The purpose for today’s blog is to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about deaf people. These five questions came from the most searched terms related to the keyword “deaf” according to SEMrush. Please note that I am answering based on my own personal experience as a lowercase deaf individual who has profound hearing loss but has never been a part of the Deaf community.
1. Can Deaf People Drive?
Yes, and I just ran over the last person that asked me that question.
But seriously, why wouldn’t a deaf person be able to drive? If you’re deaf-blind then okay I can definitely see why you wouldn’t be able to drive (no pun intended), but this question specifically calls out deaf people, not deaf-blind people. While being able to hear things like sirens would certainly be beneficial for driving, it’s not actually a requirement so long as you can see.
Did you know most deaf people actually have really strong perceptive vision? My boyfriend is always amazed by my ability to spot a car coming from miles away because I can always see the lights out of the corner of my eye. Since deaf people can’t hear, they rely on the eye sight to make up for it. What this means in terms of driving is that deaf people will always be alert and aware of their surroundings and they will be able to see the flashing sirens, even if they can’t hear them. Some may even argue that BECAUSE deaf people can’t hear they will actually be more careful and cautious drivers. That of course is up for debate. I’ll let you know the verdict on that one once I receive my license. 😉
2. What language do deaf people think in?
Seriously? This question is so dumb it makes my brain hurt.
Deaf people think in the same language(s) they speak in. This goes for all deaf people including those who are deaf with a lowercase d, those who are culturally Deaf and use sign language, and those who are non-verbal. Just because you’re deaf does not mean you lose your ability to think or that the way in which you think is any different from that of a hearing person.
Also, those who are non-verbal may still be able to understand spoken and written language and will still very much have a native language (or maybe even more than one). I think that one thing that most people get wrong about deaf people that are non-verbal is that they assume that because they are non-verbal they must be dumb. In actuality, most deaf people that are non-verbal choose not to speak with their voice because they can’t hear themselves speak and it’s a self-conscious thing or not something they feel comfortable with. Some of them may not have had speech therapy, so they may be aware of the fact that their pronunciations may seem strange to someone who is hearing which may make them feel uncomfortable. Others may have limited hearing and not like the sounds of their own voice. Whatever the case may be the important takeaway here is that even non-verbal deaf individuals can be highly intelligent and most often are.
Similarly, some people may be under the wrong impression that culturally Deaf individuals that are fluent in sign language must not be able to think in that language since sign language is a non-verbal language. This assumption is also false. I could be wrong, but I have a hard time imagining deaf people thinking in terms of signs. Rather, I think they think like you and me do in their own native languages.
It’s important to note here that sign language is not a universal language; there’s actually many variations of it. American Sign Language most closely resembles the French written language, but there’s also British Sign Language, South African Sign Language, Afghan Sign Language, and hundreds others even including Jamaican Sign Language! While not a verbal language, they still hold many of the same structures as verbal and written languages do including having verb tenses, parts of speech, subject-verb agreements, etc. When deaf people think I believe that they are thinking in terms of these sentence structures even if they aren’t actually hearing spoken language.
3. Can deaf people talk?
This kind of goes back to what I was saying in my last answer. Generally speaking, the answer is yes nearly all deaf people are CAPABLE of talking. However, some Deaf people may choose not to talk with their voices.
It’s important to note that many Deaf people, and even myself as a lowercase/non-culturally deaf individual hold the belief that you don’t need to use your voice or to speak to communicate. “Talk” means to say something verbally, but “communicate” means to simply share or exchange information, news or, ideas. There are many ways in which a person can communicate. Many Deaf people prefer to use sign language to communicate, but even that isn’t their only option. For me personally I prefer to communicate via social media, E-mail, text messages, and hand-written notes.
4. How do deaf people think?
With our brains, duh.
This bothers me though since so many people think that deaf is synonymous for dumb or learning disabled. Yes, some deaf people have other disabilities including learning disabilities or lower IQs, but as with all things in life, this doesn’t mean ALL deaf people have learning disabilities or low IQs.
In fact, there are many deaf people who are highly intelligent. Some of the smartest deaf people include:
- Laurent Clerc – The first deaf teacher in America who founded the very first school for the deaf in North America. He was extremely influential in showing that not all deaf people are “deaf and dumb”
- Thomas Gallaudet – a teacher whom Gallaudet University is named after; he co-founded it with Laurent Clerc
- Heather Whitestone McCallum – The first, and quite possibly to this day only, deaf Miss America. She is an influential advocate for deaf rights and she also served on the United States’ National Council on Disability in the past.
- Juliette Low – The founder of Girl Scouts in America
- Rush Limbaugh – An American talk show host and Republican political commentator
- Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor of the telephone
- Vinton Cerf – the “Father of the Internet”
- Thomas Edison – A famous inventor
- Helen Keller – The first deaf-blind woman to earn a bachelor’s degree. One of the most famous women in US history.
Deaf people think in the same way that non-deaf people do. I know it may sound strange, but like I said earlier, you use your brain to think…not your ears.
5. How do deaf people date?
Girl meets boy.
Boy meets girl.
Girl likes boy.
Boy likes girl.
Girl asks boy out.
Boy asks girl out.
Girl and boy live happily ever after.
Boy and girl live happily ever after.
But no, seriously. Dating is dating is dating is dating. It really doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, it’s all the same.
With that being said, some deaf people only date other deaf people. This may be due to them having a lot in common with their hearing loss and being able to relate well to one another. Those who are capital D Deaf may choose to only date others who are either capital d Deaf or even lowercase d deaf because it fits in with their culture. These individuals use sign language as a primary language and likely attend a Deaf school and exist in Deaf world. They may have limited access to mainstream society, so this is probably what they are most comfortable with.
In my own personal experience I’ve only ever dated people who are hearing. It’s not that I am against dating another deaf or even Deaf person, it’s just that I never really met one that I was romantically interested in and now I have found my forever person who happens to be hearing. This is likely because I’ve always been mainstreamed and lived in the hearing world. I do not know any sign language and I am not a part of the Deaf with a capital D culture. Dating a hearing person comes naturally to me and is what I am comfortable with.
Just as non-hearing people have their preferences and likes and dislikes and turn ons/turn offs and deal breakers and makers, so do deaf people.
But when it comes down to actual dating, it’s pretty much the same. Deaf people still like to go out to eat, watch movies, go bowling, go golfing, go shopping, etc.
Some deaf people may prefer to go to places that are quieter so it’s easier for them to hear. Well-lite places may also be helpful so that they can see and read lips or see signs more clearly if they use sign language as a primary means of communication. But for the most part, deaf people are just looking to have a good time the same way hearing people are.
I hope my answers to the five most commonly asked questions on being deaf helped to shed light on what it’s really like to live without hearing. The most important thing I hope you take from today’s blog post is that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear. We all want to be treated the same as a hearing person would be treated because we *are* the same. Our ears don’t work but we still have the same needs, desires, passions, interests, and lifestyles for the most part.
For those of you who don’t already know, I am a member of the vast minority of 20-somethings in New Jersey. What do I mean by that? Unlike most 20-something New Jerseyians, I lack possession of a valid driver’s license. Quite frankly, I never had possession of one to begin with.
Not having driver’s license may not be a big deal in some areas like NYC or Philly, but in South Jersey, it’s crucial. I had intended to get my license many times over the years, it just never quite worked out. I have been renewing my driving permit for about 7 years now. Yet I still have not even come very close to having my actual license.
Driving is hard for me. Harder than it would be for most people. Or I guess I should say it “WAS” hard, not so much anymore. It required a lot of focus. I know that driving always requires you to be focused,but this is especially true when you can’t hear. For the past 24 years of my life lip-reading has been to me what my hearing aid audiologist, Sherry, refers to as my “crutch”. My hearing was so bad (legally I am deaf),that unless I could see a person and read their lips, I would have no idea what they were saying. This worked fine in most situations. However, trying to lipread while driving is a bit of a disaster.
When you’re learning how to drive you have to rely a lot of others for directions and guidance. In my case those people were my parents. I had to depend on them to have them tell me where to go or how to make a hard turn or parallel park or really do anything at all involving driving. My parents were naturally used to my hearing and knew to talk loudly and clearly for me. However, clarity is something I did not have. I could often times here them, but not always understand them. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they said “right” or “left” because they sounded the same. You don’t always have time to have people constantly repeat things to you when you are driving. Sometimes, you have to take a guess as to what the words are. If you think you hear “right” when it really should be “left”, sometimes that can cause all kinds of problems which at times can be outright dangerous. This happened more than a few times for me. I would have to guess like that a lot. I had to keep my eyes on the road. I couldn’t use my lipreading crutch because that would cause me to take my eyes off the road to look at a person. It definitely made driving quite a challenge.
I did actually take my driving test once. It did not go well at all. My instructor seemed annoyed by me right from the start. I couldn’t hear her very well when she told me to do things like put my window down or turn wipers on or even unlock the door. My parents could help repeat these things at that part of the test which helped me but seemed to annoy the instructor anymore. I didn’t get very far with my test. I couldn’t parallel park properly and not being able to hear the instructor only made it worst. I think she just kind of got out of the car at the end and that’s how I knew I was out of chances and have failed my test.
In February of this year I renewed my permit for the 50 million time. I just started practicing driving again for the first time in over a year and for the first time since receiving my cochlear implant. I’m amazed by how much easier driving is now that I have my implant. I don’t have to worry about my hearing. I can hear so well and so clearly. Not being able to read lips while driving is no problem at all because I can hear so well without relying on lipreading. I’ve been doing better than ever with my speed and turns. I even drove a little bit on some small roads with minimal traffic (and at times people and dogs) with no problem. My parking still needs some work…but I am confident I will get there in time.
Getting my license is more important to me now than ever before. I want to be able to drive to work on my own and drive to my boyfriend’s house when he is not home and to be able to take myself places. I will be 25 in less than 2 months and I think having my license, especially at my age, is crucial. My cochlear is giving me a lot more confidence with my driving and I think it’s only a matter of time now when I’ll be ready to re-take my driving test and this time actually pass it and finally earn my license.It’s really amazing to see how big of a difference having my cochlear has made and how much easier driving is now that I have it. It’s truly yet another amazing blessing from God!