Every family faces various challenges. Your teenage son has problems in school, your baby girl is on her difficult years, your spouse is too busy to pay attention to you, or your relatives are judgmental. The truth is, each home has a burden to bear. However, there are rather distinct challenges for a family with mixed deaf-hearing members.
Families that have deaf members typically face some communication difficulties, and these can cause trouble in social interactions, which consequently lead to hopelessness, withdrawal, stress, and anxiety.
People that are deaf are expected to adjust to their surroundings, so would it not only be reasonable to expect the same kind of understanding from those who are supposedly closest to you – your family? Explaining yourself or upholding your language always is quite tiring. When you are with your family, you should be relaxed and comfortable. Sadly, not all of these deaf and hard of hearing family members have loved ones that find the time and effort to communicate with them appropriately.
Family Life Experiences
Families with deaf members or families that are mostly deaf with hearing members have reported experiencing difficulty identifying which communication strategies they should learn and practice, as sometimes the challenges they face are also worsened by certain cultural identities – hearing or deaf.
An individual who was interviewed recalled how her family would tell her that she could hear them well when she wants to, but actually, she just got pretty used to lip reading. She became an expert lip reader that people would think she could hear perfectly. Her brother would be annoyed at her when she asks him to repeat what he said and would tell her why she would pretend not to hear. “I can’t help being deaf,” she said. She stated that she often felt pressured and anxious when she was with her family, and she thinks that they should also try their best to meet halfway for communication to be easier.
Here are some experiences of other deaf and hard of hearing individuals with their own families.
- “My loved ones tried learning sign language so they could better understand me.”
- “My parents are very patient. They know that I have trouble understanding them, so they speak clearly and loudly.”
- “My family and friends really love me. They make me feel comfortable and relaxed when we are together.”
- “My family and I work hand in hand in seeking solutions to be able to live harmoniously. I feel so lucky.”
- “My siblings don’t take time to talk to me, and they are often annoyed when I’m around.”
- “My children are so impatient with me.”
- My relatives tease me and backbite me even when I’m around. I know because they look at me, and then they laugh.”
- “I always remind my spouse and kids that I am deaf.”
- “I don’t get invited for family reunions and parties often. I guess they get tired of making an effort so I can understand.”
The Effect Of Being Deaf In A Hearing Family
Undoubtedly, it isn’t easy to be part of a mixed deaf-hearing family unit. Studies made on the subject revealed that deafness does have a substantial effect on these four areas:
- Parenting – parents who are involved in the lives of their children.
- Family interactions – the capacity of the family members to have clear and successful conversations, fix issues together, and build strong relationships.
- Resources – the family’s access to materials and services for the deaf family member/s.
- Emotional status – deaf and hearing family members are well-connected, support each other, and care for each other.
Of course, these areas are also affected by the family’s race and culture, economic status, and the deaf member’s level of hearing disability. However, the initial approach is to recognize the effects and knowing the factors that impact family dynamics.
Strategies For Deaf And Hearing Families
- Family members should think about the needs of their hearing and hard of hearing loved ones when they talk about how they should communicate with each other.
- Commit to making time for family discussions regarding issues and topics that come up during the day or week and then find ways to help each other.
- Discuss and create communication techniques together.
- Don’t laugh at your deaf siblings or parents. It’s total not cool.
- If you are a deaf member, ask your loved ones to repeat what they said if it isn’t clear to you. This is a great way of self-checking as well.
- It is disrespectful and unfair not to face your deaf loved one when you are speaking to them. Don’t make it harder for them to communicate.
- Keep an open mind and be supportive of your deaf loved one’s disability.
- Although your hearing family members have learned to do the sign language, it’s not going to be that easy. Be patient with them, and don’t expect too much. Meet them halfway.
You will grow closer and have a better relationship with your family if you learn to create strategies for connecting and communicating effectively with your loved ones. You should be proud of what you have surpassed as a family and acknowledge that you are tougher when you are together – hearing or not.