Charlie Swinbourne: 10 things you should NEVER give a deaf person for Christmas, including hearing aid batteries

Posted on December 16, 2016

1. DVD without subtitles

Buying us a DVD without subtitles is a bit like giving a hearing person a DVD without any sound.

You wouldn’t, would you? So don’t.

Check the DVD info for those crucial words: ‘Subtitles – English.’

Or even better, ‘Subtitles – English Hard of Hearing.’

Which includes descriptions of juicy sound effects like ‘Harry breathes heavily.’ On a jogging scene in When Harry Met Sally, obviously. What did you think I was referring to?

Or don’t buy us a DVD in the first place.

We’re watching Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime, just like all you Hearies are.

2. Hearing aid batteries

This genuinely happened to a friend of mine (although to the giver’s credit, they did give them the right size batteries).

When hearing aid batteries run out, it’s a complete nightmare. So giving a deaf person extra batteries is a thoughtful present, right?

Thoughtful, maybe, but very unimaginative. Excruciatingly boring.

A bit like saying the only thing you know about us is the fact that we are deaf.

And it’s also a bit of a waste, since batteries are free on the NHS.

3. In-the-ear headphones

Buying a deaf person headphones that they have to remove their hearing aids to use, and still struggle to hear, isn’t the most thoughtful present in the world.

Some of us might get some use out of bulkier headphones which would fit over our hearing aids.

But even better would be headphones that work with hearing aids, sending sound straight into them. Check out some examples here.

4. Cinema tickets

Deaf people are visual people, and we LOVE the cinema.

The problem is that the cinema often doesn’t love us, scheduling far too few subtitled screenings, at hard-to-get-to times.

And when we do go, often the subtitles don’t work. Then what are we given by the apologetic manager? Lots of free cinema tickets.

So please don’t buy us cinema tickets for Christmas, because firstly, they’re hard to use, and secondly, we have far too many of them already.

5. Karaoke machine

I for one, have never sang in tune, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. I’ve also witnessed some pretty traumatic incidents where deaf friends of mine got behind a karaoke microphone.

So unless you want us to murder some of your favourite songs, don’t buy us a karaoke machine.

Although it is always nice to know what the actual lyrics are to some of our favourite songs.

6. Radio

Although some deaf people do enjoy listening to music on the radio, generally, radio isn’t our medium.

It’s all sound, there’s no subtitles, and hearing sound from only one speaker also doesn’t help us pick out what people are saying.

Give us a great big flat screen TV instead, yeah? It’s only a few hundred pounds more…

7. Audio book

For much the same reason you shouldn’t buy a deaf person a radio, it’s also not a good idea to buy us an audio book.

We’re visual. We can read.

Just buy us the book.

8. Biography of Alexander Graham Bell

For many people, Alexander Graham Bell is thought of as a hero for inventing the telephone and transforming modern life.

His views on deafness and deaf people though, are very unpopular among the Deaf community.

So best leave this one off the list, I’d say.

Unless you actually want a very vigorous debate over Christmas dinner…

9. Sound-only smoke alarm

Smoke alarm. It’s a present that says: “I care about you and want you to be safe.”

It also maybe says: “I think you’re pretty reckless and you might start a fire in your house sometime soon.”

But the fact of the matter is, unless our smoke alarm vibrates, us deafies are going to sleep right through the sound of it blaring when we should be running outside in our birthday suits to safety and the disapproving stares of our neighbours.

Which might mean that your gift of a sound-only smoke alarm, luring us into a false sense of security, is actually saying: “I want you to die.”

If you don’t want us to die, buy us a vibrating one. Here’s a few. They’re not cheap but what price a life?

Though maybe don’t give it to us for Christmas. Give it because you care.

And also give us chocolates.

10. Egg timer

Because we won’t hear it.

Then we’ll burn your Christmas dinner.

So don’t buy it.

Have you ever been given an inappropriate Christmas or birthday present? Tell us below.

Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being an award-winning filmmaker. He directed the comedies The Kiss and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool, and three instalments of the documentary series Found. As a journalist, he has written for the Guardian and BBC Online, and he is currently working on a new two-part comedy programme.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. 

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