Growing up as a deaf person in a hearing world, it was normal for me to be dating hearing people as I grew up speaking and lipreading. Having parents that speak and hear, having a partner who was able to do both was a bonus for them because they were able to communicate with them.
Auslan (Australian Sign Language) came later in my life as well as being involved in the Deaf community. Unfortunately having a Deaf partner who mostly communicated in Auslan, my parents were unable to communicate with them, so I was constantly interpreting for my parents and partner, which was weird because my mother speaks clearly and most Deaf people that had met her previously over the years were able to lipread her, as she had worked with older Australians who became hard of hearing or deaf later in their lives.
There are a lot of negative and positives when it comes to different aspects of dating hearing and Deaf people. Talk about dating hearing people, there are some great aspects but other aspects not so great. Such as being able to have a conversation in the dark, which makes it difficult as I lip read and plus I would need adequate lighting to be able to see the other person’s face. The same thing happens when I am in bed with my partner, I can’t hear them, but they can hear me. Usually we sort out whatever we want to say before the light is switched off, any other thoughts that came to mind during the night would have to wait till the morning.
With Deaf people, we can’t really have a conversation in the dark hence the need to have a light on; in fact, it’s pretty annoying wanting to talk to someone in the middle of the night, and having to switch on a light to have a conversation because you would be rudely waking them up because you want to talk about whatever is on your mind.
A noisy environment can pose a problem because I am limited in what I can hear when there’s so much going on when talking to a hearing person. This also applies to the hearing person, especially if they don’t know me well enough to acknowledge that I can lip read, rather going directly to my ear to yell into it. I tend to push them away, or yell back into their ear and tell them I CAN LIPREAD! Some don’t get it or some walk away.
It’s a bonus when I date a Deaf person and we communicate in Auslan. We can converse without a problem in a noisy environment and across the room!
Communication is a big important thing within a relationship. With a Deaf person, I can easily have a video call with them and chat about how our day was. It’s pretty much easier to see facial expressions and the visual language involved. With a hearing person, conversations via text messages, some messages can be misconstrued as there’s no expressions linked to it or they take forever to send a reply back!
I had a few partners with facial hair; often I would remind them to trim their moustache as I couldn’t see their lips to lipread. Oftentimes they would style it into a fashionable mo, by giving it a bit of wax and style to the point where I can see the lips.
I had maybe one partner that actually learnt basic Auslan, like fingerspelling, “how are you?”, good, bad and maybe. He kept up with it for awhile and then stopped using it. It would’ve been nice if he had kept up with it, as communicating that way was awesome for me, but unfortunately as time goes by, you get comfortable with just speaking. When I first met him, he was the biggest mumbler; eventually he learnt to speak clearly and not to mumble as time went on because I would always ask him to repeat himself as he wasn’t clear.
Dating these days is a hit and miss; you get the good and the bad when it comes to dating. On my online dating profiles, I’ve listed that I am Deaf, that I can speak well, lipread and that my other language is Auslan (Australian Sign Language). Before I put that part on my dating profile, I used to get a lot of messages. Since I’ve put the above statement in, I hardly get as many messages I used to get. In general, I think it’s a good thing as it weeds out the people who aren’t interested in getting to know me as a deaf person.
My advice to hearing people wanting to date Deaf people, is to be patient and learn basic Auslan if possible. If communication is hard between the two of you, you can always refer to the pen and paper method, or even using the Notes app on a mobile phone if the previous items aren’t available to you on the spot. You find a way to communicate with them, you don’t shun them – we would love to get to know you if you open your world up a little bit more to include those who are a little different to you – but we’re still human, just can’t hear well or not at all.