Hearing culture: a perspective from Deaf people

What often surprised hearing people is that hearing people do have a "hearing culture" that they have been unaware of. We have the term or this concept in our language and Deaf culture.

The term "hearing culture" probably emerged around the term "Deaf culture" became adopted in the late 20th century. However, this concept has been around and talked about ever since very long in Deaf communtity, using the terms (glossed as) HEARING WAY/POSS, HEARING WORLD, and such.

What is hearing culture?

What are some examples in hearing culture? In my ASL 200-level class, when asking my students to give me examples of hearing culture, they glanced at one another, completely looking clueless. They tried a few answers.

This analogue is like fish living in water all their life with no idea what water is until air is introduced to them.

"He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"You can never understand one language until you understand at least two." Geoffrey Willans

Replace "language" with "culture" in the quotes above. Basically, "culture" is described in a few words as "a way of life" or "a way of living." Hearing way.

There are three general aspects of culture: materialistic, normative or behavioral, and cognitive.

Materialistic level

Materialistic aspect is something people can observe concrete things of a culture.

For example, in hearing culture, one can see concrete signs such as (vocally) speaking using aural-vocal articulators, using aural-vocal artificats (e.g. earphones, musical instruments, telephone, doorbell), etc.

A flower centerpiece in the middle of a table is a common welcome. It's the opposite in Deaf culture, that flower centerpieces are often moved away.

Another, there are rows of desk-chairs in a classroom in a hearing classroom as opposed to a horseshoe-shaped seat arrangement in a Deaf classroom.

Normative/behavioral aspect

Normative aspect of culture is a set of rules of social interaction that outsiders can observe behaviors.

One of some examples is that hearing people become anxious if there is silence on the other side of a phone call when waiting without listening to music. Music is a must to calm them down.

Eye contact in hearing culture is less practiced than in Deaf culture. Hug greeting is a more common norm in Deaf culture than in hearing culture.

Hearing people are less visual than Deaf people. Not only Deaf people (without hearing aids or cochlear implants) are culturally visual but also physiologically visual, which means that the "hearing" regions of their brains are not "unused" but rather are used as a visual-tactile enhancement. Whether hearing people realize or not, there are so many stories about how hearing people overlook significant things.

Cognitive aspect

Thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and values can be learned or observed through language. The hearing way of thinking or perceiving the world is typically highly phonocentric.

A few quick notes of the relatively cultural differences between Deaf and hearing culture in North America are as follows: individualistic (hearing) and collective (Deaf), more indirect (hearing) and more direct (Deaf).

On values, hearing people value ear/sound, whereas Deaf people value eye/visual. Speech language / signing language. On attitude, hearing people see deaf people as disabled people, while Deaf people don't see themselves as members of the disabled community. Just being Deaf.

These examples above are only a scratch. There is much more that you will find more information on Deaf culture and hearing culture, cross-cultural stories, experiences, and so through this website as well as other sources.

Related posts

Related posts: Deaf culture.

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