Popular culture has taught us that preconception is something obvious. That people who hold preconceived notions are keenly aware of them. That they always know what they’re doing when they act unfairly towards a marginalized person or group. The reality is much more nuanced. Behaviors based on preconceived ideas more commonly manifest as unintentional acts — something the hard of hearing frequently encounter. With that in mind, let’s talk about a few of the most common unintentional acts experienced by the D/deaf community and the Hearing Impaired.
What IS a Preconceived Idea?
Essentially, a preconceived idea is an opinion formed beforehand without adequate data or information. Such notions can result in acts of of unintentional, indirect, or subtle discrimination. Such acts are common, and marginalized groups frequently have to deal with them multiple times per day.
“Call Us Back…”
As a result of COVID-19, many organizations — government agencies among them — were left scrambling to establish an online presence. Unfortunately, in that frantic transition, people with hearing loss were forgotten. Businesses, service providers, and public sector organizations alike are almost guaranteed to feature a phone number on their website, encouraging visitors to call them for assistance.
Next time you set out to contact an organization about any sort of service, have a look at the communication channels they offer. There’s a good chance that in most cases, they prioritize voice calls. A line of contact which, without hearing assistance devices, is virtually impossible for the hearing-impaired to utilize.
They probably don’t mean anything by it. It’s just an unintentional oversight. Yet that doesn’t make it any less exhausting or frustrating for people who can’t work, hire contractors, or manage critical documentation.
Generally speaking, this takes two forms — infantilization and patronization. The former occurs when someone treats a disabled person as if they’re incapable of caring for themselves. In the case of the hard of hearing, this could involve exaggerating one’s speech, acting as an interpreter without being asked to, or repeatedly double-checking that a person has heard what you’re saying.
Your Discomfort Speaks for You
People with hearing loss aren’t as unaware of their surroundings as some people seem to think. They can tell when someone is uncomfortable about their disability. Even if someone claims one thing, their body language can tell a completely different story.
It can be uncomfortable confronting the question of what you’d do if you lost a core sense. But it’s important to remember that D/deaf people don’t view their disability as some insurmountable cliff or a terrible obstacle. They just communicate a little differently from others.
Awareness is the First Step to Betterment
Acts based on preconceived notions are often just an issue of perspective. And the best way to address that is through education. The D/deaf and hard of hearing communities worldwide are vibrant and unique, full of life and thrilling stories.
Ironically, all hearing society needs to do is listen.
About the Author:
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.