The month of May is Hearing Loss Awareness Month. I'd like everyone to take a moment...not just now, not just this week or even this month, but try to remember throughout the year, that millions of people throughout the United States have hearing loss.
Some tips for the hearing world:
-The next time you speak to someone in a public place and they don't acknowledge you, don't just automatically assume they're being rude. Stop a minute and ask yourself, "Did they hear me?" Maybe they have hearing loss. Hearing loss isn't a visible illness. You don't SEE it. Hearing aids can be well hidden.
-Make it a habit of speaking clearly and enunciating your words. Don't mumble; don't stare at the ground; don't talk too fast. Try to make sure people are looking at you when you speak to them. This was a rule taught in my household growing up, regardless of if someone had a hearing impairment or not. Back in those days, it was a sign of respect to look at someone when they speak to you and vice versa. We need to bring this back.
-Facial hair...is a nightmare for us hard of hearing lip-readers. If we can't see your lips, we don't understand you. Men, keep that hair trimmed.
-Do not assume that because we can't hear, that we're any different from you. I can get married (I am!), I can have children, I can drive, I can ride a bike. I can do everything you can do, except HEAR. This does not in any way or form hinder my mental capabilities or make me dumb. Let's separate deaf and dumb. It's past time.
-Do not speak to us as though we are slow. Speak normally. There's a big difference in plain enunciation (speaking clearly) and spending one minute on each word you utter. Don't draw it out and move your mouth in an exaggerated fashion. We learn to lip-read normal moving lips, not comical.
-Don't yell at us. Many of us are deaf to certain sounds and it doesn't matter how loud you say it, it won't get through. Plain and simple: if you're not speaking clearly, we won't understand it. Your quiet blah blah blah maw wah just becomes a very loud BLAH BLAH BLAH MAW WAH.
-Don't leave us out of things and talk over our heads. We feel ostracized. When everyone around us is laughing at a good joke, we want to laugh too! Include us. Make an effort. If you feel it's too much work to talk to us, we're going to decide it's too much work to be your friend. And you could really miss out on a good friendship.
-Hearing helpers are just that: HELPERS. If you're asked to be a hearing helper, don't permit others to speak to you as though we aren't there. Don't answer for us. If someone says to you, "What does she want to eat?" do not tell them, "She wants pizza." A hearing helper should turn to the deaf person and say, "He asked what you wanted to eat." We can and will answer for ourselves. Be careful not to take over and remember to just help. We do value our independence.
-Don't say something and then get mad when we ask you to repeat it for the second or third time. Count to ten if you have to, but try to avoid that callous "never mind". If you said it once, I'm going to assume you wanted me to hear it. It must be important enough. It's very frustrating when people do this.
-Cochlear implants and medical procedures of that ilk are personal matters. Do not try to fix us. Many of us are happy the way we are and have no desire to change. We don't see ourselves as broken or in need of fixing, so don't act like we are.
-Teach your kids that we're no different from them, that deaf isn't dumb, that hearing aids are nothing to be ashamed of. Talk to your children about bullying and its long-term effects.
Thank you for your time. In honor of Hearing Loss Awareness Month, I'd like to announce that two of my titles, one my memoir of growing up deaf and working in a hearing world (Hear Through My Ears) and one (Love Request) a contemporary novel featuring a hearing-"impaired" heroine, are on sale for 99 cents the rest of May.
Tara Chevrestt is a deaf woman, former aviation mechanic, dog mom, writer, and editor. You’ll never see her without her Kindle or a book within reach. As a child, she would often take a flashlight under the covers to finish the recent Nancy Drew novel when she was supposed to be sleeping.
Tara is addicted to Law & Order: SVU, has a crush on Cary Grant, laughs at her own jokes, and is constantly modifying recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. Her theme is Strong is Sexy. She writes about strong women facing obstacles—in the military, with their handicaps, or just learning to accept themselves. Her heroines can stand alone and take care of themselves, but they often find love in the process.