Them Hearies; Who Can Figure ‘Em?

By BitcoDavid

Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation

Marsha Graham raised an interesting point, this morning. In a post on her site, she asked why Hearies often leave the TV blaring in the background, while attempting an important business call. I responded as best I could with a comment. The above links will take you to her original post, and my comment. I suggest you check them both out. The whole exchange got me thinking about communication in general, and some of the more glaring social differences between the hearing and the HoH and Deaf communities.

For example, we don’t consider it rude to talk over one another. At a group get together, say a party, we will commonly carry on conversations while others are talking around us. Our brains have learned to filter out the extraneous noise of other people talking. But I’m beginning to realize that for some HoH, that is very difficult and uncomfortable. We also carry on multiple conversations, simply interrupting one another to say hi to a passerby or when speaking in a group. Signing requires the two individuals to be more or less locked in to one another. You need to be looking at one another, and maintaining that level of concentration.


Computers are well aware that simply because I say something, you may not have heard it – or may not have understood my meaning. When you log on to a Web site, the machines engage in a process called handshaking. A computer would never be so ignorant or arrogant as to simply assume the other computer understood the information exactly as it was being sent. I find the Deaf to be much similar in their communications. One needs to establish a visual contact, and then proceed with the conversation – and both can tell when either is not being understood.

We Hearies on the other hand, commonly will speak to the crowd, or toss a sentence fragment over our shoulders, and expect the intended listener to hear and understand. We speak to the backs of each other’s heads. Our world would probably function much more smoothly, if we also did handshaking. “This is what I just said, did you understand?” “Yes, I understood. Go on”

But what I’m finding most interesting is that much of what we do, we are unaware of doing. I hadn’t thought about the TV thing, until Marsha brought it up, but I do it all the


time. I also talk to myself when working. I never realized it until last night. One has to remember to take one’s hat off when signing, because many signs involve touching parts of your head or face. One has to be careful not to cut between two signers. We’ve learned to stop when we see someone taking a picture, so as not to ruin the shot, but we often will walk between two people signing.

At one point, I worked with a sightless individual. He was one of the soundmen at Woodstock. A very capable engineer, and a very dear friend. He was so capable, in fact, that I would often forget that he was born blind. He could see with his hands, almost as well as any sighted person can see with their eyes. In one exchange, I asked him to hand me a certain tool, explaining that it was in the blue toolbox. He simply said, “blue? Moron?” We take so much for granted.


BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

6 thoughts on “Them Hearies; Who Can Figure ‘Em?

  1. Yup, “hearies” who can figure ’em? I can’t. And I’m considered a “hearie” in that I can hear some conversations. Yet, I have never been able to participate in the kind of interaction fully hearing people do. David, you describe things that I can’t wrap my little pea brain around. It would be so much more convenient if sound wrapped around corners. 😉

    In a loud environment I hug a wall and, If possible, I try to cut off contact from the left as well, since I’m totally deaf on that side. In fact, if I am approached from the rear life then that person does not exist in my world.

    Society understands people who cannot hear at all – ever – but the Hard of Hearing may hear in one situation and not another. Especially in the case of late deafened individuals there is increasing frustration by spouses and other family members (siblings, children) as well as the HoH person. People think a hearing aid fixes things. It doesn’t. It just provides more sound, but it can only do so much – it cannot replace the hearing a fully hearing person has. The hearing aid can’t filter out extraneous sounds – as the longer a person has hearing loss the less able the brain is able to filter out the extraneous.

    For instance, if Felix Garcia had no ability to get any noise from hearing aids, if a radio meant nothing to him, if he could not lip read because he’d never heard voices, the expectations of the guards would be different because it would be totally pointless attempting to communicate with him in any way other than in writing or by gesture. But by being in the never-never land of the seriously hard of hearing life may be harder for him.

    Hearies just don’t get it about communication with anyone without a full range of hearing – which is too bloody bad because by age seventy-five 3/4 of them will be HoH.


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