Deaf Debate: Caught between two worlds – What it’s like to be in the middle of the Deaf/Hearing Worlds

Disclaimer: anything on this blog is my personal viewpoint. We’re all entitled to our own opinions and if we can be accepting of each other’s views, that’s the best result. Please do not shout me down for opening the debate.

The subject of this blog is quite a topical debate at the moment, so I thought it would be interesting to share my feelings about it.

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit into a world that is literally designed for you? But not being accepted into this world can mean you’re juggling back and forth between two different worlds.

That’s how I feel about the Deaf and Hearing Worlds…

I was born profoundly deaf into a hearing family and grew up communicating mainly through speech and lip-reading. I went through mainstream education and now I work part time for a Spa company (with hearing colleagues). My other days are spent blogging about my life as a deaf person and campaigning for Deaf rights. I’ve also started learning British Sign Language to be able to communicate with my Deaf friends and any Deaf Signers that I meet.

These so-called ‘Worlds’…

So basically as I see it, there’s a ‘Hearing World’ and a ‘Deaf World’…

The ‘Hearing World’ is for those who can hear, and don’t have a hearing loss and the ‘Deaf World’ how I see it, is those who are born Deaf, often into a Deaf family, and communicate only with Sign Language.

So that leaves…

  • Hard of Hearing people
  • Deaf people who don’t sign
  • Deaf people born into a hearing family
  • Deaf people with hearing aids or cochlear implant

The problem is some of us are seen to be too ‘Hearing’ to fit in the ‘Deaf World’ because of the hearing technologies we use and the fact we have some hearing… or too deaf to fit in the ‘Hearing World’!

From what I’ve experienced, if you don’t fall into either of these worlds, you’re left to muddle along between the two… or to create your own ‘Middle World’.

Where do I fit in..?

I’m always questioning where I fit in… As my parents brought me up orally, it sometimes causes a stir in the ‘Deaf World’ as I don’t know much Sign Language. I’m happy with my parents’ choice. It made sense to learn to speak, seeing it’s a predominantly ‘Hearing and Oral World’. Also, it was easier for me to learn from birth, than for everyone else, including myself to learn a whole new language… that is Sign Language.

Before you judge… my parents always said it was worth trying speech first, and if it didn’t work then they would’ve considered Sign Language. I even have to defend myself to Deaf Full Signers by saying I am learning BSL now, isn’t that better than never? At least I can communicate in both ways…

Also the fact I wear hearing aids… to some it seems I’m too ‘Hearing’ to fit in the ‘Deaf World’ but I’m too deaf to fit in the ‘Hearing World’! The same applies to cochlear implant users… some treat it as if having these hearing technologies instantly makes you ‘Hearing’, but we’re still scientifically ‘deaf’.

Big/little D/deaf

And there comes the argument of Big ‘D’, little ‘d’ D/deaf… why do we have these labels?

I’m always conscious when blogging of using the right capital or lower case ‘D/deaf’ in case I’m offending a D/deaf person by calling them the wrong title! But when I’m talking about the Deaf community in general, which do I use? The hearing loss spectrum is so broad, surely we shouldn’t divide by capital/lower case letters? It’s an individual’s decision what they choose to be.

Last note…

All in all, we all share deafness in common, but everyone’s levels of deafness and communication methods are different, which makes us all unique. I believe we should all be open, welcoming and supportive of each other. We shouldn’t be expected to ‘fit’ into a world, especially if they don’t welcome you in it.

Before judging someone, I would encourage people to think what that person may be feeling… perhaps they’ve just been newly diagnosed and the prospect of hearing loss is somewhat daunting for them, or perhaps they’ve spent all their life trying to fit in the ‘Hearing World’ and is frustrated at the lack of Deaf awareness and inclusion, that they’re looking for others with similar issues or somewhere to go where there are others in a similar boat.

Like they say, you can’t judge a book by its cover…

For now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be over in my ‘Middle World’ and you’re all welcome to join, as long as the stereotypes and labels are left behind..!


  1. I’m Rosie. I’m profoundly deaf and wear two cochlear implants and I feel exactly the same torn between the two.

Comments are closed.