11 million people in the UK have some type of hearing problem. That’s more than London’s population. Despite the prevalence, many who are hard of hearing feel like their condition equates to them being stupid. Hearing aids are often mocked, and many people think those who ask “what” when they can’t hear aren’t very smart.
By David Miller
89% of deaf people in the country have been discriminated against because of their condition. For fear of being mocked, others like you will try to find discreet hearing aids or tend towards isolation, so they don’t have to try to work through the communication barriers.
Because of this fear of being mocked, being deaf might make you feel like you have to settle for anyone who will pay attention to you. While feeling accepted is necessary, this can be problematic if the only reason you’re staying with this partner is that they “put up with” your condition.
The Dangers of Settling
Some people in the world see those who are vulnerable and decide to take advantage. At first, it can seem like they get you. They might talk about how they’ve met deaf people before and had a good experience. Compared to being ignored, it feels like a welcome change. You might ignore inappropriate behaviour to feel like someone cares about you.
This tells your partner that they can get away with inappropriate behaviour without any consequences. Before long, the two of you will be fighting, and it could get worse. Your partner, who at first seemed to accept your hearing loss, is now pointing out how much of a problem it is for him or her. They could make fun of you and put you down more than a stranger who sees your hearing aids.
Depending on the situation, you might be afraid to bring up problems for fear of your partner leaving you or making fun of your condition. If this is the case, your relationship is unhealthy. Do you feel like you could speak up for yourself, or are you afraid he or she might react poorly?
How to Avoid Settling Despite Being Deaf
Being deaf doesn’t make you less of a person. The stigma surrounding your condition comes from ignorance and a society that wasn’t made for you. Anyone who makes you feel like you’re less of a person because of your hearing loss isn’t someone who will boost you.
Now, this isn’t to say that everyone who comes up to you appearing to be sympathetic will create an abusive relationship. Knowing what is acceptable in a relationship will help you stay away from people who will hurt you and stand up for yourself.
Also, using a disabled dating site will help filter out many people who would not be prepared to accept you for who you are. Large, mainstream dating sites can be very unforgiving to the deaf community.
Take these actions ahead of time and during your relationships, and you’ll be on your way to creating a stable connection with your partner.
Boundaries are one of the hardest things to create and stick to in life. Creating and setting up a boundary can feel like you’re hurting someone else. However, they are necessary to have a functioning relationship.
Figure out what your boundaries are before you get into a relationship. What sort of behaviour is unacceptable? How do you need someone to interact with you concerning your condition? How do you want to be treated, both as a deaf person and as a person in general?
Identify Red Flags
People who will try to take advantage of the stigma around your hearing loss will give off warning signs before they start trying to manipulate you.
Here are some of the big ones you should look out for:
- They make a big deal about how accepting they are of your condition
- They show off your hearing aids or ways to “prove” you’re deaf when you hang out with friends
- They don’t make any effort to change communication because of your condition and get mad when you can’t understand them
Create an Exit Plan
Knowing what to do when you see red flags will help you avoid a world of hurt. The sooner you can get out, the better off you’ll be when it comes to having a safe relationship.
Once you have boundaries, figure out which ones are completely non-negotiable. If a potential partner crosses one of them, then leave. It might seem hard at the time, but if they don’t make an effort to respect what you need, they’re going to continue to walk over you.
I have said it before, but it bears repeating. Being deaf doesn’t make you any less of a person, despite the cultural stigma. Stand up for yourself and don’t settle for lesser relationships, and your life will feel brighter.