‘What Dating is Like When You Have Hearing Loss’ is an article recently posted at Refinery29, a woman’s lifestyle and culture site, and it got us thinking about the remarkable challenge romance faces when it’s called to bridge the deaf-hearing divide.
It’s not an unexplored problem: A quick web search reveals there’s quite an extensive literature extant on the phenomenon. Here’s a look at some of the challenges various deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing folks are having in ‘mixed’ relationships.
For the Deaf, Dating a Hearing Person Can Mean Added Obstacles
Dating, it should be acknowledged, is something that’s quite stressful for just about everyone. But those who suffer from deafness or hearing loss—which is about 15 percent of the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health—have it particularly tough. According to a report from Action on Hearing Loss, people with hearing loss are more likely to experience emotional distress and loneliness. They are also at double the risk of developing depression.
The Refinery29 article profiles a deaf woman named Louise. She has bilateral sensorineurlal hearing loss of a severe-to-profound nature, which means she relies heavily on both hearing aids and lip reading. She happened to meet her current boyfriend at the gym, but she says that online dating sites make it easier to get to know someone first. Louise prefers to charm people with her personality and humor for a few minutes before mentioning that she’s deaf, but she’s sure to mention it soon. It’s important to know if people feel awkward or uncomfortable around her because of her deafness.
Communication is critical in any relationship, and it’s even more so when a couple is separated by a language barrier. Louise says perhaps the most important quality both she and her boyfriend recognize is ‘The need to understand and be patient. It’s harder to connect with someone and hit it off straightaway. It’s harder to respond when someone is flirting and pick up on conversation cues. I had no idea my boyfriend was trying to flirt with me when I first met him.”
Deaf Singles is only one of at least a half-dozen sites that cater particularly to deaf people—although many of them accommodate hearing people who are deaf allies, too.
Speaking of dating sites, it turns out that there are a lot of them focused on the deaf crowd:
Deaf Singles, Deaf Singles Meet and Meet Deaf Singles are just a few of them. There are a number of sites for disabled that include large deaf populations, and some popular mainstream sites predominantly used by hearing people also let you search for deaf matches.
… But a ‘Mixed’ Relationship Isn’t Easy for a Hearing Person, Either
‘What I Learned When I Dated a Deaf Man’ appears on HuffPost and outlines some of the challenges one hearing person faced. No matter who you are, it turns out, meeting your boyfriend or girlfriend’s family and friends is tough. Just as a deaf person can feel left out in a hearing crowd, a hearing person can struggle to feel accepted and communicate adequately among predominantly deaf people.
The author of the HuffPost piece, a woman named Robin, says that in her case, all of her boyfriend’s family and friends were deaf, so ‘I wasn’t just stepping into a new world, I was stepping into the lion’s den.’ But thank goodness for the internet and YouTube videos! They ‘helped me pick up on ASL and really learn how to move my hands, arms, body and face.’ Eventually her then-boyfriend’s younger sister gave her a name-sign, which was a big deal. A name-sign, she writes, is ‘rewarded and earned, something that takes a long time to get if you’re a hearing person wanting to delve into the deaf community.’
Challenges and Rewards
If you’re interested in learning more about the experiences of deaf people who date hearing people, and discovering some of the tips and tricks they’ve used to make it work, you might be surprised at how much valuable information you can easily find on the web, exploring articles that range from Geek and Jock’s ‘7 Amazing Tips You Need to Know in Deaf Dating’ to Glamour’s ‘Dating Through Deafness’ and The Limping Chicken’s ‘The Secret Deafie’ and many others.
There’s plenty of solid advice custom-written for people in a wide variety of very particular circumstances—whether it’s deaf people who grew up fluent in signing, deaf people who grew up in an oralist tradition, those who are hard-of-hearing but identify as deaf, and many other sorts. There are resources, too, that you might not be aware of—such as professional deaf relationship counselors, dating support groups and much more.
Dating is tough, no matter who you are.
But the rewards?
They can be stellar!