It seems that many people are confused on what deaf can do and can’t do. A simple Google search starting with “can deaf people…” will bring up a list of search suggestions that seems very…interesting (which you can see in the shownote).
So I thought this would be a good time to talk about what deaf people can do and dispel any myths that anyone may have about us.
You can listen to the podcast below, watch the video or scroll down to read the transcripts.
What can deaf people do?
Some of you might be surprised to know that when a hearing person encounters a d
eaf person, whether it’s the first time or not, there tends to be a bit of a shock, horror.
It’s like, “Oh, my God, what do I do?”
And believe it or not, some people actually run away because apparently we are scary like that. But there tend to be a bit of shock and horror and disbelief and oh, my God.
And even sometimes when you hear about hearing parents, and they find out that their child is deaf, and again, it’s a mix of disbelief and shock and sadness and horror.
But it’s weird for me to hear that because I don’t think that’s all true. Maybe there is a hint of that, but I think a lot of it is about confusion because they are confused about what can deaf people do, what they can’t do, and they just assume limitation, assume that they can’t do certain things.
And here’s the problem, I hear it all the time when people ask that question, what can deaf people do because they think that they can’t do anything.
And I’ve had that where it’s like, “you know what? Maybe this is not for you. We’ll give it to someone else”.
I’ve had that in my life, and I’m quite certain a lot of deaf people had that as well. But I wanna get into the nitty-gritty details of the myths that I have seen about what deaf people can do.
And really, all you have to do is go to Google. And when you type in “can deaf people” [blank], then you’ll see some interesting questions that people ask.
And so let’s get into it. Let me get straight into question one about what deaf people can do.
Can deaf people drive?
Well, yes, the answer is yes, yes, yes. It’s just an easy answer. I’ve got a car, I drive all the time.
And there are some people who believe that in certain situations deaf people can drive better than people who can hear.
If you think about it, a deaf person relies on their visual aspect quite a lot, which means that they are alert, maybe even more alert, then certain hearing drivers, not all, but certain hearing drivers.
They’re more alert about what’s around them because they don’t hear everything.
Which means that they look, they observe, they see any hazards, they avoid it. They just do that.
Well, sometimes you do see hearing drivers, for example, they might crank their music up really loud which means obviously you can’t hear what’s around you.
Or you get very complacent and sometimes you just feel a bit relaxed, and you know what? It’s okay and just really get on with it. But for deaf drivers, they’re actually quite alert.
So the answer is yes, really.
Can deaf people hear music?
You might be surprised to know that the answer is yes. But by hearing, it’s mainly about feeling that music.
A very common thing that deaf people do is that they stand beside a speaker if they are at a nightclub or a concert or a gig. They stand beside the speaker because then they can feel the music.
And if you think about it, sound, vibration in the air and you feel it in you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, you can feel that vibration when the sound blasts out that speaker.
So you can feel that, but the answer is yes. deaf people can hear music, just in a different way.
And you’d be, again, surprised to learn that there are deaf rave or deaf nightclubs just for deaf people but you can attend if you’re hearing.
But the music is adjusted a little bit to make it more bass, have more bass so you can feel that even more.
And they dance the night away. So yes, deaf people can hear.
Can deaf people have tinnitus?
Oh, yes, the answer is yes, yes, yes. For me personally, I get tinnitus several times a month. Everyone has their own version of tinnitus on what it is.
And if you think about it though, it’s not an external sound, it’s in your head. And you can literally hear that in your head as annoying.
Mine, for example, sounds like this. Brace yourself.
I’m jumping in on #ThisIsTinnitus by @ActionOnHearing to share my experience when I get tinnitus. pic.twitter.com/M8IJsitcAu— Ahmed Khalifa (@IamAhmedKhalifa) February 1, 2019
Literally like that, just all the way just like that, and it lasts for minutes to minutes, well, long time, actually. Just too annoying.
Other people it could more deeper. It could be a buzzing noise.
Whatever, everyone’s different.
So the answer is yes, deaf people can hear tinnitus.
Can deaf people hear themselves?
Well, yes because I’m guessing this is two ways. Maybe this is about can deaf people hear themselves speak, and can deaf people hear their own thoughts?
So if they’re speaking oral languages, again, it’s vibration. You do feel it, you can try it yourself.
When you’re speaking you feel it, for example, in your throat. You feel it in your chest.
If you’re shouting, you feel it even more. So yes, you can feel that, which means that you can hear that.
In terms of can deaf people hear their own thoughts, well, that’s not really something that is out loud, is it? It’s in your mind again, which means that you’re almost kind of reading it.
So imagine yourself, you’re reading a book. It’s almost like you’re reading it out loud in your mind, but you’re not hearing it. It’s almost like you see it or maybe you feel it.
But it’s in your mind. You kind of almost see it as well. So it’s like that, really.
So can deaf people hear their own thoughts, and can deaf people hear themselves speak? Yes is one answer, and yes the other answer.
Can deaf people read?
This is a weird one for me. Well, of course, yes.
It’s a language like anything. I’m a book reader, I love reading. I use computer a lot, I read. I get the mail in the post, I read that. I read, read, read.
It’s just like anything, you learn a language. Now, of course, for some deaf people sign language is their first language and maybe their main language, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t read as well.
Sure, the grammar and the structure might be different when you see it written compared to how you sign it, but they can still read. We can still read.
So the answer is to can deaf people read, yes we can.
Can deaf people talk or speak?
This one is maybe I wouldn’t say controversial, but it’s quite complicated to answer. Because the answer is yes.
I mean, first of all, you’re listening to me talk. That’s one thing.
But again, it just depends on the person, on their hearing ability because if you think about it, in the beginning of their life, they’re not gonna be able to hear certain speech.
So they may have to have speech therapy and they learn how to kind of pronounce words correctly. I still need that.
When I was younger, I had a speech therapist because I mispronounced words all the time because I thought that’s what they sounded like so then you get used to it, which means that I mispronounced it all the time.
But for deaf people who don’t hear at all, and just maybe it’s more difficult for them to pronounce certain words or speak in certain way.
And then they kind of unfairly get labelled to have a deaf accent, which means that for hearing people it sounds a bit different. It doesn’t sound like a, quote, “normal” accent. But it’s normal for them, it’s normal for everyone else.
And really, if they’re speaking in sign language, they may also use sound or speak or they use words to assist that. And it might be loud, it might be quiet, but it’s still speaking and it’s still talking.
And it’s still speaking sign language. That is speaking sign language, and it’s still speaking in oral language because that is a language as well. You speak it.
You may find it hard to believe that you don’t speak or talk sign language, but yes, they do because that is their main language. Not the tool, it is a form of communication.
So they speak it. So the answer really for me, I would say, is yes.
Can deaf people sing?
I’m guessing people ask that because, again, the assumption is you can’t hear music which means that it’s hard to understand the tone and the vocal frequency and the melody and all these things to make music and then you have to kind of understand it and you can’t sing it.
And I’m also guessing because people assume that you can’t hear yourself speak, you can’t hear yourself sing or you don’t know what it sounds like which means that then you can’t hear yourself sing and you don’t know if it’s good or bad.
To even just cover that bit, let’s just say if you think you’re a good singer and someone else hear you sing, there’s a good chance people say, “It needs work.”
Because what we hear is different to what other people hear, so that’s one thing I wanna get out of the way.
The other thing as well is you’d be surprised about how many people who are deaf, they can sing.
And I think there’s even a popular audition on America’s Got Talent that went viral on YouTube and it’s literally a deaf girl who is playing the ukulele and she’s also singing as well as playing the ukulele.
And she does that by standing bare feet to feel the vibration of the music.
And I’ve talked about that before. If you can feel the music, you can kind of hear the music as well.
So for that person, for that girl, she is literally feeling and hearing the music, which means that she can play the ukulele and she can sing very, very well.
People are actually impressed by her singing, although maybe because they’re thinking, “Oh my God, a deaf girl can sing.”
But let me just get it out there, yes, deaf people can sing. And deaf people can make music. And you’d be surprised to know that there are deaf musicians and dancers and people who are in the industry of music.
They are able to create amazing pieces of music and visual performance and musical performance, and it doesn’t really stop them because they can do it.
So can deaf people sing? Can deaf people hear music and play music and all these things?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
Everyone needs adaptation
Now at the end of the day, there is going to be a level of adaptation for deaf people, but if you think about it, everyone needs or probably don’t need adaptation.
And what I mean by that is that we all have something in our life that make things easier for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re hearing or deaf, if you’re abled or not abled, it depends on your situation because there are certain times where what you need adapts for you.
It’s basically helping you to get through your day-to-day life. Example for me is I need captions because I need it to get through whatever I’m watching. And that’s an adaptation, but then in terms of those which are providing just convenience, it’s not really necessary for some people.
A silly example is a remote control. We don’t really need it. It’s just there to make our lives easier.
So that way we don’t have to bother with going through all the channels and going to the TV and pressing the buttons. It’s there to make our lives easier. So that is a form of adaptation for all of us, really. We all use it.
But do we need it, really need it? Well, no, if you want to, you could get by without it.
But it’s the same thing for deaf people when I say you need to have adaptation to hear certain information.
So for example, if it’s going to be a phone call, well, maybe that’s not appropriate, so maybe a video call is better to lip read.
Or maybe instant messages or emails are better than using phone calls. That’s a form of adaptation which is not really going out of your way. It’s just a simple form of let’s use this technology instead of this technology.
So to round it all up about what deaf people can do, I want to use a popular quote that is uttered by the first deaf president of the Gallaudet University.
It is the only university in the world, based in America, which has specific modules and teaching methods for deaf and hard-of-hearing people only.
And it’s a very popular university in America. And because of the Deaf President Now movement that happened back in 1988, to elect a deaf president, who eventually got elected.
And the person called Dr. Irving King Jordan, who got elected, and he uttered the quote which is:
“Deaf people can do anything, except hear.”I. King Jordan, 1988
So maybe I should have said that in the beginning to round it all up, but basically, to answer the question of what can deaf people do, well, deaf people can do anything except hear.
I wish somebody told me that, and it may sound simple, it may sound obvious, but it’s not always obvious when you live in a society where you are assumed limitation and you are pushed aside or things are not going to work out for you because of whatever barrier in front of me.
But that’s something that I kind of had in the back of my mind, and you keep quiet about it, and it became quite tiring at times.
But if I had known that before, maybe things would be different. But it doesn’t really matter because I know that now. I’m talking about it more often. We’re all talking about it more often, deaf awareness, and really it’s just to do that.
It’s to create awareness about what deaf people can do and can’t do. And really, the only thing that we can’t do is hear. That’s it. I hope that makes sense.
I hope that answered all the questions, but if there are more questions that you’re wondering, and you want to ask that question, then feel free to ask me that question in the comments down below and I’ll get back to you.
I’ll see what I can do with that because then I want to know what else are you thinking about what deaf people can do and can’t do. But I’m glad to think that I’ve pretty much answered everything really.
But let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you about that.
In the meantime, I will speak to you 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
Claire Brotherton says
The only one of these I would have asked is the tinnitus question. I should really know better as I’ve had it on occasions myself. Mine is like a whistling sound. It’s quite disturbing to hear a noise that no-one else hears because your brain tells you it’s there.
The other questions are like, well, duh, of course!
Ahmed Khalifa says
It still surprises me when I get tinnitus, as I look around to see if anyone else can hear “that noise” or is it just me? Then I have to double-check and be certain because it really is quite loud 😅
Has anyone ever excluded you from a public event for “your own safety” because you can’t hear? Something where it could be important to hear a sudden announcement? Sorry I can’t come up with any examples right now.
Ahmed Khalifa says
Ooh, interesting (though somewhat annoying if that happens) as it’s not something that I’m familiar with. It never happened to me but I would hope that there are precautions for things like this if it does happen.
But I’m sure there aren’t precautions for situations like this in many places. 😕