“The phenomenon whereby an individual with an attribute, which is deeply discredited by his/her society, is rejected as a result of the attribute ” Wikipedia

Where you have less value and use to society because of something about you that is different. This is prejudice and acting on that prejudice is discrimination.

How often do you come across prejudice because of your hearing? How often are you discriminated against? Is it ever deliberate or does it occur because of a lack of understanding. How much do you tolerate before you act?

The reason I am asking is because a cyberfriend of mine Dr Lauren Storck is writing a paper on the stigma of hearing loss and she would like to have some examples and experiences for her research. She would use any quotes anonymously if you would prefer. Her email address is

I know that almost everyday I experience some form of stigma. Most I chose to ignore, some days I laugh at the moment. Other days, when you know that you have been denied a job, a promotion, an opportunity because the people you are dealing with think that because you have a hearing loss that you function at some lower level.

The BBC used to have an excellent radio programme called “Does He Take Sugar” which looked at issues faced by people with disabilities. Its title is taken from the way that some people will address the friend of the person with the disability and not the person in the wheelchair. They have made an assumption that someone using a wheelchair can’t hear/think/talk. My BFF uses a wheelchair, often when we are together she has to repeat what others have said so that I can make out what has been said. She doesn’t answer for me, she understands only too well what it’s like to be pigeon holed, for others to make assumptions about your abilities.

Some quick examples from this week.

On Sunday MLM and I went out for a meal, the waitress spoke to MLM only. She wouldn’t look at me and attempt to speak clearly, nor would she write anything down. Mind you, she made a mistake in the order so maybe her writing isn’t very legible…..

In hospital, for the implant. I couldn’t get TV in my room. I don’t know if this was because there were no captions because the man who came to talk to me about it left when I said that I couldn’t make out what he was saying because I was deaf.

There was the OR room assistant who would not remove her mask when she was talking to me, nor would she let me keep my specs on until I was asleep. Why not? Aren’t my needs as important as someone with hearing?

There are different models of disability, the medical one where disability is a disease to be cured, and if it can’t be cured it should be quarantined. The social model is inclusive, where society and the built environment should be changed to accommodate our differences. The cultural model embraces what others might call a disability creating a world where having that “disability” no longer puts you at a disadvantage.

The classic stigma for deafness and hearing loss is in the phrase “deaf and dumb”. At one stage in my life I wore a badge/pin saying “Deaf not stupid”, I felt it was such an issue that I needed to confront it. I’ve seen people passed off as demented when they were deaf, no one had tried other means of communicating with them.

What are you experiences, thoughts, opinions??


13 responses »

  1. Someone I worked with once told me he had thought I was "stuck up or British" when I'd 'ignored' him saying Good morning because I didn't hear him…. to make this make more sense I should say that there was a team of British people working nearby to where I sat.

    I think a lot of people consider me snobby for not socializing with them rather than realizing how hard it can be for me to just join a group conversation at lunch. Next to impossible.

  2. I wonder what the Canadians think then of this British woman in their midst! Stuck up and snobby maybe?? I think they realise I can't hear, but maybe are more accepting as I am British and so, in theory, reserved??

  3. Thanks so much for this blog and the stigma topic with examples. I'm looking forward to reading more here, and if anyone wants to email me privately, feel free, via email. By the way, I am deafened myself for 8 years now.
    The examples about hospital ignorance are just so annoying! I had surgery last year (a few) and thank goodness most staff were very accommodating (e.g. removed masks when they could!).
    Lauren (

  4. You are a clever person to write about these issues. It is only in writing about them that others will learn.

    It is my fervent hope, nay, confidence, that our young people are learning about different abilities. My classes were full of 'special' children (aren't we all?!). None were discriminated against and all learned from one another.

    It is in educating one person at a time that you will make a difference.

    My husband's loss is 30%, and we spend so much time laughing at what he thinks I said, that we learn to take joy in this gift.

    My father had 75% loss, while having dementia. THAT is another story!
    Asking him, "Do you want a pill for pain?"
    "What? A pie for pay?"
    Only now is funny.

    Keep on advocating.
    Give yourself a pat on the back.

  5. Mog, thank you for this wonderful post and your blog. I have read several of your other posts and I will be back to read more.
    I work as a cultural interpreter and teach staff how to overcome their stigmas and how to communicate clearly.
    I always very so incompetent when I can not communicate in another language whether it is french, italian or sign!
    Thank you for sharing and stopping by my blog.
    I will be back.
    Blessings and smiles

  6. People think I'm rude or ignoring them and that just makes me not someone they want to socialize with.
    Or if they do talk to me they yell, distort their facial expressions by over talking, wave in front of my face or scare the hell out of me.

    I face discrimation with hearing loss almost daily and the fact that I am a lesbian, I've encountered it there as well.

    I have a thick skin and am resilent and don't let it bother me anymore.

  7. I don't face a lot of stigma on a daily basis but that's mainly because I avoid social situations that expose my hearing loss. That's not a very good thing for me to do as I've become quite reclusive (although that's due to other things as well) but avoidance of pain is a tendency that I have and facing stigma is painful.

    I have experienced being on the receiving end of assumptions about my intelligence because many times I'm so focused on the 'filling in the blanks' of mumbled speach so it makes sense that I can miss the joke, the subtleties in spoken convos, banter. Of course being female, blonde and booby doesn't help with counteracting some people's prejudices.

    In England, I had the added assumption from some that I was just another dumb North American… though on the flipside, I could use the 'I didn't get that because of slang or accents'… but after five years, people stopped buying that excuse so easily. 😉

    So I guess my experience with stigma is that it has been an influence in my withdrawing from a lot of social activities.

  8. Allow me to share:

    I have had little stigma when I was growing up and even today. I do wish TVs had CC when I was little. My dad always had to explain the plot of the movie.

    I could never properly understand phones so my parents did the hearing for me whenever I called someone. I now have a cell phone but only use it for texting.

    I was never a social person and still am not. It's not just my deafness, I am also a nerd(example: being obsessed with numbers) and others think im weird. They don't understand the way I think and apply facts, numbers and logic to everything. I am very frank/blunt and unintentionally offend others and could never understand why others seem to get offended so easily.

    It seems like people don't want to hear anything they would disagree with and they always think they must be right and everyone else must be wrong. This isn't just about deafness but about anything else. Ive told my parents and many others about the house bubble and how house prices are inflated and will drop big time. I pointed out logic and facts supporting my debates and it turned out true.

    As for me communicating with others, im great at reading lips. People still have to face me and pronounce each word clearly. If I can't see their lips, relaying on hearing alone everyone sounds like they are mumbling or talking gibberish. My audiologist says I just need to train my ears more then ill be able to understand speech. He did reprogram them and I do hear better, in fact I hear low frequencies better than my parents do.

    I have blogged alot about myself, hearing loss, cochlear implants, stem cells and what ive learned. I also learn alot by reading other's blogs, asking them questions and getting answers.

    Thanks for presenting the opporunity for me to share. I hope nothing I say offends, it's not my intent. I am just frank/blunt in my wording and have no idea how others interpret the meaning of what I say or if they interpret it differently than I do.

    In my last comment, I did wish you well and hope you keep alot of residual hearing. It's the main reason why I am scared on getting a CI for myself, the fact ill lose my residual hearing and might never be able to wear a HA again in that ear. Im also scared I may miss out on future technology in that ear as well.

    My own audiologist is scared for me and others as well and told me and others if I ever decide to get a CI, I can never go back to HA for any reason. He lets people make their choice. I do the same and ive never warned anyone away from CI, I just present the facts and let them decide for themselves.

    I did check a CI center and they only implant those with severe-profound hearing loss and they require a minimum of 70db HL in the low frequencies and 95db in the mid to high frequencies. In addition to the decibal numbers, they also require your speech percent to be less than 40% and you must guess and you get credit if you guess any letters/words/phonemes correctly. Just sharing what I learned from a CI center.

    Again thanks for your blog posts and comments.

  9. DeafDude
    Thank you for being gracious enough to comment. I think my previous response to another comment of yours was part post op angst and part showing my prejudice to numbers! One of the problems with hearing loss is that it restricts interactions with others, and so probably affects our personalities in many ways. I know that I am considered variously; difficult, hard work, touchy, paranoid, rude, etc etc. Many of the other comments have touched on how hearing loss causes you to modify your behaviour. The same applies to those who are "shut in" because of other disabilities, mobility, sight, agoraphobia, for example.

    You do come across as anti CI DeafDude and in your blog have commented that some people should not be getting CIs because they arent deaf enough. Perhaps you should talk to a CI centre and go for an evaluation. I scored 38% in the tests, I guessed too, you have to when you can't see any faces to read. If you don't guess then you are only cheating yourself as the test is designed to show whether or nor you will hear better with a CI than with a HA. It is a no return decision but I figuered I had nothing left to lose.

  10. Back on the subject of stigma. I no longer get comments that I am too young to be deaf, so now I get the assumption that as I am deaf, middle aged, fat, and female I must be stupid. What about people with multiple disabilities, how are they treated? Or are they just ignored?

    Are some disabilities more acceptable than others? Do some get you more brownie points when you help that person? Which organisations get the most volunteers?

  11. I've watched my brother deal with deafness and eyesight problems since he was born. I think the challenges and sheer difficulties he faced trying to get through the school years created an angry, frustrated young man who will shy away from many social situations and cannot deal with more than a couple of people in a room at the same time. At the ripe old age of 38, he is now slowly losing his eyesight and I truly fear for his mental health more than perhaps his physical health.

    Having said that, the last time we spoke he seemed more upbeat and positive than I had heard in a long time and rather than blaming the world for his situation I might almost say he is tackling the disabilities head on, and for the first time in his life he has actually asked for help. This is a biggie! He has obtained some kind of assistance through the social networks in the UK, and as a (to some people, a silly) example he was given a "Fisher Price" keyboard for his computer, ie, huge keys!

    Stigmas for him? Most definitely – which he has often simply not been equipped to deal with. I suspect he would have been a complicated character without any of these issues, but throw them into the mix and he is hot-headed, misunderstood and overlooked.

  12. Hiya! I came across this blog while googling 'stigma deaf'to research for my project.
    I empathise so well with most of what you and others have mentioned. I have long been viewed as 'stuck up and snobby'due to reasons mentioned above like not hearing people when they talk to me (obviously!), etc. As time goes on, I became a bit reclusive as it takes too much of my energy to be in social situations where there are bound to be lots of people milling around and talking at the same time (daymare scenario!). Growing older and knowing the kind of person I am in addition to having some support from understanding family and few friends, I learnt not to take those statements personal. Deaf awareness is seriously lacking worldwide. Geez, now if everyone turned deaf overnight as a result of some mysterious bug sweeping the world, would there be a better chance of us having an upper hand? ***big sigh***
    I will pop in here more often. Best wishes!

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