Tips For Deaf-Hearing Relationships.
Dating for most people can feel quite nerve wracking, but what if you are deaf?
This would be a great deal more challenging because as individuals on a ‘typical date’ we rely on our hearing as one of our senses, which enables us to effectively communicate with the other person.
Most Hearing people are not very open minded and hate the idea of dating a Deaf person due to the communication barriers, potential feelings of frustration and embarrassment. The idea of dating a Hearing person does not appeal to some Deaf people, as they do not feel confident about the idea of going on a date with an individual lacking Deaf Awareness.
I hope these tips can change readers’ perceptions of the idea of a Deaf-Hearing relationship:
HONESTY is key. Be upfront about your deafness and embrace it.
Do not let this be an ‘awkward’ subject. Be open and proud!
Try to avoid covering your hearing devices with your hair.
I personally found that decorating my hearing aids, made me feel a lot more confident.
Please note: You do not have a problem, instead they do.
Never change who you are.
As a Hearing person, ask questions if you do not have any knowledge or experience of dating a Deaf person. This makes a great conversation!
If both parties are relaxed about this subject, the conversation will flow nicely.
APPROACH. Both parties need to be open minded about the idea of a potential Deaf-Hearing relationship. Unfortunately not everyone is as open minded as we would like them to be. But the right person will be open to this idea.
As a Deaf person, you could break the ice by making a joke about your deafness. This is something that I do often! Being laid back about your disability can be seen as an attractive trait! On my first ever date, I remember saying "I'm not staring at your lips lovingly, just lipreading you, so get over yourself!" I then discovered that my date shared the same sense of humour as me!
As a Hearing person, you need to have a relaxed approach. Have patience, stay calm and keep smiling!
LOCATION. Make the date location accessible and ‘Deaf friendly’. Choose a venue with good lighting (to enable lipreading) and minimal background noise to make it easier for the Deaf person to hear.
If you choose to go to the movies, ensure that the film is subtitled beforehand. Check the cinema website or ask the staff at the cinema about subtitled screenings.
Another option, if you decide to meet for a drink, choose to meet during the quieter hours when the noise levels are low, or choose a table away from the noise.
As a Hearing person, if you are unsure about where to take your Deaf date, just ask us what we would like to do!
If you are worried about the conversation, just take us out on a day out! Places like the arcades or the zoo/aquarium are great places! There would be a lot of things to do and look at, plus these places have a great deal of visual signage, which are fun to read!
LIPREADING. It is important to make sure that one is always in view of the lip reader. Always consider whether the lighting is adequate to enable effective lipreading.
Please try to break the habit of covering your mouth or placing anything in front of your mouth when talking (cup, cutlery, hands etc.)
Avoid turning away from the Deaf person whilst talking because we will not be able to hear you!
Try not to speak too fast, because it is difficult lip read when your lips are moving too quickly. I always prefer people to speak in chunks (pause now and again to check that the I have understood what they have said), rather than speaking for a long time all at once.
Learn the BSL alphabet. If you are interested in other ways to communicate, try finger spelling together. This can really help with communication.
If the Deaf person is unable to lip read a certain word or hear the word, you can finger spell this word to them! Maybe ask your Deaf date to teach you!
Once you have both mastered the alphabet, try learning some simple BSL signs such as numbers, colours, basic greetings etc. This can be quite fun because you can talk amongst yourselves and no one would understand what you are talking about.
PATIENCE. Is key! Nothing is impossible, there are ways around anything!
You can use your phones to easily type in what you are saying if your Deaf date does not hear what you are trying to say to them. This is something that my friends do on regular basis when I cannot hear them. Sometimes in noisy situations I find that I have to type into my phone what I am saying for my Hearing friends or partner, this can help both parties!
If you have to repeat yourself several times, stay calm and reword what you are saying.
As a Deaf person, stay calm and try not to feel too embarrassed! Never feel ashamed of your Deafness. You can simply apologise and say “sorry I did not hear you, could you repeat that again/type what you said on your phone?”
A tip for Hearing people. It is normal to feel nervous when interacting with a Deaf individual for many reasons. You may think:
“How deaf is he/she?”
“Do I need to shout?”
“How do I ask about his/her hearing loss?”
“Am I aloud to look at their hearing device, or am I staring too much?”
“What do I do if they do not hear me?!”
“How else do I communicate if it is too noisy?!”
“What if my hearing friends don't accept them?”
“How can I include them in my friendship circle?”
There are many different thoughts that one may come across.
If you are worried that he/she may be sensitive about the subject regarding their deafness, think about how you are phrasing the question:
For example: "Would you mind if I asked you a question about you're deafness? I'm really interested and would love to learn more!”
This shows that you are accepting them for who they are and you showing interest, which can put your date at ease.
If you are curious about their hearing aids or implant, show interest and ask if you can have a look!
For example: "Do you wear hearing aids or an implant? Could I have a look? I'm interested to see how they work!"
If you are ready to introduce your Deaf date to your friends or family. Inform them in advance and perhaps offer them advice and tips so they are prepared with some key communication tips.
There is someone out there for everyone! Wouldn't it be great if everyone could be open minded! Obviously my advice will never change everyone's attitudes towards deafness. But hopefully most of you will be a little more open minded!
If you have any questions, do not hesitate in sending me a message and I can offer you some advice and guidance should you need it.