I got inspiration for this blog post from Rikki Poynter’s video, ‘Dating While Deaf.’ For those who don’t know who Rikki is, she’s a deaf YouTuber, a massive Pikachu fan, an advocate for closed captioning, and just an ordinary teenager like me!
As a person with hearing loss, there’s two sides to dating… being with a normal hearing person or with a deaf partner.
Personally, I’ve been in a deaf-hearing relationship before, and it didn’t work out. I wouldn’t say it was my deafness that ended it, as I am very capable in life with communicating, but I’d just like to point out that he could have been more understanding with my needs. (Like he didn’t get my attention when talking to me, or couldn’t be bothered to repeat what he said… so the whole thing didn’t work anyway.)
After this experience, I had doubts about whether I was ever going to be in a relationship again. I felt like all the boys my age were very judgmental and immature. At the time I also had this misconception that all deaf boys were signers, which worried me because I’ve never really interacted with deaf people before, so I felt that I wasn’t going to be able to communicate with them.
A few years ago, however, my views on dating changed when I went to a deaf young leader’s course, and met my boyfriend!
Although he lives 251 miles away from me, we’ve been going strong for 2-and-a-half years. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing… except maybe the distance! It’s such a great feeling to have someone there to talk to, and to actually understand and relate to what you’re going through. Since I’ve been with him, I’ve interacted with the “Deaf world” more, as I now have Deaf friends!
Of course, like any relationship, there are times where we become annoyed with one another if there’s a misunderstanding. I’ve noticed in the last year that his hearing is gradually getting worse, and sometimes I get upset when he can’t hear me calling him, or if I have to repeat myself. I keep telling myself to learn British Sign Language for him, because if his hearing completely goes, that’s all he’ll have to rely on. I hate to think of the future like that… him not being able to hear my voice. And he has admitted that he’s scared too. The only thing I can do is be there for him. We will fight through this.
Not everything is so serious in our relationship, even when we do argue. We always have a laugh about this one time when we argued about the most pointless thing – who was deafer! I think I won because I simply can’t use the phone to call people, but then again, he has lost all his hearing in one ear- so who would you say the winner is?!
One thing I love about having a partner with a similar hearing loss is that we don’t fuss about each other’s hearing aids, including all the ear wax!
Another bonus: the other person in the relationship is bound to have spare hearing aid batteries when you need them!
When it comes to going on dates, things can sometimes get challenging. When we go out on dates, we tend to pick the quietest places to eat with the best lighting, so we can understand each other. We love going to the cinema when there’s a subtitled showing, or going bowling! It’s great to bring out the competitive side in one another! Otherwise we just chill at home, cook some food and watch a movie- sometimes these make the best dates.
One thing that bugs me, you can never lie down and cuddle while wearing your hearing aids, as they give off so much feedback!
At night, if the lights are out and one of us says something, we always have to turn the light back on to lip-read. It’s annoying, but we’ve learnt to deal with it.
I do wonder about the future, whether with him or not – what marriage and bringing up children will be like when you’ve got a hearing loss.
Until then, I’ve come up with my 5 tips for dating with deafness:
When meeting each other, be yourself. Admit your deafness, and if they don’t accept it, then they’re not right for you
Understand each other’s cultures. (Deaf/deaf/hearing) and being willing to experience the differences. You’ll both appreciate each other more
Be patient and understanding. Don’t say “I’ll tell you later” or “never mind.” It’s not fair.
Consider learning their language. Whether it’s sign language or clearly enunciating so they can read your lips… it might make communication between you much easier
Ensure the family understand your partner’s needs. There’s nothing worse than not being able to follow the conversation during their family’s Sunday dinner.
It’s not easy, but all relationships are difficult. If you put in some effort for that special person, sometimes they do work out!
Do you have any tips for dating with hearing loss, or experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Ellen Parfitt, is an 19-year-old typical, but not ordinary, teenager. She was born profoundly deaf, but it hasn’t prevented her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as finishing her education, scoring an marketing apprenticeship, and working as a lifeguard, Avon Representative and Girlguide Leader. She is passionate about deaf awareness and campaigning. In her free time, she runs her jewelry and gifts business with her mum.