Social Challenges For Deaf Individuals

This is a topic I’ve always wanted to talk about, but few people hardly address it.

Deaf people often struggle with social challenges, emotional detachment and isolation. In the worst cases, the lack of connection may lead to a dark path of addiction, bad habits and depression.

Some classic examples involve social relationships, theater, and sports -- especially those that require focused teamwork.

This begs the question: what can we do to get deaf people involved more fully, increasing our quality of life and lessening feelings of isolation?

Sports and Theater

A lot of high school and college deaf sport teams spend a lot of energy into their brief sports career. But what happens afterward? There's no source to continue their passion, unless they make the NFL, NBA, or other professional sports teams. Even in the Olympics, hearing athletes get only two, maybe three, chances at it because of its four year training cycles.

Many deaf kids have been told that there’s no future in sports and to not bother with it. What many people forget is that there are plenty of opportunities to play intramural sports in local communities. There are adult leagues that hold practices after work and games on weekends -- soccer, basketball and even pick-up kickball.

However, being the lone deaf person on a hearing team can be difficult, especially if verbal teamwork is required. Hearing teammates may be kind enough to come up with hand signals to help the deaf person keep up with what’s going on, but even that cannot always be counted on.

In the big cities, deaf communities may be large enough to create all-deaf teams within an existing league, and even to create new all-deaf leagues with multiple teams. This seems to be the best solution for staying active in sports after high school and college.

Deaf schools across America also offer opportunities for their students to participate in live performances. Again after graduation, there is no outlet for theater students to continue their passion.

Like sports, post-college theater and live performances are limited to only the best actors and actresses. Unless, of course, deaf communities set up their own live theater performances and give deaf individuals a chance to audition and participate.

Social and Family Relationships

90% of deaf people have hearing parents. Growing up in a hearing family poses common problems we deaf people share. A classic example involves dinner conversations where we feel left out. When laughter erupts, our curiosity spikes.

When we ask what’s funny, we often get dismissive replies such as “never mind”, “I’ll tell you later”, “it’s not important” or, if they actually make an effort, we get a brief summary of what was talked about. Their jokes get relayed to us, but the timing is often off and the punch lines aren’t quite as funny.

This is not an indictment against hearing people, many of whom are some of our most beloved family members and lifelong friends. Most do have noble intentions. Without having the skills and training of a qualified interpreter, it is impossible for them to keep us up with the group conversation in real-time.

Aside from these situations, it is important and beneficial to foster friendships and community relations with deaf people in your area.

What's also popular in the deaf community are school programs where students have a chance to do something with their reputation or degrees. In deaf schools, the deaf kids live, eat, sleep and learn together in dorms for years, learning sportsmanship with each other. Then they lose that network after they graduate.

We wonder why not build a company that still offers that kind of network -- from the ground up?

We, Beyond Tone, do expect to collaborate with as many mainstream partners as we can. Our goal is to leave you better than we found you and leave the community stronger than we found it.

As we conclude this article, we want to part with a link to a thought-provoking article about the relationship between addiction and lack of connection: “Could the Root Cause of Addiction Actually Be a Lack of Connection?”

Share Your Thoughts With Us!

We want to ask you a question and are curious about what you think:

What is the biggest social problem for you as a deaf person? Do you feel isolated? And why?

Comment below!