What is it like to be deaf?

“What is it like to be deaf?”

People have asked me.

Deaf? Oh, hmm… how do I explain that?

Simple: I can’t hear.

No, wait… it is much more than that.

It is similar to a goldfish in a bowl,

Always observing things going on.

People talking at all times.

It is like a man on his own island

Among foreigners.

Isolation is no stranger to me.

Relatives say hi and bye

But I sit for 5 hours among them

Taking great pleasure at amusing babies

Or being amused by TV.

Reading books, resting, helping out with food.

Natural curiosity perks up

Upon seeing great laughter, crying, anger.

Inquiring only to meet with a “Never mind” or

“Oh, it’s not important”.

Getting a summarized statement

Of the whole day.

I’m supposed to smile to show my happiness.

Little do they know how truly miserable I am.

People are in control of language usage,

I am at loss and really uncomfortable!

Always feeling like an outsider

Among the hearing people,

Even though it was not their intention.

Always assuming that I am part of them

By my physical presence, not understanding

The importance of communication.

Facing the choice between Deaf Event

weekend or a family reunion.

Facing the choice between the family commitment and Deaf friends.

I must make the choices constantly,

Any wonder why I choose Deaf friends???

I get such great pleasure at the Deaf clubs,

Before I realize it, it is already 2:00 am,

Whereas I anxiously look at the clock

Every few minutes at the Family Reunion.

With Deaf people, I feel so normal,

Our communication flows back and forth.

Catch up with little trivials, our daily life,

Our frustration in the bigger world,

Seeking the mutual understanding,

Contented smiles and laughter are musical.

So magical to me,

So attuned to each other’s feelings.

True happiness is so important.

I feel more at home with Deaf people

Of various color, religion, short or tall.

Than I do among my own hearing relatives.

And you wonder why?

Our language is common.

We understand each other.

Being at loss of control

Of the environment that is communication,

People panic and retreat to avoid

Deaf people like the plague.

But Deaf people are still human beings

With dreams, desires, and needs

To belong, just like everyone else.

–Dianne Kinnee (Switras)


  1. Carol Knight says

    I have a 15year old granddaughter and I know this is how she feels, it breaks my heart when we are all together, because I know eventually she will disappear to her room. Just her immediate family knows how to sign. She is the reason I am going to learn how to sign so she will feel like part of the family. The only problem is I live in another state then her. I am trying and will keep on her aunt’s and uncles to learn also. Your poem needs to go out so everyone can read it. Thank you so much. If I may use it to post it on my family chat that we have on messenger please email it to me. I thank you very much.

  2. Rachel torrey says

    I love that writer has found places where they are comfortable in life. Everyone deserves that.
    This poem made me grateful that I’m learning ASL. I want to be able to communicate with deaf people.
    I feel very uncomfortable when I see deaf people communicating with sign language and I can’t understand. The same as when someone speaking another spoken language that I don’t know. I want to know whats being said! I want to connect! That’s what we’re here for!

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