As with any chronic medical condition, when you are hearing impaired, life can be more challenging at times than it needs to be. Being “merely” hard-of-hearing can be an obstacle to simple things that many people take for granted: watching TV and reading it at the same time or blasting everyone into outer space, having people talk at your back and not understand why you cannot hear them, or my all-time favorite pastime of going out to a busy restaurant and not being able to fully participate in the conversation. Ah, the never-ending joys of people thinking I am ignoring them and having to apologize and explain repeatedly that I am hard-of-hearing. To have them mouth words at me and throw a few fake signs in the air and laugh at my expense.
Initially, those minor things were difficult for me to tolerate. I was not fond of the arguments about the manner in which I was supposed to watch a program according to everyone else’s comfort. It was as if I was just insisting on being difficult for no other reason than I could.
“Why can’t you just turn the TV up, because the captions are annoying me?” only to then hear: “Now that’s just too loud! Why don’t you just use the caption? They make that for people like you now, don’t they? I can’t hear myself think!!”
Or the arguments where people would insist that was I was ignoring them when I simply couldn’t hear them. Some people were so nasty that I really, really cannot repeat what they said to me.
However, along with these challenges you learn to adapt to, overcome, and diffuse as necessary, you also learn to be more aware of those around you and the physical challenges they face. It makes you more tolerant and compassionate toward others. So I can’t say it’s all bad, and now with this newer, badder piece of electronics perched in my ear, my hearing is much better than without it. Truth be told, my hearing in the right ear is so bad that I am practically deaf without it. The hearing in my left ear is not much better. And Kevin used this, too, against me.
Abuse victims face special circumstances when they are hard-of-hearing, deaf, or visually impaired. Our conditions require us to rely on varying aids to be able to be an active part of society. In many ways, we are isolated or hindered from many things as a result. To successfully navigate through a day, we need to make use of many tools and resources, such as TTY, one of several types of hearing devices and amplifiers, speech reading, sign language, braille media, glasses, walking canes, seeing eye dogs, alarms with lights, on-screen captioning, loud-sounding alarms for the blind at cross-walks. Imagine having to rely on these things and being forbidden access to them.
Here is a list of some of the things abusers specifically do to hearing impaired victims to further isolate them. I copied and pasted this from the Hotline.org’s Deaf Outreach Page. I highlighted the things I experienced myself in red. Any additions of my own I personally experienced that were not on the list are [bracketed in blue].
What Deaf Victims of Domestic Violence Face
A Deaf, Deaf-Blind or Hard of Hearing person trying to leave an abusive relationship faces unique barriers:
- Information travels quickly within a Deaf, Deaf-Blind or Hard of Hearing community, compromising confidentiality and the victim’s safety.
- Law enforcement and shelters are often not skilled at communicating with the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing and often don’t have interpreters.
- Their batterers may take [ or break / mishandle in an attempt to cause damage to ] their communication devices.
- [ Their batterers may deny them use of captioning, amplifiers, alarms, etc. ].
- Their batterers may give false information to make the person being abused believe they have fewer options.
- They may be isolated from family, friends, resources and options.
Some examples of abuse victims who are Deaf may face :
- Intimidation through gestures, facial expressions, or exaggerated signs, floor stomping and pounding on the table or door
- Minimizing and denying abusive behavior by saying that is Deaf culture
- Signing [or yelling] very close to victim’s face when angry
- [ Speaking with their backs deliberately turned toward the victim so the victim cannot read speech ]
- Emotional Abuse such as abusive partner calling Deaf victim “hearing-mind” or criticizing victim’s identity or connection with the Deaf community
- Criticizing victim’s American sign language (ASL) skills or communication style
- [ Willfully hindering / preventing hard-of-hearing victim from learning sign ]
- [ Blaming victim for abuse by saying they are oblivious or deliberately ignoring the abuser; saying they have “selective hearing” ]
- [ Telling the victim no one else would want them because they are inferior or damaged, useless, worthless, or are a burden ]
Some examples of how batterers abuse hearing privilege :
- Not informing victim when people try to call their attention or call on the phone
- Excluding victim from important conversations
- Leaving victim out in social situations with hearing people
- Talking negatively about the Deaf community
- If police are called, interpreting to manipulate the situation
- Not allowing children to use ASL to talk with the victim
- Not allowing children to be proud of Deaf culture
- Criticizing victim’s speech and English skills
How Family Violence Programs Can Help
Make efforts to understand the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing culture:
- Invite Deaf advocates to your program.
- Recruit Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing volunteers.
- Become familiar with Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing resources: local interpreters, churches, cultural groups and school programs.
- Add TTY phone numbers to printed materials.
- Teach staff to use TTY and ensure that the line is always answered.
- Ensure that television public service announcements are close captioned.