Donna Williams: S*** hearing people say

Posted on November 15, 2012



Lately, it seems there’s a theme going around – 10 things not to say to deaf people – with several bloggers coming up with their own versions. I’d just like to wave my hand and mention, humbly, that I did it too, way back in January, inspired by various ‘s*** … people say to …’ memes at the time and a deaf person who made their own version.

In fact I fear I may have gone off on one slightly… or perhaps that should be twice, so I’ve picked ten of my faves from my own lists, based on how often they’ve been said to me and / or level of irritation caused.

I should emphasise that a) most hearing people are lovely, it’s just that there’s always one, and b) the sarcastic responses that follow are not what was said at the time, but mental comments or smart-ass replies that I only managed to come up with after the fact. Usually I go with patience. But that’s not to say I’m not tempted…

With that disclaimer out of the way, here comes my top ten!

1) “Oh, are deaf people allowed to drive?”
Yes. When you ban music, radio, mobiles, people from talking and any and all auditory distractions in cars, you can take my driving licence. In fact, not even then. It’s mine, I passed my test first time, I have a clean record and ten years’ worth of no-claims bonuses, so naff off.

2) “Perhaps you could add your father to your bank account and that way we could call him and discuss things without bothering you with a phone call every time.”
Thank you for that suggestion, HSBC. Or you could just do as you’re damn well asked and just text me if there’s a problem. I’m perfectly capable of managing my own financial affairs.

3) “Aha! How did you know what I was saying?”
Because I know the topic of the conversation, and you’re predictable. Just because I correctly guessed what you said when I wasn’t looking at you doesn’t mean I’ve been faking my deafness for the last 25 years. But saying this as if you’ve just caught me with my hand in the cookie jar just makes me want to hurt you.

4) “You’re so brave!”
Let me tell you a story. My great-uncle was in the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. A few days after the D-Day Landings, he was dropped behind enemy lines into occupied France. His mission was to hook up with the local Resistance, sabotage Nazi efforts and generally assist the advancing Allied army. He not only came back in one piece, he came back with medals. I’m proud to be part of his line, and if I’ve inherited any of that gutsiness I’ll be delighted. But calling me brave merely for wishing to be treated equally and for getting on with my life somehow feels like an insult compared what people have done and do every day. When I parachute into an enemy-occupied country, or charge onto a mined beach, you can call me brave.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(Ode of Remembrance by Laurence Binyon, in honour of Remembrance Sunday just passed)

5) “I’ll tell you later”… “oh, I forgot.”
Oh, for…

6) “How do your hearing-aids work?”
Do I look like a technician? All I know is; Microphone – delicate electronics – amplifier – earmould. There’s no magic. That really is all a hearing-aid is. And no, you cannot take it apart to find out.

7) “Can you read their lips and tell me what they’re saying?” *pointing to someone fifty feet away*
Oddly enough, no. Nor can I see through clothes, or be repelled by Kryptonite. I have enough trouble with people ten feet away.

8) “Oh, hello.” *turn to computer and mumble unintelligibly. Look up* “well?” (Receptionists in audiology departments should be trained out of doing this with electroshock therapy)
Well, what?

9) “It doesn’t matter.”
Oh, my lord. You did NOT just say that to me. You did not just repeat something a mere three times before giving up and saying it doesn’t matter. If it didn’t matter why say it to me in the first place? Now that’s going to bug me. Just write it down! And thanks, for the boost to my self-esteem that you can’t be bothered and you’d rather give up trying with me altogether. Do you have any idea how many times and how many people have said that to me, to deaf people, the world over? Effectively, what you’re saying is “it doesn’t matter if YOU haven’t understood.”

10) “Why are you ignoring me?”
This isn’t even worthy of a response. I’ll email you my audiogram in an attachment. Or it might be a virus. Say hello to the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!

Once again, most people are lovely. But heaven knows, no-one’s perfect.

And if you got a kick out of this, check out ‘Shit people say… to Sign Language Interpreters‘ and the comments. Some of them are priceless!

Donna Williams is a deaf writer and blogger living in Bristol and studying part-time in Cardiff. As well as being a postgraduate student, she’s a BSL poet, freelance writer, NDCS Deaf Role Model presenter, and occasional performer. In dull moments, she blogs  and tweets as Deaf Firefly about what she sees as “a silly world from a deaf perspective!”

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, and the RAD Deaf Law Centre.

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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