Thursday, September 28, 2006

350: Concrete Audism

What are Audistic behaviors? My new book of the week is Glickman's "Mental Health Care of Deaf People: A Culturally Affirmative Approach." This awesome book has a list of abusive responses to deaf/Deaf people by hearing people which I would like to examine. I want to help further the discourse on Audism currently happening at Gallaudet and elsewhere. I reproduce a short list here, with my comments:

  1. Drawing erroneous and damning conclusions from inappropriate psychological testing. ("Do you hear voices?" "No, I'm Deaf.")
  2. Diagnosing deaf people as mentally retarded, autistic, or schizophrenic, and allowing them to languish in institutions. (I remember one woman from MSSD, very sweet, who had been in an institution for several years because nobody realized she was deaf.)
  3. Holding a medical conception of what it means to be deaf-deafness as a pathology, a handicap, and a tragedy-and therefore believing that deaf people need to be "fixed."
  4. Believing that deaf people are disabled not just in being unable to hear, but intellectually, emotionally, and morally. (I see this all the time.)
  5. Promoting the idea of the psychology of deafness, that deaf people are unintelligent, egocentric, concrete, irresponsible, impulsive, immature, paranoid, and so on. (Ironic! I often see the same people who complain about divisiveness in the Deaf community, go on to say that "All Deaf people are..." It's the same with women's studies: the men complain that they are being left out, then immediately go on to say "Well, all women do this and this," and don't see why the women are pissed off.)
  6. Actively discriminating against Deaf people in hiring and promotions. (Mostly because of access. I will be talking about this book's take on access, and my own attendance at a speech Glickman gave, as soon as I have the time.)
  7. Showing paternalism, pity and contempt toward Deaf people. (Sometimes, if you use an interpreter who is lousy and makes you sound like a petulant five-year-old... well, it's tough.)
  8. Excluding of the Deaf community from decision making on key matters, such as educational policies and medical procedures that pertain to Deaf people.
  9. Disempowering them around communication, resulting in communication isolation. (Happens all the time, especially in hospitals.)

Pick a number. Do you experience audism, based on these categories? How do you work against these ideas?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! *You* should write a book.

The oppressed becomes the oppressor- I see too many instances of this thoroughout the deaf community, especially on

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! *You* should write a book.

The oppressed becomes the oppressor- I see too many instances of this thoroughout the deaf community, especially on

Anonymous said...

I didn't want to complain yet again about this :) but the first anon pointed it out too -- as a deaf person, I get this kind of crap from hearing and Deaf folks :(

Joseph Rainmound said...

Yes it's called INTERNAL audism. It happens too. Black people insult other black people. Women pick on women, also. This is what happens in the real world. Interesting how many people assume I'm only talking about hearing people. Anyone can be an audist. Even a Deaf-of-Deaf, fluent ASL signer can be audistic. I've had people sign at high speeds at me - the theory was that if you signed faster you were somehow "more deaf" (I prefer signing slowly and clearly.) That's Audism, and as childish as speaking really fast to confuse an older person: it results in communication isolation. (Of course, sometimes people do that in REACTION to insults you may not have consciously given.)

Pam said...

I agree that YOU should write a book!
I have an "ousider comment" that may not make any sense, but I'd like to share

It seems to me that Deaf people encounter many of the same problems as the members of other cultural/linguistic minorities. However, the Deaf community has the double disadvantage of being one of the "quiet" minorities. I am under the impression that, unless one is part of an annoyingly loud group, it may take forever to get things to change, or even to draw some serious attention to an issue. In several everyday situations screaming and shouting pays off.
Who knows, maybe getting rid of this yelling-based system would help to slowly abolish some of the issues you listed.

Anonymous said...

OK, to return to your original question -- experiences of audism.

I just went in today to get an audiogram done -- in this state, everyone is required to take an audiogram before getting a hearing aid. This was because I guess HA used to be sold door to door to people who had other problems than deafness (ear infections and so on). But there is no provision for people such as myself who have worn HA for years. I consider this paternalistic and probably audistic.

The audiogram itself is divided into two parts. The first part is a simple set of tones where you press a button for the ones you hear. That's fine. The second part of the test, the audiologist recites a list of words and you repeat them back to them. This part is very problematic: I have scored anywhere from 35% to 70% on this depending on the quality of speech on the part of the audiologist. I've had men (more trouble hearing them), mumblers (dear god), people with thick accents (WTF???) and so on and on. It's ridiculous -- unless that variable is controlled, that part of the test is meaningless.

Due to the nature of my deafness, I've never really had a TTY because I can function on the phone BUT I can NOT function with automated phone systems. I need things repeated, usually clarified or said another way if necessary. Therefore when for example I'm expected to phone in for jury duty, I point out that I can't navigate their voice tree mail system thingie, nor can I use the TTY since I don't have one. So normally I just throw away jury duty summons. I expect the marshals to come any day now ;-)

The whole issue of exemptions being granted right now to broadcasting companies so that they don't have to comply with the ADA on captioning...!!! WTF?

I've attempted to learn ASL as a deaf adult and been harrassed by certain Deaf-identified individuals for not having learned it as a child (like it was my choice in the matter).

I've got more, will post more as I get a chance.

OTOH, when I travelled to Cuba, an individual approached me and showed me his hearing aids. He was disappointed I didn't sign, but we talked for 1/2 hour anyway, lipreading, broad gestures, and I spoke spanish anyway. Turns out the HA are free, but batteries can never be found. Gave him all the ones I had with me.

Joseph Rainmound said...

It's interesting to me that Deaf people lambast oralism and talk about how harmful it is, but then reject the victims of that harm... I was lucky in MSSD because people accepted me despite my crappy signing skills.

I'm still not sure what's up with all those exemptions. It's not just captioning - money for Deaf services is being cut left and right - look at those $4 million cuts to Deaf theater a couple years ago.

Anonymous said...

It's part of the same overall pattern of the current administration: cut everything but benefits to the rich out of the government. Bah.

Let's see, some more examples. These might be more ignorance, but there reason I list them here is that these can come from people I've interacted with for a while, not strangers

Had a chiropractor who, out of the blue (I had never discussed my deafness with her other than the standard "You'll need to look at me when you talk" line I give to all professionals I have to work with), said she felt if I continued with the sessions might "clear up" my hearing. I moved on to a different chiro, needless to say.

I've had friends, even boyfriends, insist that if I "tried harder" I could understand more, miss less. Like, I was being lazy or deliberate about misunderstanding things and it was really just a matter of sheer will to overcome these things. This one really burns me. I can get this from otherwise pretty good/close friends from time to time. I don't know what to make of it. It would be like getting mad at a friend in a wheelchair, if she'd only try harder, she wouldn't need the wheelchair? I think this comes about because of the "invisibility" of deafness and how it comes off as a "stupid" thing. So you get a constant cognitive dissonance between my obvious intelligence and my apparent "stupidity"? I honestly don't know.

Am currently dealing with another fellow online who has as part of his definition of audism: "A deaf person who does not know sign language is an audist." I've got an exchange in email going on with him at the moment to get him to see the absurdity of that part of the definition (see's deaf pages). I do not know if this individual is deaf/Deaf.

As a potential tangent here, but maybe it's related to all this, I'm a bit baffled by the labels. It seems there are fairly precise meanings to HOH, deaf, and so on? But I will use a variety of phrases in dealing with the public at large. I consider myself deaf (75% loss one ear, 90% loss in the other), but I've described myself as hearing impaired, and the like to the public (especially over the phone) because people consider "deaf" to be the same as "completely and utterly without hearing" and there's no good public recognition of the amount of difference that's possible with HA. I *would* be for all practical purposes utterly without useful hearing if I did not have HA (this is why I consider myself deaf) but in my particular circumstances, HA work very well for me. Maybe that's audism of a sort, being unable to recognize degrees of loss or just having so little understanding of it. But to me, a HOH person is someone who can get by most of the time without HA, maybe only needs one, can use those little ear canal based thingies.

I don't mean to natter on, but having gone to the audiologist yesterday, CI came up -- somewhere along the line she said of course I wouldn't qualify for one and I asked her what the reasons were (I don't want one, even if I did, but I wanted more info). I thought I wouldn't qualify cos I'm an adult who has never had normal hearing and I remember reading that was a disqualification but according to her it woudl be because I had too much useful residual hearing to put a CI in. She said you have to destroy the inner ear to put one in (I didn't know that!) and so doctors won't destroy something that has some function. She sounded very negative about CI overall basically saying that it was really best for people with no residual hearing but otherwise good nerve function (?), primarily very young children, or adults with sudden adult onset.

OK, here's more audism: She also said how it was insane that insurance companies cover CI no question at $40K a pop, but will almost *never* have HA coverage. This is true: I have HA coverage now, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE and it is a measly $1000 limit per hearing aid. I want to move up to digital, so for a pair, I have out of pocket $830 expense, and this is for the basic, no frills variety. The other thing that is crazy about this coverage, is the $1000 limit has been in place for 10 years with this insurance company. It has not gone up, despite the fact that as we all know, HA are more and more expensive every year...

Hmph, I should take on the handle "Long Winded"...

Kevin said...

I'll keep this short and sweet....

In regard to "internal audism".... exactly that has been bugging since my entry to the Deaf world! Every so often, I'd get this consecending attitude from ASL natives. Those flippant "oh, I'm better than you because you are oral" remarks will not cease. Okay, I'm about to stray off-topic :)

breenie said...

interestingly some schizo deaf people do hear voices. i'm not sure how it's done if he or she doesn't have a concept of what a speaking voice sounds like. I once had a client who would reguarly update me the intensty of voices she is hearing for the week. sometimes very low and sometimes very high where she'd demonstrate trying to hold her head together.

anyway. I can go on and on about pathology and "adjustment disorder"..

labelling sucks.

Anonymous said...

OK here's one, does it fit under audism? Not sure. But here it is: with the increase in direct advertising of medical type of services over the last, oh, decade or so, not to mention the age those baby boomers are reaching, what I get in the mail all the time, from the friendly HearX folks who deal with my HA purchases is a shitload of "OMFG NOW THAT YOU ARE AN OLD FART, HERE ARE HA'S THAT NO ONE WILL EVAH NOTICE YOU WEARING SO YOU CAN PRETEND YOU ARE STILL SWEET SIXTEEN!!"

If you have HA, you must be 60. Walk into anywhere that sells HA, and the ads on the wall all feature "older models". IE, gray hair everywhere.

Yes, I bitch about this *everywhere* I go and see this crap.


Anonymous said...

On the list number 4....I see that all of the time within deaf community to be honest...especially with young children/adults. I am deaf myself but am not a member of the deaf community mainly for those reasons. I find it very difficult to communicate with them (not all of course, but a majority of the deaf population) on logical level without certain constraint on expressing how I want to say.

And to the lady above on "Trying harder".....jesus christ tell me about it. When you hear that from the person whom have spent all of the time with you and seen that you could not really communicate nor interact in a normal fashion as they could, especially in the group setting (let face it, we spend most of our social life in group setting), it makes you tear your hair out!