Ask the Chicken: Is it ever right to tell a deaf person they are speaking too loudly?

Posted on June 9, 2015

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In an uncertain world, there’s one person you can turn to for dependable advice: the limping chicken, offering sensible advice for all kinds of common deaf-related problems from its coop. 

Hello there, readers. One of our fans, from Michigan in the USA, wrote in with this query:

My wife became deaf late in life and subsequently had a cochlear implant operation which has worked fairly well for her. However, she often has trouble knowing the volume of her own voice and finds it very annoying when anyone tries to let her know she is speaking loudly.  She finds this terribly offensive and wants to let people know about it.

I’ve found numerous articles and lists on etiquette for communicating with the deaf & HoH people, but none address her concern directly.  The title of your blog entry on annoying habits of hearing people caught my attention, but since neither the blog nor the comments mentioned the “you’re talking too loudly” situation, I thought I’d just write you a note and ask for an opinion or advice on the subject.

I don’t think this is an issue we’ve ever covered here on LC, in the last three-and-a-bit years, so I thank you for raising it.

The short answer is no, it’s never really right to tell a deaf person they’re speaking too loudly.

It feels rude. It feels like the kind of thing people say to a child.

It’s just plain and simple wrong.

Deaf people often work incredibly hard to moderate their speech so that non-deaf people can understand them, having put all of that hard work in, being told to be quiet feels like a kick in the teeth (or should we say ears?).

We’re deaf. No we can’t automatically know exactly how loudly is speaking. But we’re deaf, and that’s the reason.

Live with it, because we really don’t want to constantly be told we should be speaking a little quieter or louder for the rest of our days. We’d really rather get on with saying what we want to say.

There’s only two exceptions.

One is when the deaf person themselves asks a friend if they are speaking too loud. In that situation, of course, replying is fine. But even then, the reply should be polite. Like saying “it’s quite quiet in here,” or “only a little bit.”

The second situation in which it’s ok to tell a deaf person to be quiet is in a life and death situation. Like, for example, armed men are holding you hostage, and you’re both hiding from them, and any sound could alert them to where you’re hid.

That kind of situation is fine.

Otherwise, hearing folk, just let it go. We’re talking a little loud for the room, big deal. It’s not the end of the world.

You’re often pretty loud yourselves, only unlike deaf folk, you don’t have an excuse.

Do you agree with the chicken’s advice? Tell us what YOU would do below!

Please send your problems for consideration to: thelimpingchicken@gmail.com

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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.

Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.

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Posted in: ask the chicken