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Quit “Hearingsplaining” to the Deaf Community

by Tracy Stine 3 years ago in humanity
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No matter how much you think you know you’ll never will understand the “Deaf experience”.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

We all know the “-splaining” slang - mansplaining, whitesplaining, straightsplaining, and so on.

If you don’t, it’s when someone explains or talks in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner on a topic to a specific group that’s already well-versed in that topic, but told from the perspective of the group one identifies with.

These explanations and comments are made when the person believes that the other person (or group) has no knowledge or understanding of the topic.

What is Hearingsplaining

So, “hearingsplaining” is when hearing people explain issues about Deaf culture and Deaf life, when they really do not understand how it really is. I’d like to expand that to also so say these hearing people also disregard and disrespect the Deaf Community’s opinion and input.

This is pretty rampant among those in the academic and interpreting fields where hearing educators and hearing interpreters feel their training and book smarts makes them superior to the Deaf person’s experience, even when that Deaf individual has advanced degrees and training themselves.

Hearingsplaining Examples

Here’s some examples of hearingsplaining I’ve read across social media.

A sign language interpreter states she spells out all the students names every time in a classroom. A Deaf woman, who is educated in ASL linguistics and is a Certified Deaf Interpreter, called the interpreter out on it, stating that teachers don’t teach kids names by spelling them out verbally every time, there are much more efficient ways to teach names. Instead this deaf woman was chatised by the interpreter whose only job is to interpret English to ASL, period. Completely dismissed her experience and education only because she’s Deaf.

A pair of hearing people stated that Deaf people need to learn how to navigate the hearing world and they’re willing to teach the Deaf community how to do this, for a price of course. This is an insult to our capabilities, as we’ve survived in this world long before them and will continue to survive long after them.

You may remember my previous post “The Harsh Truth Behind Those "Hearing for the First Time" Videos”. I scrolled through some comments and read this:

“Apparently the writer only understands cochlear implants and not modern hearing aids.

The writer states hearing aids only amplify sounds and doesn’t affect individual frequencies. Modern hearing aid do affect individual frequencies, not increase all sounds. If the author knew that they would probably ditch their implants.

While hearing aids aren’t perfect, they are are a lot better than implants, and I was hearing without “relearning” almost instantly”

Well good for you, but I’m still Deaf and will never get to hear like you.

I believe this all stems from the misconception that since one cannot hear, they also cannot think, and that they need "help" to survive and live - which is *ahem* bullshit.

It’s a form of Audism

Audism is described as a negative attitude towards deaf or hard of hearing people. It’s discrimination, prejudice, or an unwillingness to accommodate those who cannot hear.

Harlan Lane, a strong advocate for the Deaf community, quoted:

“in short, audism is the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the Deaf community”.

So hearingsplaining is a form of discrimination where the deaf minority are dismissed for the hearing majority’s favor.

A great source to learn about audism is in this DVD “Audism Unveiled”.

Parents of Deaf Children

Some parents of deaf children can be just as bad too.

I’m not talking about those parents who learned to sign and got involved in the Deaf community to learn all they can about deafness and Deaf Culture and to engage their child in that culture as well. For these parents, I cherish you and welcome you in and will help you with any questions and concerns, and I’m sure many other Deaf people will as well. This isn’t about you.

There are parents out there who attack any sign of “deafness”. They insist their child will not be Deaf (capital D) and be as “normal” as possible. They discourage any sign language, any involvement in the Deaf community or even meeting another deaf person.

These parents have even attacked Deaf people and stated “My child will never be like you”. When all the Deaf individual was trying to do was help out, after all many deaf people grew up deaf and even had parents that insisted on them being normal too. Deaf adults usually are just trying to ease that deaf child’s future and not have them go through the same “hearing system” that failed them.

So to be hearingsplained by hearing parents of deaf children and dismissing the deaf experience in the hearing world is disrespectful and in my honest opinion, exposing the deaf child to a rough childhood of forced hearing and conformation as well as depriving that deaf child of a clear accessible language as well as a rich culture and heritage.

A great book on raising deaf children is called “The Silent Garden”, I suggest you read it for deeper understanding of a deaf childhood.

Final Word

No matter how many degrees you have displayed, how many years you have worked - you will never know and experience Deaf Life. Your viewpoint and thought processes are of an auditory, speaking world and you fit everything into that worldview.

Those of us who are deaf have been through struggles you’ve never thought of, we've endured discrimination almost daily, we’ve adapted and adjusted, and we know deaf children because we were deaf children ourselves.

So, please stop hearingsplaining and dismissing our experience, our knowledge, and our hard work and imposing your opinion over ours.

Do not silence our Deaf hands and voices.


About the author

Tracy Stine

Freelance Writer. ASL Teacher. Disability Advocate. Deafblind. Snarky.

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