What is hearing privilege, why it’s important for all hearing people to be aware of it and what are some of the examples that exists today?
The word ‘privilege’ has become somewhat of an uncomfortable word lately. It seems to have a stigma that you have an easy life if you have privileges or it’s fiercely denied that it gives you an advantage over others.
But parts of having privileges is about having a head start in your life (be it personal, career, business, etc.) over others who are in marginalised groups. There’s no shame in that, but it’s important to acknowledge that, appreciate what you have, be grateful for it and then understand how you can help others.
So if you are a hearing person, you most certainly have certain privileges over non-hearing (deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, deafened, etc.). It’s not a bad thing, but it’s good to be aware of it. But then again, it is also possible for deaf people to have privileges too, and these are explained in the video and the link below.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
What is that? What is hearing privilege (and can we get some examples, please)?
I’m guessing it’s not something that people know about or “hear” about (no pun intended) or even just think that it exists. But actually, it does exist just like everything else in terms of gender or ethnicity or anything like that, there is a hearing privilege, that does exist.
And I know some people there will not be very comfortable with the word “privilege”. But I just want to clarify something right now. So don’t even think about twisting it, because I want to get over this uncomfortable thing that we have about the word privilege.
Let me clarify one thing: the word privilege is notabout having an easy life. That’s not what it’s about.
It’s just about appreciating what you have with that thing that you have
will give you a head-start over people in marginalised communities/groups.
So in this case, what I’m talking about is “hearing privilege”.
I’m talking about having a head-start over the non-hearing people: d/Deaf, hard of hearing deafblind, deafened – any of these.
And let’s face it, there are advantages of being hearing in this hearing world that we live in. I’m sure you can think of certain privileges you have in your life that will give you a head start.
And we should all do that.
We should all stop, take a minute and think about what that thing is you have that will give you a head start over other people.
It’s about having self-awareness.
It’s about appreciating what you have.
It’s about being grateful of what you have.
But it’s not about you having an easy life.
Even for me, I have talked about deaf privilege. Yes, I have certain things that I will have over either hearing people or people who are profoundly deaf or people are sign language users, all of these.
I have privilege as well.
As well as other things, like being a male or living in a country where I have free healthcare; all these things. Even for other people who are Deaf and they are capital ‘D’ Deaf, as we call them, or “culturally deaf”.
They would have their own thing because they have “deaf gain” where they believe that by being deaf, they have an advantage over other people.
So if we can do that, then hearing people can also think about their own
privileges as well as other things. I just want to talk about
I hope that makes sense, so…let’s not get too uncomfortable about it.
And I believe that it applies to everyone.
But it’s just that if you are already in a marginalised group, then the privileges that other people have will be even more life changing
compared to the other way around, for example.
How to support this website
Before sharing some of my own example of what privileges are hearing people have over me, don’t forget that I have my own Patreon page.
I will be talking about this topic in a little bit more details and talk
about how I get around those advantages that people have
over me because they’re hearing.
But, you know, it’s not all bad.
Then there was that certain thing that I can adjust to make it my way.
Certain things that makes it more difficult.
But I will talk about it more on my Patreon page and you can support this channel and the content I’m creating, and also give you increase deaf awareness.
Some examples of hearing privileges
Here are some examples here that people will have over me when it comes to various things in my life.
Attend any social events or gatherings
For example, going to social events or gathering. So for hearing people they don’t have to worry about is it going to be in a quiet place?
Is it going to be too noisy?
Am I going to be able to hear people?
Is it going to be in a place where I will be able to communicate
with, easily with other people.
Am I going to be able to sit in a dinner table or restaurant and not worry
about the surrounding noise and I’m able to have a comfortable situation…?
I don’t know.
I have to think about many, many things ahead of time and whether it’s worth going or not. And if I do go, I have to plan things ahead.
Going to conferences is one thing for me that I struggle with.
Hearing people, they don’t have to worry about whether you’d be able to do the same thing, communicate with people.
Networking is another thing and obviously by networking, you would have maybe certain advantages over people because you’re able to build a relationship and maybe pick up clients and customers.
And of course, you’d be able to listen to speakers speaking very well. You don’t have to worry about “oh is it going to be captioned? Is there going to be interpreters?”
Whereas for me, I have to think about even whether to go at all. And if I do go, I have to think about it is there a quiet room? Is there going to be live-captioning available?
Are there going to be situations where I will be able to talk to people in a quiet environment?
Most likely there isn’t.
So that is something that I have to think about. And in some cases, I just don’t get go because of these disadvantages.
Listening to any podcasts you want
Simple things like listening to podcasts – hearing people, don’t have
to worry about whether they can hear them or not.
You listen to it anytime, anywhere in most situations. Unless the audio is terrible, then in most situations, you’ll be able to access just about any podcast in the world.
That’s not the case for me.
Now granted, I do listen to some podcasts, but that’s either because:
- the audio quality is very, very good
- I’m in a quiet environment
- I use like a noise-cancelling headphones to listen
- there are transcripts available (but most podcasts don’t have transcripts.)
So we are limited in a way that you will not have because you are able to access more or less any podcast in the world.
And it’s just nice to have that option, isn’t it?
Going to mainstream schools/universities without requiring support
Going to mainstream schools and university, there are certain things that I had to keep quiet about, if I’m struggling internally and time, you just have to cope with it.
Sometime you just have to deal with it. If there isn’t support, then you just have to deal with it.
And people will look at, “oh, you didn’t get a good grade as you expected”, or you thought “maybe that person think that you should be doing better work but didn’t understand what you’re going through”.
Well, that’s an ongoing thing, a daily thing for many of us.
But of course, for hearing people, you can go to university or school and not worry about support or access to information. You’ve been able to hear the teacher or lecturer. Be able to access anything you want, and you don’t have to worry about that.
Going to the cinema whenever you want
And even the simple things like being able to access whatever movie that you want to go to when you go to the cinema.
You don’t have to worry accessing them because it’s there. It’s available at a time that is very, very flexible.
You don’t have to worry about whether it’s captioned or not. Because for me, I want to think about the times when there are captions. But because I have to look for the time, they tend to be very limited and they’re not very flexible.
And you don’t have a lot of options.
On top of that, you don’t have a lot of time because they maybe released first couple of month, it’s captioned.
And after that, it disappears.
So we will have limited options compared to a person who is able to pretty much go to whatever movie you want to go watch. And that’s also quite
nice to have, isn’t it?
Other common hearing privilege examples
There are so many other examples that I can tell you about; the common ones that I don’t go through, but other people do.
So, for example, a very common hearing privilege is that a person who is learning sign language, has very basic skills and attempt to learn how to sign some music, some song, some things that they enjoy doing.
Most commonly it would be music and they sign it.
Most often it would be something that they are learning, so they’re not fluent. They don’t know how to do it properly and there are mistakes in it.
However, that person, when they share it on social media,
it gets loads of engagement and likes and share and comments and things
like “you are amazing”…”I love this”…”This is so inspiring”.
All these things.
But when it’s a person who is deaf, who is maybe fluent in sign language, grew up with sign language and attempt to do exactly the same thing, yet it’s accurate and perfect, but nobody really appreciate it.
They don’t get much engagement because, well, it’s nothing “special”, is it?
This is so common, really, really common.
And probably the biggest issue that people are having right now is sign language learners and they are portraying out in the Internet. But there are a lot mistakes and issues with that, and that can be quite dangerous.
Another example which I’ve personally heard of well, is when people like myself request caption on videos and hearing people complain because it’s “distracting” or whatever excuses that they have. And there are many excuses.
This is these are just some of the examples that I have provided and other people have experienced. And there are so many more.
If you want to see more and I urge you
to look at those examples, there is a post put together by Professor Don Grushkin, who I have interviewed on a podcast before, and he is a proud Deaf person who even has a PhD in it.
Some of them are very simple and makes sense. But others, you don’t really think about it.
So for example, you might think that at home, you don’t have to worry about communicating with your parents or other people in your household because you have the same language and it’s fine.
But for a deaf child and hearing parent, there are expectations that hearing parents expect the deaf child to speak.
Or even they don’t even put in the effort to learn sign language, which means that there are language barriers and there are division and the deaf child become isolated, and that’s just saying that lightly.
So that’s just one example and there are so many more example so you must check it out as it really will open your eyes about what
advantages you have by being hearing in this hearing word over d/Deaf
and hard of hearing people.
I hope that makes sense. And I hope it will also tell you that this
is not a criticism of what you have. I have privileges. You will have privileges.
It’s just about acknowledging that, appreciating it, and also being aware of that when you are around other people who are d/Deaf or hard
of hearing and just being aware about “Oh, they will have certain things
that they will not be access, but I can access the exact same thing.”
So it just been aware of it.
And then that will also make you more deaf aware and make you realise, “you know what? I have it easy(ier) because of this. But what can I do to support this person so that person can have the same thing as I do?”
I mean, if you go to the cinema and you go to watch whatever movie that you want, well, then I would like to have the same option as well.
But I don’t and it’s just about acknowledging that because you do have an advantage over a certain things in personal life, in your career, in business… whatever it is.
And just appreciate it.
Let me know what you think about this and has it opened your eyes?
Have you got any more examples of hearing privilege that I have not talked about or mentioned anywhere. I’d love to hear them in a comment below.
Don’t forget as well to make sure you subscribe and like and just share it if this is something that resonate with you, I’d really, really appreciate it.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- The power of non-verbal communication & how deaf people depends on it - August 5, 2020
- My personal viewpoint on the definition of deaf* - July 30, 2020
- Hearing privilege: What is it and why it’s important to acknowledge them? - July 23, 2020