Home Blog Deaf Etiquette: What To Say vs. What Not To Say

Deaf Etiquette: What To Say vs. What Not To Say

Submitted by Alan Thomas, Deaf Services and Volunteer Coordinator

Do you struggle to determine the right and wrong things to say to a Deaf person? I want to add a positive element to it. In a conversation I had within the Deaf Community, we discussed the fact that a lot of times, people just don’t know much about Deaf culture/community, or that such a thing even exists. People outside the Deaf community may do or say something that is offensive or off-putting, but it’s not because they’re being malicious – they may just think they’re helping.  People just may not know the right way to handle a situation. It was something to think about. In this post you’ll not only learn what NOT to do, but what TO do when communicating with a Deaf person. Enjoy! And don’t hesitate to give us a call here at PACE if you are in need of further education or have any questions!

DON’T:

Say, “Wow you speak so well for a Deaf person.”

DO:

Realize if you really want to comment on their speech, say it a different way.  The offensive part is “for a Deaf person.”

DON’T:

Say, “You must be really smart to be able to talk.”

DO:

Realize that 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 work, often involving hours and hours of lessons.  Remember: speech doesn’t indicate intelligence.  You may mean well, but make sure what you’re saying is actually nice and not demeaning.

DON’T:

Say, “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”

DO:

Ask them about the assistive device 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:

Say, “Have you thought about getting ear transplants?”

DO:

Think before you speak.  There are no such things.

DON’T:

Say, “You have hearing aids, shouldn’t you hear normally now?”

DO:

If you truly want to learn 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 personal decision.

  • Cochlear implants are not a cure-all.
  • You still don’t hear the same way a hearing person does.
  • They don’t always work.
  • They are not reversible.
  • The surgery can be incredibly painful and recovery can be difficult.
  • There can be complications.
  • They are at least $30,000.

If they are what an individual wants to 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.  Have 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, that’s what it is like.

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Be sure to check back next week for more from PACE!

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