, I always ask for the “head stylist” or the one that has had the most experience. It helps to bring my favorite picture of me when my hair was at its best and talk to the stylist in addition to explaining that I wear hearing aids and won’t be able to hear once they are out for the shampoo. I put my hearing aids back in after the shampoo and let her know that if she needs to talk to me, she can look directly into the mirror. For the most part, they are fairly quiet, but ask important questions about how I want my hair done.

  6. I had a wonderful stylist for a couple decades. She even knew sign language, though at the time I did not. She had a deaf niece who she raised for a while and was used to looking at you and enunciating clearly. She not only did a good job on my hair, but she was just a lovely person. I loved her. When she retired it was rough. I went through a bunch of hair stylists. Most of them have been pretty good about my deafness because I am quiet and I take a book. I usually get a foil and that takes a long time, so I’m glad to have the reading material. When they see the book they usually take the hint that I’m not interested in conversation and after a time or two they get used to it.

    I finally found a woman who gets what I like done to my hair. Like Wendi, I have curls that require special attention. It takes a certain kind of stylist who knows how to handle curly. This woman leaves me alone to read. She’s upbeat and smiley and doesn’t seem at all uncomfortable with my hearing loss. I have not been to her since I got my implant as I have been waiting for my scar to heal, which it finally has. It is time to go. I told her last time that this was going to happen and she was excited about it. I think it is time to show her the new lump on my head. 🙂

  7. The reason they are hairstylists because they are not good with other things like public relations or understanding different cultures. Some, all they are good for is chatting non-stop with their elderly customers who want their hair coiffered. They’re good for gossip. But if a deaf person comes in, their brand of non-stop chatter and endless gossip screeches to a halt. The hairstylists are suddenly out of place from their beauty salon chair. And they’re gonna assume what you said and put black here, grey there, reddish splotches here. Without even exercising their common sense and judgement. They just assume “oh well that’s what they want, so I will just do it for their sake.”

    They have to learn to give us a better mental picture of what they are going to do or what color it would be instead of proceeding to start HELL. I even used a comb to show where they can make the sides short, and the salonist literally used it just because I showed her where not to go past.

    I tend to attend the same salonist so I can create a true hairstyle instead of jumping to different hairstylists because they would only create different angles, and do things I don’t want them to do. Since you moved you have to find the perfect hairstylist to focus on as your primary hairstylist. Like a doctor who has seen our belly buttons often enough to know where not to tickle us. That means you might have to have your hair ruined a few times until it is done right. Kudos to the stylist who gets it right.

  8. Wow, you guys are really judgemental. I am a hairstylist and I am good at lots of things such as dealing wilth all kinds of different personalities and I have several clients with disabililtes. I treat all my clients with the same respect and I always try to understand exactly what someone wants, and most of the time I seem to please most people. I don’t think anyone should judge anyone elses profession, unless you have done it yourself, being a hairstylist isn’t easy. You have to have talent, skills and be able to communicate with many different personalites and sometimes be a bit of a mind reader. If you want to find a good stylist, you have to give people a chance and treat them how you would liked to be treated. Also it helps if you don’t micro manage every little detail.

  9. I think most of us who have commented here aren’t that judgmental, we are simply recounting our personal experiences and challenges with hairstylists, as it relates to our hearing loss. Some are great at accommodating us, some are not so great, just like any vocation in life. I had an ENT that was horrible at relating to his patients and could have used some public relations/sensitivity training himself (he was so horrible I filed a complaint against him and asked to see a different doctor, so sometimes you have to shop around for doctors in the same way you shop around for hairstylists)… to say he was an ENT because he wasn’t good at other things is ridiculous. That applies to hairstylists as well and I don’t agree with the previous commenter’s biased and negative view of hairstylists. I also don’t believe it to be true that a person becomes a hairstylist because they aren’t good at other things… lumping all hairstylists together and saying negative things about them is very judgment and I don’t do that. I’m sure being a hairstylists isn’t easy. However, it has been true for me that I usually go through about a half dozen stylists until I find one that is a good fit and is completely comfortable with my hearing loss. Unfortunately, some are not good with dealing with all kinds of personalities and/or clients with disabilities. The problem I have is that when I find a hairstylist I really like, I move. I’ve moved at least eight times in the last 30 years. I’m sure as a hairstylist you have some negative views about clients, but it seems you give people the benefit of the doubt, just as others should do with hairstylists. ~~Michele

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