Can We Be Kinder in Our Hearing Loss Advocacy?

Thank goodness that people with hearing loss are kind and supportive of other people with hearing loss.

Aren’t we?

Like almost everybody I know – and the millions of people I don’t know – I’ve been struggling with the fierce polarization of views in this challenging time of politics and pandemic.

We all think: how can people not see things the way I see them?! Can’t they see how ridiculous and dangerous their views are? Thinking is one thing, but the trouble starts when we start expressing our thoughts, especially on social media.

Although I’ve been known to express a strongly-held opinion or two, I am also horrified at the scorn and ridicule that people offload onto social media pages when they describe people with opposite views. Hearing loss social media pages and groups are not free from this sort of horrible-ness, as I was reminded yesterday.

Some poor soul wandered into a hearing loss Facebook group and asked, “Can people with hearing loss drive cars?? I’m asking for a school paper I have to write.”

The stream of answers lit up Facebook like a nuclear power plant! Interspersed with well-worded and respectful answers were comments like that’s the most dumb-ass question I ever heard! Are you stupid?

Facebook groups usually require their members or post-ers to be respectful, but ‘respectful’ seems to have increasingly different interpretations. Every day I read posts from people who share half-truths and promote their misunderstandings about life with hearing loss or deafness. And this is OK because sometimes people just need to vent their frustrations and fears in what they assumed would be a safe place. But sometimes the ensuing discussion can turn a bit nasty.

Hot buttons that get people going:

  • How we should describe ourselves (deaf, hearing loss, hard of hearing etc.)
  • The difference between Deaf and deaf
  • The value of cochlear implants – is it invasive surgery? Does it change our identity?
  • What hearing people think they know, but don’t really know, about hearing loss
  • How society treats people with hearing loss – it’s not always good…
  • The cost of hearing aids and how hearing aid companies are ripping us off
  • Should children who are born deaf be taught to speak or use sign language – or maybe both?

Long time advocates like me have seen these topics debated over and over again, especially with the advent of social media. And these discussions are valid, because there are continual waves of people newly affected by hearing loss, for whom the topics are relevant. Newcomers to our lived experience may not ask questions in the right way, or they might pose opinions that run contrary to what we believe. They may not have been prepared for the bewilderment of life with hearing loss and so bring with them pre-existing beliefs that perpetuate a negative stigma surrounding hearing loss and deafness.

I love what social media has been able to do: get information and support to millions of people who may feel isolated in their hearing loss.

I detest how social media is used as a platform for ridicule instead of understanding, condemnation instead of support, and even cruelty instead of kindness.

In her beautifully articulated piece, “How Can We Be Fierce Political Advocates, Yet Still Love Others Well”, Janie Giebelhaus says, “The sad thing (I’ve realized) is how easily we jump to insulting others when they don’t have same conclusions as us. We have been great…advocates, but we have forgotten about loving others.”

Let’s share what we’ve learned with compassion and kindness. And let’s disengage if someone persists in arguing rudely. It’s easy to write nasty things when we are simply faceless words on the screen. It’s hard to take them back.

People with hearing loss deserve our patient, positive and compassionate support. I know this, because the support that I received years ago from this same hearing loss community saved my life.

 

 

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

7 Comments

  1. Hello Gael,
    Thank you for your concern. You are right, but don’t be angry or don’t be surprised for any response you received from people with hearing loss. Let me tell you something… Do you have hearing loss? Hearing loss is not just about ear alone. Hearing loss of some people also affect other parts of their body. If you received negative or harsh response from some hard of hearing people, please, don’t blame them. Take it lightly, that may be the level of their understanding. Rap with deaf people. You will see that, some of them are also have problem beyond deafness. We should love ourselves. Hearing people did not live us. They have no sympathy on us. But we who understands should help ourselves. Thanks

  2. Well put, Gael, as expected. I totally agree with your position of support and empowerment rather than the nastiness and ridicule that I, too, have witnessed on social media related to hearing loss, as well as other topics. Life is so much better when we give others a piece of our heart, rather than a piece of our mind.

    Fondest regards, my friend.
    Pat

  3. As you say Gael, a timely reminder that we are all on different parts of the path in our journeys. Being kind everywhere is good, even more so on social media where people often ask questions they may not be game to ask in person. Let’s use the opportunities people present to inform, educate and encourage discussion.

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