10 Dumb Things the Hearing Say to the Deaf (featuring Captain Picard)

I am deaf, and have been since I was a child – and after asking hundreds of other deaf people about dumb things that have been said to them, I compiled a list based on the results. In honor of May being Better Hearing & Speech Awareness Month, I thought this would be a good time to post this!

10 Dumb Things Hearing People Commonly Say to Deaf People:

1. “You don’t look deaf!”


There is no way to look deaf. You don’t need to ever tell a deaf person, “you don’t look deaf!” because really, how could you look deaf? Carry a grammaphone around? Have ears of some type of better yet, something in American Sign Language (ASL) tattooed on your forehead?


picard ears


A lot of people shout at us. But think about that for a second. Shouting at a deaf person. Shouting at someone who can’t hear?
Okay, it’s true that many deaf people can hear in various degrees, but shouting is almost always simply an exercise in rudeness and condescension, not to mention futility.


picard facepalm


Add talking uber-slowly to shouting.

4. “Oh hey! I sign too!”

picard signing


I can’t count the number of times someone has whipped out their hands and their own creative interpretations of signing a cat, rain or sun… “creative” being the operative word. But on the heels of this, you probably want to remember that:

5. Not All Deaf People Use Sign Language Either!

Although I have been deaf for most of my life, I only started to learn some sign language when I was 30.

Deaf people are not born knowing how to sign and if you become deaf, you don’t automatically receive an infusion of sign language along with your first hearing aid or gulp of silence.


6. “You can talk?!”

picard talk

Not everyone can talk, and not everyone enunciates like a hearing person does, yeah! Many of us deaf folk do indeed talk!

7. “So do you lipread?”

picard frowning

Personally, I am a ninja at lipreading. I am a fierce lipreader, so good that most audiologists are shocked when they they discover how little I really hear. But I’m not the norm – many of my deaf tribe don’t lip read at all and many more still do lip read a bit but don’t want to use it as a means to communicate with a hearing person.

It’s a lot of effort on our part and it’s exhausting – so it’s not something to be taken for granted, if someone does it at all. Just sayin’

8. “Do you drive?”

double facepalm


9. “Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?”

picard borg

A cochlear implant is the answer for some people but it’s not for everyone. You need to be profoundly deaf with no hearing to lose to get one at all, and for many deaf folk, being deaf is not only the absence of hearing but it is the presence of a culture, the Deaf culture.

Not everyone wants to hear – and not everyone would want to give up being Deaf, or would want their children to hear.

10. “I’m sorry”


Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone told me “I’m sorry” in response to my telling them I’m deaf….. yeah….

11. “Oh, that’s okay”

– blank look –

[yay! she’s telling me it’s okay that I’m deaf!]

And so…

Being deaf has had its difficulties but most of those difficulties are related to access. It’s hard to find and keep jobs, navigate the system and receive a solid education when society revolves around hearing in the way that it does

But hey! Being deaf isn’t a bad thing and it is certainly not something to mourn – it’s wonderful being able to reach up and turn my hearing aids off and enter a realm of total silence when my kids are screaming, better believe me on that.

– the end.


Remember how I asked literally hundreds of d/Deaf people what dumb stuff was commonly said to them by hearing people? Yeah, well, the best response that I got was this:

– My husband and I (- both Deaf) – were in a restaurant and a waitress came over and saw us signing and said, “Oh you are deaf! Great! We just got some new braille menus!”

picard giggling


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  • Girl I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry… But it does remind me when I tell someone Maddison has Ds and they say sorry…

  • I don’t mean this to sound dumb or jerky, as I’m being completely sincere. But what would be the best way to find out someone’s best way to communicate, if I shouldn’t ask if they read lips or attempt sign language? That is, if (when) I meet someone deaf for the first time?

    • The best way to communicate with the D/HH at any time is by writing back and forth on paper or texting. It’s a bit more work, but at least no miscommunication or misunderstanding would happen.

      • Really the best? The two Deaf people I’ve known both insist on lip reading. The first woman would yank paper out of my hand when we first met and insisted I learn a little ASL. Isn’t it a matter of personal preference?

      • ONE way to communicate is by writing or texting. But saying it’s “the best way” assumes the person who doesn’t hear is fluent in English.

        English sentence structure is opposite most world languages. It is also second only to Chinese as the most complex language. Hearing people can learn English because we hear it everywhere via mass media which allows us to learn from other users.

        Culturally Deaf people’s primary language is ASL which has the structure of Romance languages like French. Sure, writing and texting may work but don’t be surprised if the response you get from the non-hearing person doesn’t make any sense to you.

      • Unless its small children who are deaf. I worked in the special education dept. for a very large school district and loved it! My deaf kids each had their own way of communicating to me or any one else once they realized that communication is what this stuff was all about. Two things to remember is patience and there is no one way to communicate. I’ve had people tell me special ed kids are difficult and for new teachers scary. I tell them its going to be one of best jobs of their life. I miss it terribly.

      • Not all Deaf people can read or write. The best way would be to take your lead from them. If they sign, book an interpreter, if they can lip read and don’t sign, face them and speak normally to them!

  • Believe me or not … I once was asked “can I read?!” and I was working for the Justice Department doing nothing but type all day!! I go … ummmm … duh dumm!!

  • Although I am not deaf I can totally understand the utter ignorance portrayed here!! What a shame that people just speak with no thought process about the words that come out! I have experienced this in pregnancy, miscarriage, and now my pre-natal DS diagnosis. It’s as if anything that is not the “norm” classifies for total ignorance in conversation lol! I.E oh your pregnant?…was it planned?…why do you care lol! Oh you had a miscarriage well I guess it wasnt meant to be?…yeah that makes my grief so much less thank you said no woman ever… Oh gosh your baby will have down syndrome I am so sorry….for what? Im confused your sorry that my child has a third 21st chromosome what does this mean to you??? I truly laughed out loud at your blog I love your perspective and Im not gonna lie I am straight jealous that you can shut off the sound of fighting kids 🙂

  • Amanada – simply let the Deaf person take the lead and you can follow along with the conversation. If the Deaf person choose to speak, then you should use your voice along with him / her – making sure that the Deaf person has clear view of your lips, should they need to lipread you.
    If the Deaf person signs to you – you’ll know that you should use your signs in response.

  • I’m laughing!!! I get that all the time! Never stops. I am hard of hearing. Really I just say I’m deaf…. Love those 10 dumb things!!!!

  • I sooooo loved this 10 dumb things! You might want to add a few things that I have been asked throughout my life…and yes, I am deaf.

    can deaf people drive?!

    Can deaf people marry and …(g.a.s.p) have kids?!

    I had to give them a serious blank look…with “Are you seriously asking me that?” Then I would mime out the actions of driving a car…

    Door opened, car key in ignition and turn it, seat belt on, adjust mirrors, looking back to make sure it s safe, changing the gears from parking to driving, double check the road, the. Drive…Not too hard, isn’t it? A lot of those actions require vision…..

    I had to shake my head at several people who asked that latter question about marrying and having children. I then would act out as a doctor checking everything but the ears… Everything else is in a wonderful working order!

    (Chuckles)…these people would blush to the root of their head once it dawned on them that being deaf doesn’t stop any of the bodily functions!!!! Lol

  • I have a hearing loss and I know that’s different but in response to number 5 I have had several people come up to me and start signing.(all adults and usually swim teachers) I know very little sign language although I signed a song in 4th grade chorus but I don’t remember many of the signs(only the one that looks like your buttering your forearm) or even the name of the song(though I wish I did)

  • Hello everyone n get tht same meesage bout 10 dumb n also i m hard of hearing miself n i got an person who ask me if i can read lip if they will be no interper n i told them sure n if not then write on paper n tht not an big deal… tht person was shock n think deaf or hard of hearing ppls cant do thing same as hearing ppls n i just sat there n lol hard…. we all r humans

  • Hahaha some of these are sooo bad. To be fair though, some places don’t actually allow deaf/Hearing impaired to drive. Especially in southern areas with a lot of unmarked railroad tracks.

    ….Even though eyes still function.

    Yeah. Because a deaf person is totally going to forget they’re deaf and not look.

  • Thank you for the article. How would you like people to respond when you tell them you are deaf or hard of hearing? Obviously “I’m sorry” is not it. But if someone says “OK” they could be processing the information. Would it be best to not respond at all? That seems a bit rude. I would like to understand better. Thanks.

    • I think saying “oh, ok” , “gotcha”, “all right”, etc is totally fine, personally; I just don’t like it when someone responds with “That’s okay”, with the emphasis on the “that’s” – you know? The former is just an acknowledgement which, like you said, feels weird to go without. But the latter is like a permission.

      Thanks for asking, Sue!

  • Hi all good info but why is it so laughable to wonder if you can drive considering you cannot hear horns honking, sirens etc.? Are there special devices which alert profound hearing loss people of these things? Just love to know, have a deaf foster sister and we were not taught sign (in fact neither was she as they wanted her to speak, until she was older and went to another school.) Please clarify and thanks again for all the good info. Gretchen

    • Well, it’s laughable (- or more like face-palm-able) for two reasons as I see it:

      1. being deaf doesn’t affect our ability to fundamentally operate machinery – I mean, our EARS don’t pick up much sound, but you don’t absolutely need your ears to drive and
      2. the emergency systems on the road include lights – ambulances and fire trucks have flashing lights and the signals are lights. so the really important stuff is covered

      • Hi again and thanks for the reply. Yes, true emergency and police units have flashing lights so that answers that but still wonder about honking horns in regular cars if for instance you were about to turn in front of someone or didn’t see a pedestrian say. I can only assume that you are possibly more careful when driving and pay better attention as certainly no other noise distractions.
        Good to chat with you and I loved the humorous device of Capt. Picard. Thanks Meriah. Gretchen

  • Hi! I work at Costco. They pay very well and are open to hiring deaf folks. One of my closest friends at work is deaf, and has gotten employee of the month before. It’s a great company to work for and many of us have learned ASL just from hanging out with our 3 deaf co workers. Just wanted to let everyone know that Costco rocks in many ways!!!

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