I’m always so tickled when one of Hearing Elmo’s guest writers offer to post something! This one was really “timely” for me and I needed the reminders about what some common misconceptions are! Thank you to Tywanna, one of Hearing Elmo’s guest writers!
Guest writer: Tywanna
The American Heritage Dictionary defines misconception as “A mistaken thought, idea, or notion; a misunderstanding.”
Prior to the decline of my hearing, I could not explain what it was like to live with a hearing loss. I was incapable of completely explaining something I’ve never experienced. If I had tried to do so, my words would have been awkward, confusing, incorrect, or ignorant.
I’ve cross across some people with “normal” hearing who feel as though they understand but their reality is often a misconception.
Here’s a list of the top misconceptions I’ve heard and experienced throughout my hearing loss journey.
1. All people with hearing loss use American Sign Language
According to Wikipedia, while there has been no reliable survey of the number of people who use ASL as their primary language, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million in the United States. As of 2009, the United States population was estimated at $307 million people. If these statistics are close to the actual numbers, ASL users are in the minority.
In 2006, Gallaudet University published a study which indicated the estimates need updating.
2. Yelling will make the person with hearing loss hear better
Imagine speaking with someone and hearing but not fully understanding what’s being said. To a person with hearing loss this is a regular encounter. Sometimes we often nod, smile or shake our head out of politeness or because we don’t want to interrupt the speaker with “what” or “can you please repeat that.”
Sometimes when people with a hearing loss find the right moment to intervene with a polite “can you repeat that”, we’re faced with someone yelling so loud that their words become distorted.
I often feel compelled to ask, “will yelling make me hear or understand you?”
3. People with “normal” hearing may not talk with someone who has a hearing loss
A manager at work explained to me that she knows I’m smart but she was afraid people would not talk to me because I could not hear them. Is this the way my co-workers feel or the way she feels? I’m inclined to believe it’s the later due to her ignorance about hearing loss and her lack of being comfortable around someone who is slightly different than herself.
What does being smart have to do with hearing loss? How are the two related?
4. The word “impaired” sounds nicer than hearing loss or deaf
While taking an ASL class for the first time I used the word impaired with our instructor who was born deaf. She politely explained to me impaired means broken. After that experience I looked up the word in the dictionary. Impaired is a synonym for broken, ruined or messed up. Wow, did God make me broken? – of course not. He made me exactly the way he intended. He made me to be unique, different and one of a kind. Since finding out the true definition of the word impaired, I have eliminated the word from my vocabulary when referring to others with hearing loss or myself.
The terms dumb, mute, and handicapped and several others are no longer acceptable. Let’s band together to eliminate the words that may be offensive or degrading to certain members of the population.
Let’s ask people what they would prefer to be called and honor their wishes.
5. All people with hearing loss want to be “fixed”
Have you ever come across people who feel as though they have the answer to everything? Every time a new product or infomercial comes on television, they feel compelled to let you know. “Oh my, I’ve seen this wonderful new head phone set that will enable you to watch television without using closed captions.” Well, I’m wearing a BTE hearing aid that costs $3000 and you’re telling me a product for $19.99 will enable me to understand the television?
“You’ll never guess what, “I’ve seen a new hearing aid that is suppose to fix all types of hearing loss.” Who told these people there is a cure for deafness?
Who also said deaf people want to be fixed? As a whole, the hearing loss and Deaf community are proud of who they are.
6. Deaf means “No Sound”
Wrong! The term deaf does not mean without sound. According to the Center for Disease Control, deaf is the inability to rely on your hearing to understand and process information without the use of visual cues.
7. Deaf people want sympathy
Recently while interacting with my supervisor at work, I explained to her I would prefer written instructions because I was going deaf. Her reply was “I’m sorry”. I quickly explained there is nothing to be sorry about. People who are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing want empathy not sympathy. I don’t want people to pity me or feel sorry for me. That’s not the way I see myself. I’m using my hearing loss as a way to help others.
My cousin recently sent me an e-mail with the following quote:
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
People with “normal” hearing, may never be able to fully understand our journey. Often times true understanding comes from experience. We do not have to live in continued ignorance. There are so many libraries, books, television programs and Internet websites. Let’s educate people one at a time. Let’s band together to wipe out the misconceptions. Let’s continue to share our experiences to help others.