Unless there are hearing aids or cochlear implants in your line of vision, or perhaps sign language are the main form of communication, it’s safe to say it’s not immediately obvious if a person is deaf or not. But is that good or bad?
Because from my own perspectives, I have benefited from being able to hide it from people and go about my day as normal. But that came at a cost, which I explain here, and as a result, I try to make it more visible.
But it still doesn’t hide the fact that it’s an invisible disability.
You watch the video…:
…listen to the podcast here or on your podcasting platform of choice…:
or read the transcripts below.
Today, I want to talk about how deafness is, in my perspective, like an invisible disability. And I know some people will not like the word disability, whether you’re able or disabled or however you want to call yourself and people see it as “ooh, I don’t like the word disabled”.
Anyway, that’s not the point. I mean, if you want to learn more about the way I look at disability which is the social model of disability, then you know that I’m thinking about it from a different perspective. And I’m not thinking about it as a medical condition where I am the problem and it’s causing bad days in my life because I can’t achieve things and… Oh, I can go on forever. It can go on forever.
But it’s a topic that I have talked about before, check it below.
But in terms of deafness as an invisible disability, because it kind of is, isn’t it? Until you are wearing hearing aids or a cochlear implant, then maybe it’s slightly noticeable. But if you are like me where I don’t wear it all the time, sometimes I do, my hearing aid, then it’s not that obvious. And that is a good thing and a bad thing.
Now I say a good thing because when I was younger, I used to just not show that I am deaf in a certain way. I just don’t want people to know at all. I just wanted to live my life as it is, as normal as possible. I didn’t really want to show that I have something behind the scenes that it prevented me part of it because I was embarrassed, part of it because I wasn’t really brought up in the environment where there were people like me.
So it was kind of hard to be different in a certain way, and I’m already different enough as it is.
But it’s an invisible disability and that means I have to speak about it. And part of it, even why I am doing all this content on my website and YouTube and podcast, I talk about it a lot because it’s not obvious when you talk to people. Unless, then, you can see maybe even signing as well. So invisible disability is a good thing and a bad thing.
Why it’s good to have invisible disability?
So from a good perspective, then you can just continue on as normal and people are none the wiser. And you’re kind of maybe fooling people thinking that you are, quote, “normal”. But I’ve learned the hard way that it actually made things more difficult for me. And because I surround myself majority of the time with hearing people when I was in school and university and jobs, then I had to just follow along and pretend.
But it was so hard that for example, having a conversation, then you get concentration fatigue that gets very, very exhausting. Or if they want to go to the cinema and then you want to watch a movie together but every time I go to a cinema with a friend, they’re not captioned. And I have never been to a cinema with friends where I understood the storyline because I couldn’t hear what was going on and had to have a conversation afterward.
That was not only exhausting, but it’s very lonely as well. But people are not aware of it.
Now, part of it is my fault. Maybe I should have said something, but again, the perception is that you are the problem and that is the environment that I kind of had around me. And I just didn’t feel comfortable talking about this invisible disability.
Then I talked about it some more and I think it definitely has made a difference in my life because it allowed me to be more comfortable with myself, but then also it allowed me to just not be afraid of asking for things that should be there in the first place. Captions on videos, for example, or if you’re going to be in a noisy environment, then why are we in a noisy environment? Can’t we just talk somewhere quiet? And that would benefit everyone, not just me.
And then I got more comfortable doing this content and sharing information, supporting other people.
And then I surrounded myself with deaf people and I play football with a deaf football team as well. And that allowed me to be more comfortable with who I am and not to be ashamed of this invisible disability and not to worry about wearing a hearing aid in public and signing in public. I don’t really care about that much. I do it.
Hearing aid, I still have a love-hate relationship with it, but I don’t not wear it because of people. I don’t wear it because in a certain environment, I’m just not comfortable with it in terms of what I’m hearing is overwhelming, so on and so forth.
And there are a slow movement where in society, at least for me in the UK, there are signs of people being made aware that a disabled person is not just a person in a wheelchair. It could be many things, and you might not be able to see it either. And that is something that is very slowly, I’ve noticed, is happening more and more.
And I remember seeing it very, very clearly when for example, you see the accessible toilets and most of the time you tend to see the symbol, the universal symbol of a person in a wheelchair.
But then gradually, I am seeing that they have a sign that says “Not all disabilities are visible.” And I think that’s a very, very good thing because people just have a perception that you are disabled: wheelchair users. That’s it. But that’s obviously not true. It’s such a broad topic. And for me, in terms of being deaf, that is obviously not very obvious, but maybe I just should make it more obvious by wearing hearing aids.
Society shouldn’t just assume that a person is abled or disabled
But at the same time, society should not be looking at every single person as someone who is abled. You just never know what is going on deep inside a person. And of course I’m talking emotionally, but also mentally, physically, everything.
Some people even have like badges, just proudly wearing the badge saying “I am deaf”. Some people even have like badges just to proudly display their disability that are not visible. So for example, “I am deaf” or even an instruction that says, for example, “I need to lip read you” or “face me” or anything like that so I can lip read you. Those little things, those little subtle instructions because, again, it’s not so obvious.
But some people just wear it with pride. And it’s just a nice thing, I suppose. You know, people just be proud of their identity and people who are, get this, get this: people who are actually proud of their disability. I know a few people who are actually proud of being a wheelchair user.
Now I know for some people that boggles their mind, but why should it? If that person is comfortable with themself and comfortable with their identity, why should that be weird? First of all, it doesn’t affect you. Let that person be. But that’s a weird concept that people have in terms of disability.
However, invisible disability is not so obvious.
So just making sure that you are aware that yes, being deaf is an invisible disability, but be aware of maybe subtle things.
Like, for example, when someone is really straining to hear in a noisy restaurant, you know, maybe that’s a clue, maybe that’s a sign. Maybe you want to make it easier. Or if someone is just obviously wearing a hearing aid and cochlear implant, then do the thing that we should be doing. Face them, make sure you’re in good lighting, make sure that you speak facing them so that they can lip read you and it’s not noisy, so on and so on.
I’ve talked about how to talk to deaf people a bunch of times.
So yes, that’s kind of it with invisible disability.
My question for you though is if you have an invisible disability, do you have some sort of signals or clues that let people know? So for example, you may have those badges or you have some kind of technology that you use that make people aware.
So hearing aids, for example. Are they there for clues or are they there for you? But do you do it because you want people to know, or do you do it because you are proud of it? I’m really curious about how you do it. Because I sometimes say it upfront, if I’m meeting someone new or just send them a link to my YouTube channel and there you go, I talk about it all the time.
Why? Because I live it.
What do you do? I’m really curious to know what you do ’cause I’d love to learn from your own experiences as well, regardless of whether you are deaf or not. Maybe there are some crossovers with different disabilities. Let me know what you think.
Let me know in the comments down below. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe, like, heart, fist bump, high five, everything. Everything. I’d really appreciate it. It really would mean a lot to me. And of course I’ll be back soon.
And in the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
I wear mine at work and whenever I am amongst people as I need to hear them at meetings, listen to their demands and instructions and make smalltalk at certain work-related social gatherings. But the minute I go home I take them out to relax. I don’t wear them with friends either, as my friends know how to use their voices so I can hear them.
Ahmed Khalifa says
Yep, I know the feeling of removing the hearing aids after wearing them for so long. It’s weirdly relaxing.