For many people who are considered to be small ‘d’ deaf and particularly those who are hard of hearing, we are constantly labelled as being “not deaf enough” for the d/Deaf world, and “not hearing enough” for the mainstream hearing world.
The only place left is that awkward middle bit, the intbetweener, the lonely bit, where it is tough because you don’t feel like you belong anywhere.
So what do you do when you feel like this and how can you make it work for you?
Maybe you could create your own world instead.
You can listen to to the podcast…
…watch the video…
…or read the transcript below.
Is it possible to be labelled as “not deaf enough” and “not hearing enough”?
Well actually yes, that is possible. It’s something that a lot of people, even though you don’t see them, they go through.
Someone like myself who is in that middle bit of not being part of a hearing world, but not even part of the d/Deaf world as well.
And if that’s basically you, let me know in the comment down at the bottom if that applies to you. I’d love to learn more about it, your experience and how do you deal with that situation because it’s tough.
But also, if you stick around to the end, I want to share a suggestion, a tip on how you can deal with that better if it’s something that you’re struggling with.
If you’re finding it hard to be in that middle bit, then stick around to the end because I would love to share an idea that could make a difference in your life.
The topic of not being deaf enough and not being hearing enough is very, very hard for someone like myself and yourself as well to be in a situation where you feel like you don’t belong in either places.
Because you’re labelled as either small ‘d’ deaf or hard of hearing.
Deaf vs Hard of Hearing: What’s the Difference?
And when you’re in that situation, it’s quite awkward. It’s quite difficult to work out where you belong, what is your identity?
It’s not something that I agree with, “not deaf enough”, but unfortunately it does exist and is something that is involved, especially within the deaf community, especially those who are capital ‘D’ Deaf, culturally deaf.
The general idea of not being deaf enough is, for example:
- your main language is oral, not sign language
- you didn’t go through deaf school
- maybe you come through a mainstream lifestyle
- you don’t have any deaf friends
- you’re not involved in the Deaf community
- you don’t share the same values and passion and being involved in the history of Deaf culture.
If that applies to you, either one or a few or all, you’re considered to be not deaf enough.
But it’s not something that I think other people should label on you. It’s up to you to locate your own identity, your own honest identity. Obviously you can’t make it up.
And then there’s the other side of it which is you’re not hearing enough. You’re not part of a hearing world, and that is quite obvious really, because:
- you live the mainstream lifestyle, but you’re not able to communicate with other people
- you struggle in group conversation
- you struggle in group events and environment.
- you can’t really keep up with conversation.
- you can’t hear a lot of things.
The general things are a lot of people would understand. That is something that applies to a lot of people as well, including myself too. And unfortunately, both of these arguments exist, not deaf enough” and “not hearing enough”.
So what does that mean then? Where do you belong? Where do we stand? What is your identity?
And for a lot of people, they struggle with that.
And it’s even more difficult when really, that world in the middle doesn’t officially exist. It’s not officially recognised.
And yes, there is the name of ‘hard of hearing’. That does exist, but it’s not really a definite culture. It’s not really a definite group because there isn’t a history around it, like in the Deaf culture, and of course, the mainstream hearing world, they’re two separate things.
But that middle bit is very, very awkward. So, of course it’s difficult for a lot of people.
If you’re watching/reading this, if that applies to you, I get it, I totally get it.
The thing that bugs me a lot is when you want to have access to either world and unfortunately, there are people who will just not be very open.
And I’m just going to make sure that I say some people would be like that, not all, because of course, not everyone in the Deaf community is going to be closed and just not going to allow you to be coming in to their culture and not be open to you.
Of course that doesn’t apply to all of them. Not all of them are like that. There are going to be some amazing, amazing people in the Deaf community who will be welcoming, warm, open-arms, they will be just so, so nice to you and want you to be involved as much as possible. Of course, they would love that.
And the same thing in the hearing world, there are people who would be open and understanding, and they get it, they understand. And they just want to be with you because of you are, not because of anything else. Not because of a label of any sort.
But there will be a minority of people on both side of the world where they will not be as open as you’d like them to be.
For example, you could be wanting to be involved in the Deaf community, you’re learning sign language, but then you go to that group of people and they will mock you because you don’t sign very well.
But of course you won’t because you are learning about that. If anything, that should be encouraged. That should be applauded, and that should be something that people will help you with as well.
But there will be some people who will just not be acceptable of that, for whatever reason.
But there will be other people who would love that. They will help you, they will help you to get better. They will give you some ideas and correction and someone to practice with. That applies in the deaf world.
And the same thing with the hearing world. There will be some people of course, who will not be patient with you. If you ask them to repeat, they will be annoyed with you. They get frustrated, they will walk away. I’ve had that many, many times and it does exist.
But at the same time, not everyone is like that and we should appreciate that there are people out there who care passionately about accessibility.
But also, they just care about you as a person, not because of anything, like I said, a label. It’s just because they care about you and they want to be with you as well.
What can you do if you are in the middle?
So if this applies to you, if you are in that middle bit, what can you do? How can you deal with it because it can be a very lonely situation and it’s hard to find people to connect with, people who are like-minded like you to be in that middle bit of, maybe you can call it hard of hearing or in the middle bit, in-betweener, whatever you call it, what can you do?
So here’s a suggestion that I’ve got for you:
Create your own world.
Now hear me out, this is what I’m saying about creating your own world because this is something that people might struggle with, but bear with me. Is there a way that you can create your own world?
Whatever you want to call it, it’s up to you.
So is there a way you can create that own world in the middle where you’ll have the best of both worlds? And you will be like a bridge where you’ll have the right people coming to you and you’ll connect with the right people from both sides of the world.
So if you imagine you have the two worlds and you connect that bridge, you’re on that bridge. You’re in that middle bit and you’re welcoming to anybody. You’re just open to anyone and you want to be involved with both worlds as well.
Let me use an example that I can share with you on how you can make that work. For me, I am learning BSL, British Sign Language, so I have that connection to the deaf world and the deaf community and I’ve got other reasons why I want to learn BSL, but that’s one side of it.
Why I want to Learn Sign Languages?
It’s not just to connect with the Deaf community…
But obviously, I’m oral as well, and I am mainstream world living thing, that’s what I do. I’m living that world. So, I have that access to both side of the world.
But that can be a good thing, not always a bad thing. I can be in that middle bit, that bridge where I have exposure to many, many things.
Another way of looking at it is that I have predominantly hearing friends and hearing families and that’s on the one hand, but at the same time, I’m connecting with a lot of people online who are considered to be d/Deaf, who are considered to be profoundly deaf, capital ‘D’ Deaf, all these things, and I’m connecting with them online as well.
So, again, I have access to both worlds, which is quite unique and quite special as well.
Now I can’t take credit for this idea. I got this idea from a TEDx Georgetown talk back in 2013, and a speaker called Heather Artinian, who is profoundly Deaf, she has a cochlear implant. I think she has two.
She has Deaf parents, Deaf brothers, but she also had hearing grandparents and hearing relatives, so she kind of had that mixture of both worlds, of hearing and deafness, as she called it.
And she created the idea of I have my own world, and her name is Heather Artinian. She called her world “The Heather World”. It is as simple as that.
She wanted access to both worlds for her own personal reason and I’m going to link to that in the description. You can watch that talk yourself and I recommend that you do (below).
She is desperate to access to both worlds for her own reason, and even though it’s been criticised for rejecting the deaf world by her family and her parents and all these things.
And she’s also being criticised for being involved in a hearing world because she is profoundly Deaf, and she had to have speech therapists, and she had a deaf accent, and people are criticising her for that.
She’s getting all these criticisms and it’s not fair, obviously, it’s not right. But she didn’t want to influence her idea and her decision to be involved in both worlds.
And she has created that bridge, as she called it, and on that bridge is the two worlds and that is where “Heather’s World” exists. It’s in that middle bit.
And she loved that.
She had access to amazing things. She had an advantage for being able to open her mind in both worlds and being able to access different culture and environment and people, and that’s what she wanted.
She didn’t want to be just only exclusively in one world or the other, she wanted both and she loved that.
She thinks it’s beautiful, it’s a great idea, and it made me think, you know what? That is something that I resonate and I love as well because even on my own website, I always say that I am bridging the gap between the hearing and d/Deaf world.
I don’t see it as segregation. We don’t want that. I think it’s something that we could learn on both sides. But we do it respectfully. You can respect the Deaf culture and you can respect the mainstream world as well.
You can criticise the system, and you can fight against that, that’s one thing, but you don’t criticise the wrong person.
You don’t criticise the person who wants to have access to both worlds, or is not traditionally part of one world and decides to go another world. You don’t criticise that person. Maybe you criticise something else. Maybe focus your energy on something else.
As long as we respect it, as long as we have respect for both worlds and the people, and as long as you also, invite the right people into your own world, people who are friendly and open-minded and warm and welcoming, then you have a beautiful thing that you can have in the middle, which is your bridge, which is your world.
So why don’t you consider doing that? Maybe it’s something that we can do together. I’m always trying to find ways to make it work. I’m trying to make it work for myself, actually. Having my own “Ahmed’s World”, but it’s a work in progress because it’s not going to be a quick fix.
But, if that’s something that you like, why don’t you join me, why don’t you get involved together and share your idea and thought on how you can make it work?
Because I’d love to hear how you do it. And I think it could help you as well.
Don’t forget though, it’s up to you who you want to have in your own world and don’t forget as well, it doesn’t mean that you exclude people for the wrong reason, it doesn’t mean that you are rejecting any ideas that both worlds live in.
No, it’s not about that. It’s about making sure that you have something that works for you, but you also have access to both worlds and it’s something beautiful that you can really expose yourself to as well.
Something that will allow you to really open your mind about different people, different ideas, culture, languages, there are so many things that you can take advantage of by being in that awkward, perhaps lonely middle bit, which I am part of as well.
But let’s see what we can do with that together. I hope that makes sense to you and let me know how it works out for you in a comment
And while you’re at it, make sure you hit that subscribe button as well. It would be great to see you getting involved with these videos and trading your ideas and thoughts. I’d love to hear your stories as always.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.