Deaf history

Advanced and Primitive Technology in Deaf culture

How do Deaf people hear doorbells, phone rings, and alarm clocks? What technology do Deaf people use?

As humans are highly adaptable, Deaf people are quite innovative with communication across all those centuries. They are quite creative and intentive with primitive and advanced technology.

Hearing and h-eyeing people share some of the same technology. Some different. In the beginning, they used a wide gap of different use of the technology. These days, the gap gradually became thin as both use texting, videophone, Internet, email, and so on.


In the olden days, hearing people knocked on the doors of one's home. Deaf people used a flashlight hanging outside the door. When a visitor came to the door at night, s/he waved the flashlight through the window.

If one has a dog, it'd bark, notifying the owner. Nothing has changed much.

If no one answers, visitors would wave hands in front of the windows. As a last resort, a person would try opening the door and/or walking around the house and wave more in front of the windows. If still no luck, they'd write a note and leave them.

In the modern days, a light flasher is wirelessly connected to a sound sensor in a deaf person's home.

Every dorm room on the campus of Gallaudet University has a doorbell (light switch) outside the dorm room that would flash light inside.

Today, deaf visitors and hearing friends typically text on their smartphone at door.

When my Deaf parents bought a land to build a brand new house in the 1990s, they instructed the builder to design and wire every room with two different sockets: one for regular electrical things and another for plug-in bulbs or lamps that would flash when a phone or doorbell rings. To this day as of this writing (2015), they are still living in the same house as of 2022.

At a conference hotel, one would knock really hard on the door, even kick on the door, or wave a paper under the door unless one has a mobile number to text the other. Today, most American hotels provide light flashers for deaf guests.

Phone rings

In the olden days, deaf people would ask hearing neighbors or hearing visitors to make important phone calls for them.

Radio Shack flash ringers were commonly used among early videophone users as well as TTY users in the 1990s.

Today, smartphones flash when ringing.

Not unlike hearing people, Deaf people text from outside these days.

text to ring doorbell
Source: unknown (Internet)

Clock alarms

There were many ways h-eyeing (Deaf) people used to wake up in early mornings in the old days. Those techniques were pretty inventive and creative.

First, the age-old biological or natural clock is one thing, using sunshine rays, drinking a large glass of water before sleeping..

"The public bus was our clock alarm. In a Polish village, Ratowice, in the 1970s, the first public bus usually passed by our house regularly at a specific time every early morning at around 5am. The city bus' wheels made enough rumbling vibration on the cobbled street at the same time its headlights flashed through the window that woke us up for work." -- Zofia Lapiak.

There were other innovative techniques such as the use of an alarm clock's windkey used for dropping a heavy object when it unwinded at the alarm time or for pulling a fan or a lamp when the windkey unwinded.

If there was a hearing family member living in the same residence, then they would shake to wake them up.

Baby Stroller

One of the first features I was looking for when shopping for an ideal stroller was whether the stroller had a rear-facing position. A forward-facing seat was also important, but a rear-facing stroller was a must for face-to-face communication and interaction.

stroller from a hearing view
This forward-facing seat is commonly used by hearing parents.

The reversible stroller, that we bought, not only had both rear- and forward-facing seats but we could adjust it to a flat level which is another required criterion for naps. It was easy to move a sleeping baby in a stroller around to watch her nearby in the house.

stroller from a deaf view
This rear-facing position is commonly preferred by Deaf parents.


Mirrors are old, timeless technology.

mirror in the car

By law, babies must sit rear-forwarding. The mirror-like reflection was installed on the back of the seat facing the baby seat so I could see her from the rear mirror. How did I check on her without this mirror-like device?

mirror in the car

Earlier when there was no mirror-like reflection installed, I cleverly used my purse mirror to check on her from behind when I stopped at red lights.

If you have any more stories to share with others, you're welcome to drop me a message. I'd love to hear more.

Related posts

Also see how Deaf people hear without ears?, phone technology of the Deaf people.

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