Dating can be such a challenge! It’s a whirlwind of expectation and awkwardness that is even more challenging when you’re deaf or hard of hearing.
Our CEO, David Brady, shares his experience in the wonderful world of dating. We hope it provides insight for teenagers just starting out in their dating experiences, and even those older people who are still putting themselves out there in the hope of finding a partner.
This blog was originally published on LinkedIn – Silent CEO Blog #24 – Someone asked me a question on dating as a deaf guy in a hearing world and republished here with permission.
Dating As a Deaf Guy in a Hearing World
Recently in a conversation with friends, I was asked about my experience of dating as a deaf person who uses his hearing devices. My immediate response was, it’s like a job interview with challenges that require thought and tact, with my hearing loss thrown in, to impress the lady on a date.
I must confess, I am currently at the time of writing this blog single. I’ve never been married (I still have hope), and am in fact actively dating to find Miss Right. The same for every person who is seeking a life partner, a friend, and someone to share their life’s journey with. It is to be honest, like job searching, it is a hard game as the stakes are much higher for all parties involved than working.
I am not looking for sympathy through this particular blog, the purpose is to give one an honest insight of what challenges are experienced by adult working Australians with a hearing loss.
For me, being single is not by choice. I have had some great long term relationships but for some reason these relationships did not lead to a life partnership.
I do confess that my competitiveness to succeed in my career and achieve to be the best in the sporting area may have deterred some women. It is very easy for me or anyone to not blame my hearing loss, it should not be a factor in the dating game like my employment search? Should it?
I have reflected on my dating experiences and I must confess that there were times when my hearing loss may have let me down or caused serious doubts in my dates to pursue the relationship further. Lets’ look at a few situations that I have experienced which may help others to not make the same errors.
When I was in my 20’s I was one of those guys who wanted to be part of the team. You could find me playing my sport hard, trying to win at all costs, then head to the bar to celebrate or commiserate the result. I do remember times when we would go on the town and head into bars and clubs where naturally the blokes on the team would be trying to “pick up”. For me, these places were noisy and dark. I lost count of the many times a girl would ask me a question by coming up to my ears and talking into it. As a deaf guy, I could not hear them and being polite I would tell them I lip read by saying “can you speak to my face”, the action also includes a subconscious gentle pushing away the girl to see her face. Unfortunately, 90% of the time the girls would take it as an offence and walk away, and I would be left not knowing what they said.
Other times the girls and guys would be in groups. Being deaf, I can picture now the reason why I was not noticed or included because my face would come across so serious due to just trying to follow the conversation. I would try and jump if I knew what the topic was, this is what I call my group inclusion “hail Mary” where to be noticed and be part of the gang, I had to say something. It worked 30% of the time, the other 70% everyone would look at me and someone would say, “mate that’s not what we are talking about”. Being a visual reader of people, I noticed the girls who were part of the group did not want anything to do with me. Despite this, and being competitive, I would hang in there knowing if I did not stay and try it would signal defeat on my behalf. Even with the modern technological advances of having hearing aids now having directional microphones does help a bit but one has to work it out, and adapt quickly to meet the challenges of the modern environment.
Naturally, like a jungle, what may have made it more challenging is that everyone seems to be out for themselves looking for their own perfect match. So when one, like myself, goes thinking that their team mate on the town will cover for them, the stigma doesn’t allow for them to be seen with the “deaf guy” in team. There were occasions where you see the subconscious movement away from myself or a deaf person in the group to be seen “normal”. You might read this as cruel and offensive, but to be honest when it happens many times, you just have to move on and not let it get to you.
Like searching for a job, we have online search engines for a date. The question I face is whether I should put I’m deaf on my profile, it is like putting it on my resume. You can be sure there will be people thinking this is too hard and not worth finding out more about me. The fear of stigma still resonates on paper for many deaf Australians, all simply trying to find their way.
It’s not all doom and gloom, I had some success on getting dates with women. When I do and these are mainly with women who may not have had a conversation with a deaf man before. Being one who wants to impress, I would try and create dating situations that would make it comfortable for the female rather than worry about myself. I am of the thinking, that if they are giving me a go, I need to try harder to make them have a great time and feel appreciated. This may sound wrong, but for me, there is a subconscious fear in my mind that if I don’t get it right, then I would not leave an impression at all on her as a life partner.
By doing this, looking back on this, I may have caused more harm than good. For a start most dates are in bars or cafes, which the locations are great, but for me it’s about trying to work out quickly the best place we can sit to chat. My subconscious checklist will be as follows:
- Is there enough light so I can see her face clearly?
- Will I be in a position to be able to hear and lip read to get the conversations flowing?
- If there is a seat on the wall, will my directional mode in hearing aids work, while at the same time will she be comfortable?
Let’s say I had a few dates where I thought I had it all correct. The venue is right, and I get to the place only to find that the music is louder or the light has dimmed. One date I remembered meeting for the first time after getting her number at bar with friends, the venue was perfect until the lights went down. I told her of the situation but she insisted that we stay and thrash it out. Let’s say the conversation was more dominated by me and I subconsciously did not give her a chance to get much in. When she did, it was more me going “pardon” and rephrasing. The night ended not so well and it was no surprise to get the text of “you are a nice guy but it is not going to work so I wish you the best of luck for the future”. At first these type of texts annoyed me, but as one gets older it became the norm, and I just moved on.
Another date insisted we head out to the beach and go for a swim. On paper it’s a great idea, and being deaf I could have refused but you know what, as a competitive guy, a great chance to show off my lip reading skills. When we got to the beach, we settled down, had a chat and then we decided to swim. At that point I told my date that I have to take my hearing aids out and cannot hear at all, but lip read. Her face at that point got nervous as she asked me, “aren’t your hearing aids water proof? We have watches etc. that are now… so why aren’t they?” I explained and she was hesitant, but went along with it anyway. When we got into the water, I started talking she turned around and talked back, I lip read most of what she said. But when we got swimming, she started to get frustrated with me and left the water. I saw her heading back to her towel thinking she would be sun baking, so I kept swimming. A few minutes later, I headed back to our spot to find she was gone and only my things there. I was mystified so I texted her to find out if everything was ok, only to receive a text back saying that I was rude and left her feeling unsafe and uncomfortable. One example of many different types of feedback that I receive from different women.
Lately a big challenge I have found in dating, is in regards to money and security. Increasingly I am asked more and more since I left my 30’s about my job and future. My response is that I am a charity CEO. I make change for many Aussies, and work hard in my career. Unfortunately, the niceness changes when the questions come up about my hearing, it’s normal to get questions like… so how much do they costs? How can you hear at night? I feel uncomfortable with the fact that you may not hear a child from another room in the house. How are you going to help me on this? Yep these are real question on a dates.
I also get asked… Why have you not succeeded well so far compared to other men your age? What have you done wrong? To the best of them all… so what guarantee can you provide me that if we have kids that our baby won’t be deaf. Hard to believe but these are real questions from women that I meet.
So what I have found is that the dating game is similar to my experience of finding employment. By now one can begin to understand why most deaf males like me, remain highly competitive and work maybe too hard to impress and succeed. It is a very hard habit to break down and in fact one that not many of us want to back down anyway.
I still believe she will appear in my life and I will be taken out of the dating game. At least for now, my blog may help others think differently when dating a deaf person, male or female. And for those who are deaf or hard of hearing take heart they are not alone in the tough arena of finding love.
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