Last week, in Part 1 of Dating and Relationships we introduced 2 out of 5 ‘hearing’ people who were willing to share their experiences in being in a relationship with a D/HH person. This week, we would like to introduce you to Roy (Vanessa), Kevin (Jen) and Andy (Joy)! You can learn a little bit more about them below.
Meet this week’s interviewees!
How did you two meet?
Roy: We met in a not so normal way. Vanessa’s father was a supplier representative for a garage I was working at. One day he came to the shop to install shelving for his products and brought his daughter to help him. And as soon as I saw her I was hooked. Her father was also a DJ on the side and had asked me to give him a hand with equipment for a large outdoor religious pilgrimage service in Mundare, and while the service was taking place, his daughter, who came along to help, her and I were talking and I guess I finally had the nerve to ask her out. And surprisingly she said “sure”.
Kevin: Jennifer and I met in the spring of 2011. The company I had worked under for several years, Home Pro Painting, had recently started painting a complex called Newport Vista off Old Victoria Road in South Nanaimo. Our crew had been at the complex for a week or so before Jen was hired and brought onto the crew. The crew was briefly introduced to her before I was told by my foreman to teach her how to cut in on belly boards.
Andy: Mutual friend
R: I had this dumb notion that I had to assist her with all conversations that were happening around us. Like I was the only link she had to the rest of us hearing folks (which I assumed incorrectly) I had to make mental note of speaking slower(slightly) and enunciating the words more clearly. And looking straight at her while I’m speaking.
K: Jen was very upfront about her hearing loss from the get go, which I appreciated. I was slightly surprised, as I would have never guessed she had hearing loss. My initial thought was that she was no different than a person with full hearing, especially when I worked along side her painting that summer. She kept up in conversations easily and was never afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves if she missed something or if they turned away while speaking to her.
A: I thought we might have some more difficulties in communication because I tend to mumble when I’m speaking.
What are some things that you find interesting about being in a relationship with a D/HH person? Examples are welcome!
R: When you’re out for dinner, if the person is willing, and in fun, read lips across the room to know the conversation.
K: Early in our relationship, my mother told me she thinks I speak a louder now than I used to. I never would have realized this on my own! Over the years we have spent together, I have subconsciously raised my voice to ensure she can hear me. One of the more interesting things is that when we go to sleep, Jen actually hears loud sounds that I sleep soundly through; I am the daylight listener and she takes over during the night.
A: Makes you more considerate, sometimes you have to think if an activity or a place you are going to will be D/HH friendly.
Did being with a D/HH person change the way you think about communication?
R: Hugely made a difference on all forms of communication. We take most for granted being hearing and seeing. Until you immerse yourself into their shoes, wow is it rough on them to function in our world. I can no longer go to any movie I would like, as I find I’m looking to see if there is captions available. But we both enjoy Stomp, and Blueman Group.
K: It definitely did! One of my poor habits was putting my hands up against my mouth when I talked. I quickly found out that this makes it difficult for Jen to understand me and have stopped/minimized the number of times I do this now. I have really noticed that my dad does this often as well, which I probably never would have observed without dating Jen. Both my dad and I also tend to try to talk while we are laughing, which also makes it difficult for Jen to understand.
Before dating Jen, if I said something to someone and they didn’t hear me, I would frequently say never mind if I thought it was unimportant. After being together with Jen, I have learned to minimize the number of times saying this and I have learned that this is frustrating for her.
A:Yes, need to be more aware of the environment when we communicate.
Do you look at D/HH people differently now that you’ve dated/married one or is it the same?
R: In all honesty I do see all people differently now than before. Before, being young and stupid, I believed all things different in people, deaf, hard of hearing, blind, in a wheel chair, somehow affected their ability to think as the rest of us do. Now I see the people are just people. Heck, some are more spirited and driven.
K: I don’t believe I look at D/HH people any differently now that I am with Jen. Throughout my relationship with Jen, I think I have grown more aware of some of the barriers that they can face.
A: More or less the same, except I had no idea there was a huge culture behind it so it was nice to meet some of these people and get to know their stories.
What are some of the frustrations you’ve encountered while being with a D/HH person?
R: When having a conversation again, and they stop listening and assume what is going to be said as it does take a little effort to read lips all day. Needing to get their attention at a store as the continue to walk without noticing you have stopped to look at something or ask them a question.
K: One frustration, and I haven’t even had to experience this yet, is the costs of hearing aids. Unfortunately, since Jen was born with hearing loss, she isn’t entitled to any subsidies for her hearing aids. Thankfully, I have gotten a job that covers some of the costs for hearing aids, as she is in need for a new pair soon.
A: Difficult to communicate in crowded/noisy/dark places
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experiences in being in a relationship with a D/HH person?
R: Besides the occasional mispronounced word, my wife is a talented, beautiful determined woman who has done what she has wanted in her life. I am lucky to have been a small part of her life and I would never give that experience up. Between being bullied growing up, and not having some others realize that deaf/hard of hearing is not a reason to call someone dumb. Good chance they are smarter than you.
K: I believe I have learned the importance of communicating in a clear manner. This includes ensuring I am facing Jen while talking (or raising my voice if I am not) and being patient if she asks for me to clarify if she did not hear me. Jen also does her best to ensure I know when she does not have her hearing aids in, such as when her hair is wet.
What advice would you give to a D/HH person new to the dating scene, and unsure how to disclose their hearing loss?
R: For me being up front about it and being proud of who you are. Confidence is good to have. If you know a few simple ASL gestures teach them some. “Funny, beer, read, dance..”
K: I honestly really appreciated how Jen was so open about her hearing loss and immediately disclosing it amongst the crew. I think anyone in the dating scene really should open up about their hearing loss sooner rather then later, as it allowed for a special bond to be formed between Jen and I.
A: Don’t make a huge deal out of it (but don’t play it down either) and mention it when you first meet, tell them they need to look at you when they speak and they might need to repeat a few times. Being D/HH is just part of who you are, but it isn’t what you are. Just as some people need glasses to see you need CI or hearing aids to hear. If people can’t see past that then it’s not worth your time in the long run.
We hoped you enjoyed the series of Dating and Relationships! Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to ask us specific questions about this topic! (Please don’t be shy, there is no such thing as a stupid question).