Jennifer Stuessy: How do you wear your ‘Deaf’?

Posted on March 25, 2016

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It never fails. The moment you look away from a group of hearing folk is when they start asking you questions. Of course, when you turn back, they are all waiting for an answer. Do you:

  • Scream and point to an area beyond the group indicating a large insect/rodent is on the loose.
  • Pretend not to understand English.
  • Explain your Deafness and ask them to repeat themselves.
  • Wing it. “Starbucks” is a decent multi-use response.

-1017Depending on how the mood strikes you, chances are you went with C.

Being Deaf in a hearing world, we do this over and over. Explain our Deafness. It’s inevitable, really. Like anything else, after a while it becomes easier to do, and there’s a way to do it in your own unique fashion.

We use labels to describe us, but how we carry ourselves with Deafness seems to be an art itself. Just like our clothes, it can say a lot about us: our personality, mood, level of confidence, taste – our style, basically.

So, it begs the question: How do you wear your “Deaf”?

My observations are summarized in these 5 main styles:

Undercover – Prefers to skip the explanation altogether and conceal deafness, using hair or hats to hide hearing devices, if worn. May be difficult to pull off depending on hearing level. Says, “What?” a lot.

Bluffer – Might have attempted option D above. Depending on level of bluffing skill, this guy could also seem medicated.

Arty Type – Heavy into coloured ear moulds and sparkly add-ons. Children are usually somewhere nearby having just asked where they got said ear molds and add-ons. Convenient since Arty Types are the ones usually hosting the Signed Story Hour.

Flying Fig – A real come-as-you-are type. No concealing or raging about it. This guy’s doing his life and is happy enough to be Deaf. He’s too busy crafting new ways to pull off his shenanigans.

Loud and Proud – A Passionate Advocate and Super Hero. Revolutionizing Deafness for the Greater Good. Usually has an attorney.

The reality is, of course most of us are not just one of these, but there are pieces of each in all of us depending on the day.

When it comes down to it, I want to communicate effectively through positive interactions. The means we use to achieve that are diverse and is what gives us our unique style in how we go about it.

People take their cues from us. Let them see what’s great about our community.

So wear your Deaf with Pride.
Wear it with Passion.
Wear it with Confidence.
Wear it with an Open Heart.

Wear it with Love.

Jennifer Stuessy is a Deaf wife, mum and blogger from Los Angeles and has worked in various fields related to deafness for 20 years.  When she is not working or chasing after the little ones, she shares her smarty-pants perspective at  / Website: / Twitter: @soundforlight


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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