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The pros and cons of wearing a badge about one's deafness

badge asking people to speak clearly

This badge is currently available from Hearing Link which sells various inexpensive badges and cards with a range of messages about hearing difficulties.

With my hearing difficulties I am always eager to try anything help me interact with the hearing world. So I looked carefully at the range of badges available for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The one in the picture seemed to indicate my needs best. So I bought several of them. Now I keep one readily available in various pockets and bags.

The badge has turned out to be well worth having. Although the times when it is of no use far outnumber the times when it helps, it certainly does help in certain situations - and that is all to the good.

How a 'hard of hearing' badge helps

The badge works well for me in the following types of situation. All rely on the legitimacy that it seems to provide.-

  • The badge really does help with shop assistants and ticket clerks - and indeed with anyone who is concentrating on me, however briefly, in order to do their job. I touch the badge to indicate its presence and ask the person concerned to speak clearly. Actually everyone thinks they speak clearly, so I don't use that word. I ask them to keep facing me, to speak slowly and to separate their words. Then if I don't hear a particular word, I repeat what I do hear to point out the word or words that I miss. I find that the individuals with whom I am interacting do briefly glance at the badge which, by the nature of the interaction, they are close enough to read and - generally - pay some attention to my request.
  • Some people just cannot speak clearly. Either they don't have the physical equipment or they are embarr­assed to speak 'outside their personal space', or they just can't be bothered. Fortunately such people seem to be in the minority, but they do exist. The badge seems to add legitimacy if I apologise for not hearing them and ask to speak to someone else instead.
  • When I am part of a group being shown round on any sort of group tour, I make a point of going up to the group leader at the outset. I indicate the badge and explain that I shall need to stand close to him or her during the tour. I like them to understand why so that they don't feel that I am encroaching on their personal space. If the situation seems right, I also add some of the points on the page about being a tour guide with deaf people. I have never found a tour guide who was unaccommodating.

The cons of wearing a 'hard of hearing' badge

  • Some people try to hide their deafness because they are embarrassed by it. For them a badge advertising it would be the last thing that they would want. However when deafness is a real problem in one's life, I have found that it is best to acknowledge it. Then most people do their best to help, although the type of help that they can give is necessarily limited by the situation.
  • The badge is of little or no use if people don't notice it. Usually this is because they are too far away. In a group, everyone is reasonably close, but it feels rude to seem to dominate by asking everyone to look at one's badge.
  • Then there are the people who simply don't bother or 'forget' about someone being deaf. I well remember a woman who told me I should display a message about my deafness, and then when I did, reported that she 'forgot' to look at it. Sadly I am forced to cease to interact with such people.

Alternatives to a 'hard of hearing' badge

I once saw a market stall holder who wore a T-shirt which bore a large message about his deafness on the front and back, such that no-one with reasonable awareness could possibly miss it. This may be worth bearing in mind, although that form of dress has never seemed appropriate for the sort of life that I lead, and I have never tried it

In summary

In summary, I would not be without my 'Please speak clearly' badges as they can be very useful indeed in certain situations. They are not the complete answer, but nothing ever is. We deaf people just have to live with our problem, make the best of what we have and use whatever strategies we can to cope in the hearing world.

10 coping strategies for the deaf


Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.