John Owens: Things that happen to you when you’re an oral deaf person

Posted on May 29, 2015

Here are some things that happen to you when you’re an oral deaf person out in the hearing world.

Whispering Sweet Nothings

There have been many times I had people talking to my hearing aids directly when the surroundings were too noisy, such as in a pub.

Because of my speech, people forget I cannot hear very well. In order to lipread that person talking into my ear, I would need to crane my neck sideways.

That might prompt that person to lean in further as I turn my head around even more. It’s a vicious circle.

To someone watching, it might look as if we were moving towards a romantic embrace.

Nod Away

Unless you’re Noddy from Toyland, do not nod at whatever the person is saying. This can get you into a world of trouble.

I have a terrible habit of nodding whatever people are saying when I don’t really understand. A long time ago, in one of my previous jobs, I nodded at instructions relayed to me. I was then asked to repeat instructions back to them. That was when I got a telling off.

The reason behind this nodding was because of my previous bad experiences, at trying to understand the subject of the conversation.

After going round in circles for 5 minutes, repeating the same words rather than rephrasing, I found it was a hell of a lot easier to nod just to move on from the conversation. I didn’t like testing other people’s patience.

Now I’m much more stubborn (comes with age, I suppose), I ask people if they can rephrase things instead.

Guessing Games

Because of my speech, people forget I’m deaf and I have difficulty following group conversations.

It can be hard to track who’s saying what when there are so many people. It’d be some trick to lipread all of them at the same time.

For me, understanding group conversations is 80% guesswork and 20% reading body language. Combining those skills, you can wing your way through a conversation.

However, this can leave you well and truly knackered.

It helps if you know people’s personalities so you’ll know what they are likely to be talking about.

This is why when I meet new people, I come across as a quiet individual, perhaps a wallflower. I’m actually observing them and the way they talk. Sometimes, this makes it easier to guess the subject they’re talking about later on.

Even then, it can still be a bit hit and miss, and you can get the wrong end of the stick.

(Not) Painting the town red

I rarely go nightclubbing with hearing friends. Why? It’s because the venue is near dark and is noisy.

You cannot lipread and despite with all the super-duper battery power in your hearing aids, you cannot hear what they’re saying against that tub-thumping bass.

The only time I go nightclubbing is when I go with my close deaf friends. We can lip read each other and we communicate to each other through facial expressions.

A bit of sign language helps too!

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 16.18.44John Owens was born profoundly deaf to a hearing family. He’s a software programmer based in Glasgow. He’s a movie buff who can recall the title, cast and year of any film, but cannot remember where he put his spectacles.

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