We’ve all felt out of place at one point or another. And though the experience is both frightening and unpleasant, it often proves valuable for personal development. Provided, that is, we don’t feel it all the time.
Unfortunately, as a newly-deaf individual, trying to participate in hearing society can often make one feel like a perpetual outsider. Worse still, entering a Deaf space can feel just as intimidating if one is still adjusting to the idea that they’re no longer a hearing person. And that’s made doubly frightening if it’s a space where all talks are conducted entirely in sign language.
The first thing to remember is that there’s no shame in taking things slow. Start small by participating in an online community where Deaf people control the dialogue. This can be an excellent way for you to get to know your peers without being thrust headlong into a completely unfamiliar scenario.
As for how you find such spaces, it depends where you look.
On Twitter, you can search for the #Deaf hashtag. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can look for groups made by and for Deaf people. You can also just search for deaf advocacy groups or communities on Google — you’d be surprised what might pop up.
If you’re looking for a starting point, however, some of our top recommendations include:
Or maybe you’re not quite ready to interact with people. Perhaps you just want to find some relatable content to help you adjust to your new life. There’s plenty of options there as well, including, but not limited to:
- Rikki Poynter, a d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing activist and advocate.
- Don’t Shoot the Messenger, a YouTube comedy series focused on a clumsy sign language interpreter.
- That Deaf Guy, an artist who regularly releases comics about life as a deaf person.
Once you’ve spent a bit of time interacting with people online and absorbing Deaf culture, it’s time to take the next step — in-person interaction. You might try to find a Meetup group in your area or start one of your own. Alternatively, you could look for a Deaf club, ASL Slams, or Deaf cultural events located in your city.
However, the most important thing to remember through all of this is that you are not an outsider, and you are not alone. You might still be learning sign language, and you might be new to hearing impairment. But you’d be surprised how many people are in exactly your position — and how many more were exactly where you are right now, only a few years ago.
Ultimately, the best advice we can give you is that you should never be afraid to reach out because you never know who you might meet.
About the Author:
Dr. Renee Flanagan is the Director of Audiological Care at Hearing Planet. She works with the training and development of Hearing Care staff so they may help the hearing impaired population by following best in class hearing healthcare practices.