Stereotypes and Misconceptions about Deafness

1. All deaf people sign

The ability and desire to sign is also different from person to person. It all depends how the individual was raised and whether or not they were ever encouraged/discouraged to sign. It’s about preference and how the deaf individual is most comfortable communicating.

2. Hearing aids make you hear normally

Hearing aids can help some deaf and hard of hearing people, but it depends on the person and their specific type and severity of hearing loss. In addition, how well a person can hear with Hearing Aids depends on the environment, the situation, background noise, among many other factors. Hearing Aids cannot and do not restore hearing or fix hearing loss. The only amplify sound and assist with Hearing. It’s a Hearing AID, not a Hearing FIX.

3. The majority of deaf people cannot speak

Not all deaf people are the same. Some Deaf speak very well and clearly; others choose not to use their voice if they think that they are difficult to understand or have problems gauging their pitch or volume.

4. A cochlear implant restores hearing

Cochlear implants can help some deaf people, but it depends on the person and their specific type and severity of hearing loss. Not all deaf individuals want or are a qualified candidate for cochlear implants. Cochlear implants don’t “cure” hearing loss.

5. All deaf people speak funny

Deaf people are not all the same. Some speak well and clearly and others do not. It depends on their hearing loss type, if they have had or needed speech therapy, etc. And deaf people don’t “talk funny or weird.” What you are hearing is called a Deaf Accent. Not everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing has a deaf accent.

6. Deaf people cannot drive

Deaf people can drive. In fact, it has been proven that deaf or hard of hearing people are better drivers that Hearing people and have fewer accidents or mishaps. Deaf people are more visually aware of their surrounding while driving than Hearing people. A Hearing test is not required for getting a license to drive. We see the flashing lights on ambulances or police cars, etc.

7. All deaf people lipread

Some Deaf people are very skilled lip readers, but many are not. Only about 30% of spoken English is visible on the lips. This is because many speech sounds have identical mouth movements. For example: p and b look exactly alike on the lips.

8. If you shout, it helps a deaf person understand

Usually this is not the case. It is better to speak naturally and at a comfortable pace. Not too fast and not too slow. Exagerating mouth movements also does not help a deaf person understand what you are saying. Just speak normally.

9. Deaf people are not as intelligent as Hearing people

Hearing loss is not representative of intelligence or ability. Deaf people can do everything a Hearing person can do, expect hear as well. There are many famous deaf individuals who are known for their brilliance. To think that deaf people are less intelligent than Hearing people just because they’re deaf is extremely offensive.

10. All deaf people are completely and totally deaf

There are ranges of hearing loss. Some people who are legally deaf prefer to be called Hard of Hearing. Some people who are legally deaf prefer to be called deaf. It depends on the individual and their type of hearing loss and what the individual themselves prefers to be called.

11. All deaf people understand and participate in Deaf Culture

Not all deaf people choose to participate in deaf culture. Deaf culture requires a common language and shared values, beliefs, norms, behaviors, etc. Not all deaf people use sign language. And besides that, some deaf people prefer to use technology only and do not sign and want to fit into the Hearing World as much as possible not not connect with other deaf individuals.

12. Deaf people read braille

This is a common question and assumption, but I’m not quite sure why. Some blind people use braille. Deaf people have problems with their ears, not their eyes. So there would be no reason that a deaf person would read braille unless they were Deaf-Blind (both blind and deaf).

13. Deaf people cannot have children

This is a common assumption, but I’m not quite sure why. Deaf people can have children. There is no reason why they would not be able to or why they would not be allowed to have children.

14. Deaf people only have “lowly” jobs

Some do, but some don’t. Not everyone is the same. Deaf people can do anything Hearing people can do, except hear as well. There are hundreds upon thousands of famous and influencial deaf individuals. I wouldn’t possible be able to list them all, but here is a list of a few of them:

  • Marlee Matlin – The famous deaf actress who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut role in Children of a Lesser God at the age of twenty-one.
  • Heather Whitestone – The first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America.
  • Michelle Banks – A famous deaf African-American performer.
  • C.J. Jones – A very intelligent and talented African-American deaf actor and comedian. He has performed in many plays, TV shows, and films.
  • Matthew Morgan – Deaf World Magician (http://www.magicmorgan.com).
  • Liliana Morgan – Deaf Russian Dancer (http://www.deafrussiashow.com).
  • David K Shelton – Movie actor, comedian, and owner of Deaf Funny Videos website (http://www.deaffunnyvideos.com).
  • Lou Ferrigno – Played the “Hulk” in the original series.
  • Tristan Thunderbolt – Deaf Native American Actor (http://www.tristanthunderbolt.com).
  • “JJ” Jones – Deaf mime performer since 1978 (http://www.jjmime.com).
  • Pinky Aiello – An ASL storyteller at http://www.ASLTales.net.
  • Evelyn Glennie – A world famous deaf percussionist.
  • Sean Forbes – Deaf rapper, founder of D-PAN, Deaf Performing Artist Network.
  • Sean Berdy – A deaf actor, comedian and dancer. He was in Sandlot 2, Legend of the Mountain Man, The Deaf Family, and the hit TV show Switched at Birth (http://www.seanberdysite.com).
  • Bob Hiltermann – Founder of Deaf West Theater (Fountain Theater) in North Hollywood, California.
  • Robert Hoskin – A well-known deaf filmmaker.
  • Bernard Bragg – a Deaf performer, writer, director, poet, and artist. He was a founder of The National Theater of the Deaf and is “regarded by many as the leading professional deaf actor in the country”.
  • Mark Wood – Deaf Executive Producer/Director/Writer of ASL Films (http://www.aslfilms.com).
  • Alexander Genievsky – Deaf Russian-born actor, filmmaker, writer, producer, and artist. Founder and President of the non-profit art organization Universal Sign Entertainment (http://universalsignentertainment.wordpress.com).
  • Katie Leclerc – American actress who has appeared on several television series, including Veronica Mars and Fashion House. In 2011, she received a lead role on the show Switched At Birth, starring as Daphne Vasquez.
  • Ryan Lane – Deaf actor with a role in the Dummy Hoy documentary and on television shows such as Switched at Birth, Cold Case, and House MD.
  • Marko Vuoriheimo “Signmark” – Deaf rapper from Finland and the first deaf person to sign a record deal with an international recording company.
  • Iosif Schneiderman – Deaf mime and professional actor who grew up in Russia and has performed all over the world. He directed the grand opening of DeafWay II in 2001 and co-wrote and starred in the internationally acclaimed award winning play, “Deaf Snow White” produced by Cleveland Sign Stage Theatre.
  • Laura C. Redden Searing – First deaf female journalist.
  • Julius Wiggins – Creator of Silent News, the newspaper of the Deaf Community.
  • Ken Davis – Founder/owner of Deafnewspaper (www.deafnewspaper.com)
  • Juliette Low – The founder of the Girl Scouts.
  • Shelley Beattie – Professional bodybuilder who once held the record for bench pressing (315 pounds!)
  • Terrence Parkin – A deaf Olympic swimmer who took home a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics and two gold medals in the 2005 Deaflympics.
  • James “Deaf” Burke – A famous deaf boxer. He was the first boxer who was involved in a fight that resulted in a death.
  • Curtis Pride – A current deaf professional baseball player.
  • Kenny Walker – Was a deaf professional football player.
  • Matt Hamill – Contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, now UFC fighter. Also 3 time NCAA Division III National Wrestling Champion.
  • Kevin M. Hall – A professional golfer that graduated from Ohio State University (http://www.kevinhallgolf.com).
  • Donna Sue Baker – A Deaf woman who went to TSD and won many medals in track. She represented the U.S.A. in the Deaflympics and traveled to Europe.
  • Jeffrey “Jeff” Float – A former American swimmer who became the only legally deaf athlete from the USA to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Tamika Catchings – A professional basketball player in the WNBA. She played for the University of Tennesse.
  • LeRoy Colombo – Famous deaf lifeguard entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for saving 907 lives.
  • Douglas Tilden – A well-known deaf sculptor.
  • Dianrez – Well-Known Deaf Blogger
  • Tomora Michelle Pace – Deaf author and teacher.
  • Howard Hughes – An aviator, film producer, engineer, film director, industrialist, and philanthropist.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven – Was completely deaf for the last part of his life and yet managed to produce some of the greatest music of all time.
  • Robert Weitbrecht – Invented the TTY along with James Marsters who was also deaf.
  • Ashley Fiolek – Deaf motocross racer that is sponsored by Redbull (http://www.ashleyfiolek.com).
  • Cal Rodgers – The very first deaf pilot in the USA in 1911.
  • Kitty O’Neil – A former stuntwoman and racer.
  • Sue Thomas – Undercover specialist for FBI, the inspiration for the TV series Sue Thomas: FBEye, international speaker, author, founder of Kennels of Levi: EPEC Service Dogs for physically challenged, founder of WaterBrooks a Christian spiritual renewal center, and founder of Sue Thomas Ministries outreach to homeless.
  • Thomas Alva Edison – An American scientist, inventor, and businessman.
  • Allison Lam – Deaf firefighter.
  • Gregory Hlibok – First person with a disability to be appointed by the FCC to the head of its Disability Rights Office.
  • Rhulin Thomas – First deaf aviator to fly coast to coast.
  • James Lee Taylor III – Deaf Rapper from the South Bronx on NY Daily Newspaper and City Limits Magazine. His story has been told in the book Train Go Sorry.
  • Kunle Adegboye – CEO at Morayo Communications, Morayocare & Morayowireless and a role model to many young Nigerians with his line: “Disability is in the mind”.
  • Claudia Gordon – First deaf female African American lawyer. She was also the first deaf student to graduate from the American University Washington DC College of Law.

Through awareness and educating others about deafness, we can create understanding and work to eliminate barriers, stereotypes, and negative perceptions of deafness.

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About signsoflifeasl

Ashley and Taylor aim to bridge the gap between the Hearing World and the Deaf World by creating awareness of Deaf Culture and teaching sign language through written word as well as signed videos (captioned for the signing-impaired.) Using humor and fun, Ashley and Taylor hope to make learning a new language and culture a fantastic experience for everyone! Ashley is a deaf individual whose major is in Communication with a double emphasis in Public Relations and Organization Communication. She is a double minor in Psychology and Human Development. For Grad School, she plans to get her Masters degree in Social Work and hopes to advocate for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Ashley is fluent in written and spoken English, as well as ASL and written German. She is the President of the Sign Language Club at her college. Taylor is a Hearing individual who is thinking about becoming a Special Education Teacher for young children. Her mother is an interpreter and Taylor has grown up learning about ASL and deaf culture, and is currently learning sign from both Ashley and her mother.
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4 Responses to Stereotypes and Misconceptions about Deafness

  1. carmeninchicagoland says:

    People often lack tact and respect when it comes to a lot of things. Thank you for sharing these misconceptions and teaching online communities about deaf culture. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Wall | UMHS Interpreter Services

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