Charlie Swinbourne: The 10 annoying habits of deaf people!

Posted on November 1, 2014

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After our article ‘The 10 annoying habits of hearing people’ broke all records on this site, a number of people wrote in asking us when we would be doing a deaf version.

At first, I dismissed these suggestions – deaf people aren’t in any way annoying, are they?

But then some of our readers (most of them deaf) sent in their suggestions for what our irritating habits might be, and I started to realise that maybe hearing people don’t have a monopoly on being annoying – deaf people have their moments as well.

So, without further ado, here are the 10 annoying habits of deaf people. It’s only fair.

Apologies once more for the sketches, which are even more lo-fi than last time.

photo (8)

1. Noisy eating

Deaf people love a good nosh up (see number 4 for more on this theme) so maybe the reason we eat noisily is simply because of our sheer enthusiasm for the culinary delights placed before us on our plate.

This enthusiasm may also explain why, along with our munching and chomping sounds, we do a spine-shivering sideline in scraping our plates with our cutlery as we carve our way through our food.

Should we be forgiven our noisy ways, considering we have to maintain eye contact while we are eating in order to continue our conversation, and because, being deaf, we also can’t hear how noisy we are being?

I’m not sure, frankly.

photo (4)2. Using ‘deaf time’ to our advantage

Have you ever heard of the expression ‘deaf time’? No? Then let us explain. For deaf people, the usual laws of space and time are a little inverted, especially when it comes to leaving a deaf gathering.

Maybe it’s because historically, being spread out, deaf people didn’t see each other every day, so when they did meet, at the Deaf centre, say, they had to squeeze a week’s worth of conversation into one night.

There’s also the fact that deaf people can never simply say “goodbye.” There is always just one more thing we need to say – that then kicks off a whole other conversation.

And signed conversations cannot be interrupted, closed down, or shortened – perhaps because they depend on the two people being visually engaged with each other. They absolutely must run their course.

Which is why the only way of guaranteeing that you can leave a deaf party by 10pm is to start saying your goodbyes at around 8pm – approximately half an hour after you arrived in the first place.

photo (11)3. Being too direct

Last month, we accused hearing people of skirting around the truth, of being too subtle for their own good. But you could equally accuse deaf people of being a little too direct on occasion.

I should fess up here – because I’ve been guilty of it too.

To the couple who sat next to me and my mate when we were on holiday in Cornwall in 2001, I would like to apologise.

Why? For asking you – only a few minutes after we had started talking to you – whether you “had ever considered getting married?”

A question that sent your night (and ours) into a hellish world of awkward tension, for which there was really no need.


photo (12)4. Eating too much at buffets

There are very few deaf men of a certain age who don’t sport a bit of a belly. I am only 31, but I’ve managed to develop a middle-aged spread well in advance.

The reason? Our habit of consuming too much communal food. Such as at buffets.

If you see somebody at a wedding reception with their plate piled high with a tower of pizza, sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiche and pork pies – already on their second helping before everybody else has had their first – the chances are that the person you are looking at is deaf.

Are we scarred by the memory of buffets we missed when we didn’t hear that they’d started? (I know I am). Is it that – being visual people – we simply love the look of all that sumptuous food on our plates?

Or is the truth a little harder to, er, swallow?

Are we so bored and left out at some of these gatherings, that the only way of entertaining ourselves is to resort to gluttony?

photo (10)5. Doing disgusting things with our ear moulds

I confess. When my yellowing ear moulds get clogged up, I disconnect the tube and without a second thought, I blow that brown, thick wax high into the air.

I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s only just occurred to me (literally, as I write this) that it could land just about anywhere. Yuck.

Deaf people are conditioned by a lifetime’s experience to forget just how disgusting these habits are. And if you think I’m bad, well, one boy I knew growing up had a unique method of cleaning his ear moulds – by mouth.

photo (6)6. Talking about other deaf people as if everybody knows who they are

“You know… Dorothy Jones! She was in the third year at Mary Hare, won the sprint on sports day! Had two sisters and a black cat.”

There’s no doubt that the deaf world is small, but it is still remarkable just how often we act as though other deaf people we know are minor celebrities, known to just about everybody.

This is why I know the life history of a number of deaf people who I have never met. And why some of my friends know all about people they’ve never met, that I talk about like they’re the cast of the Harry Potter films.

And what’s with the way that we refer to deaf people by both their first name and their surname, even when their name has been mentioned (in full) earlier in the conversation?

We need to take a long hard look at ourselves.

photo (9)7. Closing our eyes when we don’t want to listen to a hearing person’s point of view

Pity the poor hearing person, often a parent or sibling, who, mid-argument, is prevented from replying to our point with a point of their own.

How? We simply close our eyes.

I confess that I have done it on occasion (although it’s complicated somewhat by having to turn my hearing aids off before shutting my eyes), and every deaf person I know has done it.

Most of us stopped doing it when we realised that not only were we being annoying, we also looked incredibly silly.

Most, but not all. You know who you are…

photo (13)8. Knocking drinks over in the pub

No matter how busy the pub, or how crowded the bar, us Deafies insist on signing at full pelt, and full span, regardless of the number of drinks that get knocked flying as unsuspecting hearing people walk past us holding their drinks.

It’s almost as though it’s their responsibility to avoid our signing hands, rather than the other way round.

Is this right or wrong?


photo (7)9. Making audible bodily noises in public

Needless to say, this one was suggested by several of our hearing readers – who can hear whether this is the case or not. Thanks for that guys. We really, y’know, appreciate it.

I personally , ahem, don’t make any bodily noises at all, that I, er, know of at least, so I couldn’t possibly comment on whether this is the case or not.

But if we do? Well, we accept it’s annoying, but since we can’t hear said noises ourselves, you might be waiting a while for an apology…

photo (14)10. Signing and driving

Studies have shown that deaf people have better peripheral vision which means that as we drive, we can spot potential hazards out of the corner of our eyes quicker than hearing folk can.

Which is probably a lifesaver, when you take into account our death-defying habit of signing (and lipreading) as we drive.

I still remember a hearing pal happily taking a lift with a Deaf friend of mine, only to get out of the car with a ghostly, pale look on his face when we all arrived at our destination. He hadn’t experienced signing and driving before, and thought his days on this planet were moments from coming to an end.

Statistically, deaf people are incredibly safe drivers, so maybe our amazing peripheral vision makes up for it all?

Or maybe we should let our petrified hearing passengers decide whether they feel safe or not.

Do you have any annoying deaf habits to add to this list? Add them in the comments below!

DISCLAIMER: The author recognises that many of the annoying habits listed are actually his own faults, and may not be shared by all deaf people. Just quite a lot of them.

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and an award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, pennedMy Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s 6th most popular disability blog. 

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