Invisibility and isolation

I have reached out to other people who are hard of hearing via an online group. In order to be respectful of their privacy, I won’t go into details about them. I’ll only relay experiences we’ve had:

When we as deaf people are approached by strangers who do not know us, we aren’t invisible to them. Our hearing impairedness is invisible so we are generally treated as “normal”.

It’s when they know of our hearing loss that we become invisible to our friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.

At work for example, someone might say that colleagues are going for happy hour after work. If we’re focused on work and someone might says to all assembled, “hey – see you at the pub later?” You might miss this call out because you’re focused on your work. You go home after work, and you might find out the following day, “hey, how come you didn’t come out?” You might shrug and reply, “no one told me,” but deep inside you’re hurt. Hurt that no one thought to check to see if you knew; no one thought to text you, “hey, you coming?” And the person would say, “But it’s a good thing, isn’t it? You’re so good at lip reading and communicating that we just assumed you heard us.”

Someone told me that she thought of inviting me out for dinner and dancing with a group of people, but decided not to because she thought it would be too noisy for me to understand and she didn’t believe that I would be able to hear the music and dance. I politely told her that it’s not up to her to decide what’s right or wrong for me, and it did take a lot of self-control not to snap back with a good swear word. She still doesn’t understand why this was a big deal to me. She still doesn’t include me in the dinner and dancing evenings.

I have a friend who isn’t a big fan of technological communications – texting takes up too much time when she can just say it in a nanosecond, and she doesn’t do Facebook, or any social media. I respect that. However, I wish I could tell her how much it hurts me that she can’t meet me halfway by texting. She just prefer to talk on the phone verbally, it’s faster, she can get all her thoughts without getting distracted with delays involved with typing, but I’ve told her, I can’t understand half of the things she say and I know she gets frustrated if she has to repeat herself more than twice, so I start to pretend to follow her on the phone, uh-huh, okay, and hope she doesn’t ask a question that requires more than a yes or no answer. She needs to text me more if she wants to stay in touch with me. She wanted me to call her on the telephone. I’ve said that I’d call her if I can use the Message Relay Centre, but it’s worse than texting. You would have to call an operator who will then call the person, and the person would be talking to the operator who then will type out what she said, and vice versa. You just cannot have a heart to heart talk this way. So we talk to each other less, and only when we see each other face to face do we remember why we were best friends.

Someone told me that sometimes they feel that if their friends get together, someone might say, “should we call them to come meet us?” and someone might respond, “nah, can’t be bothered, takes too much effort to include them.” No one has ever said this outright, but sometimes it’s a feeling they get. I know I get that feeling too. It’s the sense of feeling that we’re burdening people with the differences in socializing. It makes me hesitate to reach out and contact people I know, friends and family, because I feel I’m intruding on them. This even includes just pulling up my messenger and texting people just because I feel like it. I feel like I should keep quiet until someone initiates contact with me.

I debated whether to write and publish this. But a huge part of being disabled is having to deal with isolation, and I do think my paintings reflect the isolation. My landscapes never have people in them. My still lives are things. What I really love to do, and don’t do enough of, is drawing and painting people. I want to reach out to my friends and say, hey, I want to do your portrait. But that would mean having to be in close proximity and making eye contact, which is hard to do when you live in isolation.



We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

Published March 20, 2016

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