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Deaf people can't reproduce: Top 10 worst deafness myths

Published Date: 02 May 2016

We've compiled a Top 10 list of some of the worst beliefs about deafness that exist in the UK, and are publishing it in Deaf Awareness Week to bust out-of-date myths and improve public understanding.  

Our social media survey uncovered misconceptions that deaf people can't reproduce, aren’t intelligent, don’t make good parents and will never find love. Notions that deaf people can read braille and should look a certain way were also cited.

A larger survey we did with NFP Synergy also revealed that almost half the general public believe deafness is a learning disability and over one third think deaf people can’t hear anything at all.

This lack of awareness is deeply worrying, and we hope raising awareness of these misconceptions will help foster inclusion and acceptance for deaf children.

Our Chief Executive Susan Daniels commented: “I’m dismayed that some of these assumptions actually still exist in society today. Deafness is not a learning disability so deaf children can achieve anything they set their mind to with the right support.

“Poor awareness and support means that many deaf children and young people are feeling isolated, at risk of bullying and falling behind at school. We hope that by publishing the list and busting these myths, we can ensure the next generation never underestimate what deaf children can achieve.”

The top ten worst misconceptions of deafness as told to the National Deaf Children’s Society by members of the deaf community are:

  1. Deaf people can’t reproduce – “When I was 10 a shop worker asked if the man I was interpreting for was my uncle or a friend.  When I said it was my dad she asked how was it possible that he was a father if he was deaf.”

  2. You can never be a good parent – “I’ve been told by people that I shouldn’t have children because it would be irresponsible and selfish to inflict that on someone.”

  3. You cannot be clever – “I contacted a school to enquire whether it might be suitable for my deaf son and was informed that, as all the pupils were very bright, it would not be appropriate.”

  4. You couldn’t possibly find love – “I can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked by parents of small deaf children if I’ve ever had a boyfriend or if it is possible to ‘find love’ and be in a relationship as a deaf person. So it’s quite a common misconception that deaf people aren’t loveable.”

  5. You can’t read – “When I passed my driving theory test at the test centre, the receptionist looked really surprised when she handed me my results. She said, “You passed! You got 34 out of 35. Can you actually read?” I replied sarcastically, “No, I chose all the answers at random and somehow managed to get 34 right out of 35. Of course I can read!”

  6. You should be able to read braille – “I was in McDonalds with my cochlear impact on show, when the cashier, looking very pleased with himself, handed me a menu in braille. When I explained I’m deaf and not blind, he insisted this would help.”

  7. You have a certain look – “The amount of times I have had “but you don’t look deaf”. How exactly am I supposed to look?”

  8. You have compensatory superpowers – “You're deaf, so your sight must be really good!"  I was wearing glasses at the time.”

  9. You can hear on the phone –  “Every time I go into a mobile phone shop or bank, the first thing I say is that I’m deaf.  In the course of the conversation, I am always told that I’ll need to ring the call centre. I always say that I’ve come into the store because I cannot ring the call centre, I’m deaf, but they always insist that I need to ring the call centre anyway.”

  10. Being deaf is no big deal – “I have relatively good speech so people always underestimate the severity of my deafness. I’ve had well-meaning friends who tell me that it can’t be that bad, that I’ve ‘won the health lottery’ and that it is ‘just like being short-sighted’.