Deafness presents a challenge

Nonnie Maus, Contributing writer

College students have a lot to deal with before we fall into bed at night. We wake up, try and find some breakfast that’s a bit more than coffee, run to class, run to work, do homework and try and get a little social time into our day.

Some people, like me, have to do all of that without an even playing field. I am deaf. I need to use lip reading to understand everyday conversation.

Sometimes that gets frustrating and has the potential to cause problems for me.

Classes can get difficult unless a teacher uses slides to illustrate what they’re saying out loud. There are some terms that are difficult to understand, especially if I can’t snag a seat up front. Occasionally, I get due dates wrong or I read the wrong sections. Many classes include films in the syllabus, but teachers rarely turn on the closed captions and I occasionally miss things and have to rewatch the film outside of class.

Sometimes I misunderstand my friends. There have been innumerable conversations where I think that my friends are saying something completely off-the-wall and I’ve been trying to divine meaning from them, when in reality, they said something completely different. Most of the time we laugh about it, but it’s still mildly inconvenient.

I get told all the time that people wouldn’t know that I’m deaf. It’s not like I wear a tee shirt and I don’t wear hearing aids.

What does a deaf person look like, then? Why would my not looking like whatever concept of deafness a person has in their head effect the acuity of my hearing?

I end up not telling anybody about my hearing issues. That’s why this article is anonymous. I’m worried that people will think of me differently or treat me differently because of it.

This idea isn’t unfounded. An interaction I had in a craft store this past month brought this point home. It came out in conversation with the cashier that I was deaf. She immediately raised her voice to a shout and spoke slower, as if I were Siri on a particularly surly day.

I’m sure that others with issues that aren’t immediately visible run into this problem as well. I hope that eventually, both myself and others will be less afraid to ask for what we need and that others will be more caring in providing it.