I am finding that telling people, “I am deaf.”, nets so much more understanding and accommodation than any of the other descriptions (hard of hearing, hearing impaired, et al.) I have tried over the years. Before joining the SayWhatClub (SWC), I would have felt like a fraud using “deaf” to describe my severe/profound hearing loss to others. I have never felt entitled to use the word. I guess I thought “deaf” was reserved specifically for those who have no hearing at all?

When I first started losing my hearing, as a child, I wasn’t even aware that I did not hear the same as others. My speech developed somewhat normally, and as I gradually lost more of my ability to hear, I gained ability in other areas to fill in the gap. I had enough understanding and hearing that it never would have occurred to me to call myself “deaf”, or anything else, for that matter. Heck, I usually didn’t tell people of my hearing loss at all, unless it was absolutely necessary. However, the skills and confidence that I possessed in my younger years began failing me, and I found myself constantly struggling to hear in most situations, which is what led me to the SWC. Once a member of SWC, I participated in many online discussions and learned I don’t have to be completely deaf to use the word “deaf” to describe myself to others. I learned there are many levels of deaf/Deaf, so I started trying it out, using the word, quite awkwardly at first.

I recently went shopping for sheets and a quilt for the queen-sized bed I downsized to. I was standing, looking through a sale bin of quilts when the sales lady, from far across the department, up on a ladder, stocking comforters, said something. I didn’t really hear her and was not even sure her attention was directed toward me, but the movement on the ladder caused me to look up. It turned out she was speaking to me, trying to tell me about the sale items I was looking through. I called out to her, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you, I am deaf.” She then commenced to perform an improvisational sign language/pantomime (still on the ladder) that really was quite good, as it became perfectly clear to me that she was trying to tell me that the sale items I was looking at were 50 to 60% off of the already reduced price. Still searching for exactly what I had in mind for my new bed, I navigated closer to where the acrobatic and dramatic sales lady was standing and asked for confirmation that I had interpreted her charade correctly. She assured me I had understood her perfectly and complimented me on how well I hear for being deaf. I smiled.

Owning “deaf” doesn’t mean all of my days go as smoothly as the day I went shopping for bedsheets, as not everyone is as free in their expression, when trying to help someone hear and understand, as the sales lady on the ladder. Days such as that day continue to build my confidence and seem to make the fact that I can’t hear a minor inconvenience to my day, instead of an insurmountable disability that I am always striving to overcome.

I still have my days where little goes right, days when it seems I am going through life in a bubble, understanding almost nothing that is said to me no matter how much time or effort someone puts into trying to help me understand. On those days I find myself slowly shrinking away until at day’s end I feel but a speck of dust in the great vastness of things. Usually, though, it is my lack of confidence that plays a big part in the slightly bad days spiraling into much worse days. Sometimes all it takes is one embarrassing misunderstanding, one rude person, one simple mishap to start the ball rolling that strips me of the confidence I need for my day to go smoothly, but happily those days are less, and the good days are more, and continue to get better and better because of becoming more comfortable with myself and with telling others what they need to know about me–I am deaf.

If there was no other benefit in joining SWC than learning to own the word “deaf”, that one thing would be enough of a reason. A simple thing really, but sometimes it is the simple things that don’t occur to us.


0 thoughts on “I AM dEAF

  1. yo hearingelmo, why don’t u come back? I’m sure you’ll find that you’ve been missed as well.

  2. Hi Michele,
    Reading this post I had to laugh. I am visiting relatives right now. After a long day of talking with a cousin, my aunt and uncle, and my two parents– all who live out of state, I took off my hearing aids. Other than my parents and husband the rest of them tend to forget I can’t hear. I don’t see them often and having a progressive hearing losss, it’s always worse than the last time I saw them. So I just sat down next to my uncle. He said something and I replied, “Can’t hear you, I just took off my aids and I’m like totally DEAF now. Ya hafta look at me. . .” haha– I never would have been that upfront a few years ago. I don’t know what I thought would happen. But it feels good being so honest– and it puts the ball in his court. He has mumbled a couple things twice already without looking at me. Both times I reminded him again to look at me. He’s getting the the hang of it now. 🙂 It’s probably rude that I took my aids off, but I’ve been wearing them all day and I’m tired.

  3. I loved this……..I tried when flying this time on the 1st leg using the term HOH then on the return flight “DEAF” You really get more attention and hep using DEAF. HOH they just look at you as if to say ‘Yea Right!”

  4. Kim,

    Sometimes I am inclined to think we are more at ease in being upfront with the world than we are our own family, especially those aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. you haven’t seen in a while and who remember you the way you used to be. When visiting with family that I don’t see very often, I tell them what my needs are (I need to see you speak) and if they get it, fine, if not, fine. More often than not they won’t remember from one visit to the next, which seems so odd to me, as not hearing is such a part of who I am, but not worth the extra trouble to some.

    I certainly don’t view you as “rude” in taking out your hearing aids. I have only worn aids during trials and on long days it was either take out the aids or go insane. LOL Not rude at all!!


  5. Linda,

    When I travel I have adopted the “deaf” description, for the same reason, I get more attention and help when I do. What is a shame is that when I go a step further and “act” deaf along with saying “I am deaf.”, I get even more accomodation. I guess some need to “see” your disability before they actually believe you have one. I often encounter gate attendants that act disbelieving because my speech is clear.

    Now, when I get a disbelieving attendant, I am diligent about making them understand my limitations and what I need from them. I don’t let them brush me off because they are busy, I insist on answers and if they persist with not being helpful I ask to speak to their superior of take down their name, as I am tired of not getting information I need, when I need it, just like the hearing passengers get. If I make someone mad, so be it. I can travel pretty carefree due to my husband being a former airline employee, and if I miss a flight I can always just roll over to the next one, or change my destination to route through a city that has more open flights, so I am not under the same pressure as most travelers, but that doesn’t mean I take anyone’s lack of accommodation. I’ve learned to stand up for myself until I get results!!!


  6. When I take my hearing aids off, I can’t hear…………….anything. People do not understand, how painful it s. My life is wonderful when I can hear, people can understand the pain we go though.

  7. Yes, many lack understanding… depending on the setting, it’s our job to help them understand. I’m not sure if you mean your hearing aids are painful, or simply not being able to hear is a painful loss? Both are true for me… I’ve not had success with hearing aids due to hyperacusis (intolerance of sound)… noise/sound hurts my ears, so turning up the volume only causes more pain. Also, losing my hearing, beginning in early childhood, has been a roller coaster ride with lots of down times, but I’ve learned a lot and I’ve been able to be thankful for all I’ve learned, and I’ve had some very good up times… times when I’ve worked hard to learn to cope with a new level of loss and building that confidence again is empowering! ~~Michele

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