SparkNotes Blog

Common Misconceptions About Deaf People

Thanks so much for this incredible article, Staresinspace!—Sparkitors

Hi, it’s me again! You probably remember me from the Day in the Life of a Deaf Student post. In the comments, I noticed a lot of questions about deafness in general, so I felt obliged to answer them. Here you go!

1. We are not stupid. Sadly, this misconception is fairly common. I have a few hearing friends who say things like “If you’re deaf… can you think?” Of course I can think! This misconception probably comes from the fact that many deaf people have difficulty reading—but that’s only because English is our second language. People who get cochlear implants as children might also have problems picking up spoken English because they missed out on it when they were younger. That doesn’t mean we’re dumb, though! There is an entirely deaf college in Washington, DC called Gallaudet, and in the words of the college’s first deaf president, “The only thing that deaf people can’t do is hear.”

2. ASL (American Sign Language) is a REAL language. There’s no written version of ASL, but that doesn’t make it a non-language. ASL is a beautiful visual language, and with technologies such as webcams and Skype, people can use it to talk to friends and family all over the world.

3. We have our own Olympics. This isn’t really a misconception, but it is something many people are surprised to learn. The Deaflympics were originally called the World Games for the Deaf, and they were first held in Paris in 1924. The Deaflympics take place every four years, are the second longest-running multi-sport event in the world, and have 24 sports in both the Summer games and the Winter games. My parents both placed second for curling, and my grandfather won the gold medal in basketball. The 2013 summer games will be held in Athens, Greece, and the 2015 Winter games will be in Vancouver, Canada.

4. Not everyone uses ASL. Some deaf people use ASL, others use Cued Speech, and some prefer to read lips, use hearing aids, or get cochlear implants. ASL is a language, Cued Speech is not. ASL has syntax, and it can vary from person to person. Cued speech requires the use of your hands, but it is based phonetically. Different hand positions around the mouth and face cue people in to certain sounds, and they deduce the word from those signals. Hearing aids are removable, placed in your ear, and serve to amplify sound. Cochlear implants require surgery and isn’t always effective,  but it helps some people tremendously. Personally, I use ASL, and my deaf family does too.

5. Deaf families are few and far between. My family is completely deaf, and my dad’s parents are deaf. My mom’s parents, however, are hearing. Many people turn deaf through an accident, illness, or genetic mutation. Some deaf parents have hearing children. The hearing children are called CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) and they experience both worlds. People who come from deaf families, however, usually have deaf children, as the trait is hereditary.

6. Deaf people CAN marry hearing people. I was watching MTV the other day (I’m a regular teenager, you know) and there was a special on deaf teens. As I was watching, I was horrified to see that one of the boys on the show was afraid that hearing girls wouldn’t like him. This made me really sad. People should like you because of who you are, not what you can do. There are so many great people out there, and it doesn’t matter if they’re hearing or deaf—their personalities are what’s important.

Now that you’re enlightened, feel free to go to the library and check out a book about deafness. I’ll answer  any questions in the comments. Thanks for reading!

What a fantastic article! Do you guys have any questions?

Related post: A Day in the Life of a Deaf Student