Deaf And Hard Of Hearing People Are Sharing The Harmful Things Hearing People Do, And It's Heartbreaking How Often These Happen

    "I wish that hearing people would stop assuming that since I speak so well, I also hear better than I actually do."

    Let's be honest: Hearing people do waaay too many things that make those who are deaf and hard of hearing feel uncomfortable or ignored, even if they think they're being helpful. So we asked those in the BuzzFeed Community who are deaf and hard of hearing, "What are some things hearing people should stop doing?"

    Here's what they shared:

    1. "Ask me how best to communicate. I promise I will not be offended. The way I process things may be different from the way other HOH people do."


    2. "Stop assuming cochlear implants are a ‘fix’ or necessary. The Deaf community has extremely controversial and opposing views on them."

    3. "I have 85% hearing loss on my right side due to a tumor and subsequent radiation treatment. I also happen to be a high school English and debate teacher. I usually speak REALLY loudly so I can be heard over a class of 30 teenagers working on different projects. Plus, I have a theater background and learned how to project."

    "But I honestly don’t know how loud I am because I don’t hear my voice inside my head. I’m okay with people telling me I’m too loud, but I’m not okay with people getting mad at me for being too loud. I literally don’t know and I’m not being rude. Just tell me or give me a signal that I’m too loud."


    4. "I am completely deaf in my left ear. When I tell people that, they always try to talk into my left ear because they don't believe me. Why would I lie about being deaf in that ear?"


    5. "Please stop getting so mad at me for not hearing what you’ve said. Imagine if I got this mad all the time because I couldn’t hear you. People would think I’m miserable. I only recently got the hearing aids I’ve needed for years at age 50. I understand it’s frustrating to have someone ask you to repeat yourself, but I am tired of being told that I’m not paying attention or that somehow this is my fault."

    6. "It’s frustrating when I ask people to repeat themselves and they immediately get irritated or upset. Then they start speaking faster, and it’s like, great, I still don’t know what you said. Since the pandemic, many of us can no longer read lips because people are wearing masks."

    "Remember to be kind to people. It’s frustrating and kind of embarrassing to always have to tell people, 'Hey, I’m deaf,' just so they can treat me with some kindness."

    Davina Regis

    7. "When we ask you to repeat yourself, do not change what you said. Lipreading is very context-specific. A lot of hearing is mentally filling in the blanks of what we missed with our understanding of the language and the context of what we did hear. If you change what you said, you are just screwing it up for us."

    "In addition, don't start talking really loudly or slowly. Lipreading depends on natural enunciation. When you change it up, you are contorting your speech patterns and we won't be able to figure it out."


    8. "I hate being told 'Don’t worry about it' when something funny is happening. If I miss it and ask again, my friends always say, 'It's not important' or 'Don’t worry about it.' It's like I’m in the conversation, but I'm just a fly in the wall, a big fly. I try to be heard and understood and then get swatted away."

    9. "I have auditory processing disorder, meaning I will probably hear you fine but not have a clue what you've said sometimes. I get kind of upset when people get frustrated with me for not understanding them. I've been told, 'You don't have a hearing problem, you have a listening problem.' Yes! That's exactly what I've been telling you!"


    10. "I’m losing my hearing, and the pandemic has made it so difficult as a teacher. I can’t see my students' mouths when they are talking, so I have to ask them to repeat themselves often. I’m open about my hearing loss, so they know why, but sometimes it frustrates me."

    "Large staff meetings in rooms with bad acoustics are also impossible. I’ve left a couple of staff meetings in tears because I couldn’t understand anything that was said."


    11. "I have hearing loss in both ears, and I wear hearing aids. Growing up, I was lucky to be around a lot of people who understood my hearing loss, and I was able to have accommodations in school to facilitate the learning process. However, there were always a few people who thought I had an unfair advantage, and it always bothered me."

    12. "I was born profoundly deaf. What I struggled with most was getting my teachers to understand that I couldn't read their lips if they turned away to write on the board. So for anyone interacting with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, don't turn away if you can avoid it. Make sure your face is visible, and speak at a normal pace."


    13. "STOP ASSUMING HARD OF HEARING PEOPLE CAN SIGN! There is a huge difference between being hard of hearing and being deaf. When I was 4, I lost 80% of my hearing and have worn hearing aids since. It feels embarrassing for me to explain why I never learned or needed to know ASL (because I can lip-read)."

    "Also, don’t ask for people to guess what you’re saying as a fun game when you find out they read lips! Reading lips is not a party trick for anyone’s pleasure; it’s how we interact in the world."


    14. "Please don’t improvise ASL. If you know ASL, that’s truly awesome! Thank you for taking the time and effort to learn it! But if you don’t know ASL, please don’t pretend to or try to communicate using made-up signs. It’s an actual language, and it’s exhausting to try to figure out what you mean if you don’t know what you’re doing."

    15. "At a long table, please allow me to sit in the middle somewhere. I’m HOH, so in large groups, I can only communicate (easily) with the people directly next to me. By sitting in the middle, I can have a conversation with the people on either side of me and opposite me. If you make me sit at the end of the table, it limits my interactions."


    16. "For the love of all that is good, please, please, content creators, put proper captions on your videos! We can’t lip-read everything!"


    17. "I'm 36 but already very hard of hearing, and when I'm streaming movies or TV shows, I need subtitles to understand what's happening. People have said that the closed captions are 'annoying' and 'get in the way,' and 'It's not like you're deaf; I'll just turn it up!' I only watch anything at home now, never anywhere else. My dream is that someday, movie theaters will do subtitled screenings."


    18. "'You're too young to be losing your hearing!' and 'You're not listening!' I'm deaf in one ear, and my parents were in denial about it, so they insisted on treating me as fully hearing, yelling at me for 'not listening.' That's the worst one for me, though having people refer to deafness as an exclusively 'old' thing is also maddening, when I've been hard of hearing since childhood."

    19. "Stop saying 'Are you deaf??' as an insult when someone doesn’t hear you, notice you, or understand you. I once had some guy who was trying to hit on me on the street scream this at me for ignoring him because I was on the phone. This would have been annoying anyway, but as someone who actually is hard of hearing, it was even more enraging."

    "In this case, I just gestured at my phone and he took the hint. But sometimes, I really just can’t hear someone, and I hate having to explain that to strangers. One lesson here is that women don’t owe you their time, but the other is that hard of hearing and deaf people don’t owe you an apology for not hearing you."


    20. "Hearing people can be very rude for talking over deaf/HOH people's heads when they're writing on paper to communicate. For example, I am deaf and went to Lowe's to buy paint. I wrote on cardboard to tell the floor associate what color I wanted. Suddenly, a male customer began talking very loudly over my head."

    "I turned around to tell him to be quiet, but he kept on talking very loudly while other customers looked disgusted. Three managers ended up trying to calm him down while another manager accompanied me to collect what I needed from the store. The manager paid for everything. Please do not interrupt a deaf or hard of hearing person's communications."


    21. "Please stop coming up behind me and touching me on my shoulder to get my attention. I wear two hearing aids so that I can hear you, even if I may not know what you said. Since I cannot hear footsteps, your sudden touch sends me into cardiac arrest every time. Not pleasant."


    22. "I am HOH. On food delivery apps, I clearly state that if you can’t find my house or need to reach me for whatever, TEXT, DON’T CALL. Only once has a driver actually texted me instead of calling, and many get angry when I don’t answer. I’ll immediately go to text, and most drivers are understanding. But others have gotten very, very angry over it. Please don’t disregard someone’s preferred method of communication! There may be a very good reason why they prefer it."


    23. "I’m HOH, and so, when getting something delivered to my house, I always write in the delivery instructions, 'Please use the doorbell.' This is because if you knock, I most likely won’t hear you (unless by chance I’m standing right by the door when you knock). But my doorbell is connected to very loud speakers in every room in my house, and it's connected to my phone, so if you use the doorbell, I’ll hear it! But 90% of delivery drivers don’t use the doorbell."

    24. "I wish drive-thrus were more deaf-friendly! Because of the current situation, many places don’t have indoor dining, and therefore we can’t go to the counter to order. Many times, if I drive up with my order typed on my phone, I still end up with either getting the wrong order given to me or the workers not even looking at my phone to type the order in at the window."

    "It’s very frustrating, and I wish more fast-food or coffee places, banks, etc., had training in place for workers when working with deaf customers. Please treat us as you would any other customer. We’re not trying to make your job more difficult, but drive-thrus are just plain inaccessible."


    25. "I have a single-sided hearing loss from removal of a cholesteatoma (cyst), and I’m also studying to be an audiologist. People feel so sorry for me when I tell them I have hearing loss. It’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m still a functioning and thriving individual who’s going to make a difference in other people's lives, just as my doctors did for me."


    26. "I understand that people are trying to empathize when they share stories of their temporary hearing loss, but please don't tell us that you 'get it' or completely understand what it's like. If it was that easy, we would all understand clearly what being blind was like because we have had to stumble through a room when the power goes out."

    27. And finally, "I’m profoundly deaf, although I was born hearing and gradually lost my hearing over time. Through extensive speech therapy and the fact that I had some hearing early on, I sound pretty normal when I talk. HOWEVER, I am extremely deaf (a loss of 110 decibels), and I wish that hearing people would stop assuming that since I speak so well, I also hear better than I actually do."

    "So many times I’ve had the following conversation: “Yes, I am really deaf. No, I am not faking it. Yes, I still need a sign language interpreter. No, I don’t bring one everywhere with me, but under the rules of the ADA, it is your responsibility to provide one for me" (this last bit happens all the time in doctor's offices, etc.). It’s gotten to the point where I am actually afraid to use my voice, which I trained so hard to perfect, just because using it will make people discount how 'disabled' I am in their eyes!"


    Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.