Many classically romantic gestures rely on the assumption that a partner can hear: serenading them, showering them with spoken compliments, or flirtatiously whispering in their ear.
Dating a deaf person or someone who is hard of hearing requires reimagining some of these gestures, yet these relationships can be just as loving and romantic as those between two hearing people. Here, we discuss what to know when dating someone with a hearing impairment, and provide tips to help you connect with a deaf partner.
What do I need to know?
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Understanding deafness and hearing loss
An estimated 1.5 billion people around the world live with hearing impairment. Some experience hearing loss as they reach the later stages of life, while others first face hearing impairment or deafness at a much younger age (sometimes from birth).
Deafness and hearing impairment have a range of causes and may stem from injury, genetics, or certain illnesses. Some people may use hearing aids and other devices to help them hear, though these devices don’t cure hearing loss or restore hearing completely.
With or without hearing devices, many people who are considered deaf have some degree of listening capabilities. While some may be able to verbally speak and/or read lips to communicate, others prefer sign language, and may not speak out loud at all. In short, deafness and how it impacts life and communication varies widely from person to person.
Misconceptions about dating a deaf person
There are several myths and stereotypes when it comes to the deaf community, including some about dating a deaf person. Some misconceptions include:
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing can’t sense any of the audible sounds you can.
- Going on a date with a deaf person can require a lot of work and preparation.
- A partner with a hearing impairment may look or act differently than a partner who is hearing.
- People who can’t hear have heightened vision and other senses. They can see or smell things you can’t.
- Deaf people need a significant other to take care of them.
- People who can’t hear (or can’t hear well) aren’t as intelligent as those who are hearing.
When dating a deaf person or someone who is hard of hearing, it’s important to ask questions and keep an open mind instead of making assumptions. You may find that many common beliefs about the deaf community are inaccurate, and believing them can often prevent you from understanding your partner.
Tips for dating a deaf person
Dating a deaf person is very similar to dating anyone else. Forming a happy, healthy relationship has little to do with your and your partner’s perception of sounds.
However, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re a hearing person dating a deaf or hard of hearing person.
When one person can hear clearly and the other can’t, some adjustments might need to be made when communicating. It’s essential to know your partner’s preferred method of communication. People who are deaf or have a hearing impairment may communicate by:
If they read lips, be sure to enunciate and don’t talk too quickly. Make sure to not speak while chewing, and avoid covering your mouth. If they ask you to repeat yourself, repeat what you said without shouting.
As much as possible, face each other so your partner can clearly watch your lips as you speak.
Listening with a hearing aid
For those who rely on a hearing aid or cochlear implant to hear, ask how you can make them comfortable. There may be one side they prefer to hear out of, especially if they only use the device on one side. Position yourself where they can hear you best.
If your partner doesn’t read lips and can’t hear much or at all, they may prefer using sign language. If you don’t know any sign language, learning a few basics may leave a positive impression on your partner.
Keep in mind that sign language may vary by country and culture.
Another method of communication is through written notes or texts. However, writing doesn’t allow you to look at each other while communicating and can limit natural body language.
Going on dates
People who are deaf or hard of hearing enjoy many of the same activities as their hearing peers. Sharing a meal, going for a romantic walk, or watching a movie are all possibilities, though you should remember these points:
- If they can read lips, choose date spots where you can see each other clearly. Avoid dark restaurants and other dimly lit locations.
- If your partner uses sign language, crowded places (such as a festival or club) can make it difficult to face each other to sign. Stick to areas with more space to see each other’s hands and gestures.
- If you’re dating someone who has partial hearing, avoid noisy places. Your partner may struggle to hear your voice against the other sounds.
- Some deaf people enjoy concerts and can sense the beat of the music. Don’t rule out auditory experiences before discussing them with your partner.
- Before setting up a movie date, make sure to find showings that offer captions.
- If you go on a group date or introduce your friends to your partner, be sure to include your partner in the conversation. Translate what is being said when needed.
Understanding deaf culture
One of the most important tips when dating someone who is deaf or hard of hearing is to learn about deaf culture. Deaf culture celebrates the experiences of deaf people, focusing on their strengths rather than their “disability.”
When dating a deaf person, focus on getting to know them as a person rather than on their hearing impairment. Remember: they’re not defined by their hearing impairment.
Keep in mind that a deaf or hard of hearing person is likely capable of doing nearly everything you can do—except hear clearly. They can drive, study, work, and be self-sufficient in most aspects of daily life.
Don’t assume that a deaf person is weaker or needs constant help. Ask how you can support your partner, and respect when they don’t need assistance.
Do deaf people only date other deaf people?
Many people who are deaf or hard of hearing are open to dating people who aren’t. What’s most important is that you can communicate with each other and practice patience and empathy.
Do I need to know sign language to date someone who’s deaf?
Not all who are deaf or hard of hearing use sign language. But if you’re dating someone who does, it can be extremely helpful if you learn sign language too.
Many people with a hearing impairment feel more comfortable signing than expressing themselves any other way. Learning basic sign language shows that you’re interested in what they have to say.
How can you flirt with a deaf person?
Flirting with someone who can’t hear is quite simple: you can use eye contact, (consensual) touch, and body language. You can also flirt by writing notes, texting, using sign language, or mouthing words (for those who can read lips).
When flirting on a dating app, write just as you would for someone who’s hearing—you don’t need to change yourself or treat them differently just because they have a hearing impairment.
Is physical intimacy different for someone who’s deaf?
People who are deaf/hard of hearing usually enjoy physical intimacy similar to their hearing peers, though some modifications might need to be made when communicating in bed.
Many people who use hearing aids remove them during sex for comfort, so relying on sign language and other non-audible forms of communication is essential. This often means that a light should be left on in the room to see each other’s signing, lips, and body language.
Dating a deaf person: our final thoughts
Disabilities don’t have to get in the way of true love. Dating someone who is deaf or hard of hearing can lead to a deep and meaningful relationship, as long as you focus on your similarities rather than on your physical differences.
To meet singles living with deafness and hearing loss, check out our list of the best deaf dating sites and apps!
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