Deafness FAQ


There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to deafness – only old people are deaf, if you’re deaf you can’t hear anything at all, that kind of thing….

I’ve been diagnosed as deaf for half of my life and in that time, I’ve had my fair share of questions about it. Disclaimer: these are just my responses to FAQs about deafness, but everyone is affected in different ways. I do not speak for all deaf and hard of hearing people!

Why are you deaf? Is it because you go to gigs all the time?

Nope! I doubt it helps, but I’ve been deaf all my life. The cochlea, the part of the inner ear that converts vibrations of sound into electrical impulses to be sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, contains hair cells. I just don’t have enough of those hair cells, so not all of the sound I hear can be carried to my brain properly.

Can all deaf people read lips?

Depends on the deaf person! Some can, some can’t, just like how some hearing people can, and some can’t. Some deaf people just need to do it to join in a conversation when they can’t sign with someone, and a lot (like me) rely on a combination of reading lips and listening.

Why don’t you wear your hearing aids?

AKA a question my mum asked me for years. In situations like lectures where there’s a hearing loop available, basically a sound system that hearing aids can tune into, I’ll wear them because all I can hear then is the lecture.

But, if I wore them all the time I’d constantly hear everything at the same volume. Imagine how frustrating it would be to hear pens writing, people typing, coughs, rustling in bags, general movement AND speech all at the same volume! That’s way too much sensory overload for me. Also, some deaf people just don’t want to wear them, either because sound amplification doesn’t work (like it doesn’t for me) or for a whole host of other reasons.

Are your family deaf?

Only selectively. But for me, it isn’t hereditary – it is for some.

How do you know if someone’s at the door/an alarm is going off?

Doorbells help, especially ones where you can change the sound to one you can actually register, and mine has lights that flash as well. As for fire alarms, I have a flashing box, and a vibrating pad that goes under my pillow. And yes, it’s super annoying to wake up to my ear vibrating when a fresher has burnt their toast.

How do you make phone calls. 

With difficulty! Or just by using my ‘good’ ear, putting my phone on speaker mode, or asking to text instead.

How can you play instruments and listen to music when you’re deaf?

I can’t speak for those with greater hearing losses, but I can hear enough to play instruments, and I can feel the notes as well. And gigs are pretty loud, as well as my speaker at home! Although, thanks to a lovely woman at Bestival, I bought these earbuds and now instead of primarily hearing the bass, because they make the sound go through bone conduction I can hear everything. It’s very exciting.

Hopefully this has cleared up some of the misconceptions you had around deafness – for anything else, the British Deaf Association are super helpful for information.


Third year PAIR student and head of events. Also The Edge's live editor and 2016-17 opinion editor. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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