Marriage Between Deaf and Hearing People

Life in a Mixed Marriage

Deaf Caucasian couple signing at dinner table
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What is it like being married to a hearing person (and for a hearing person married to a deaf person)? We asked a deaf-hearing couple.


Deaf Spouse:

  • When we visit relatives, it is hearing spouse who can communicate with them easily, while I am limited to utilizing my lipreading skills as best as I can and writing back-and-forth.
  • When we have birthday parties for the kids, if some of the other parents don't sign well, I have difficulty communicating with them and often must rely on either other parents who sign more fluently to interpret, or my hearing spouse.
  • When we are out in public, for example in restaurants or hair salons, sometimes hearing spouse does the explaining if they don't understand my speech (my speech is the type not easily understood by hearing people who don't know me). Whenever possible, I do try to communicate for myself by speaking, writing, or pointing so as not to become dependent on hearing spouse.
  • In the early days of our deaf-hearing relationship, hearing spouse was not well accepted by the deaf community. It has taken time, but now hearing spouse is fully accepted. Hearing spouse's willingness to use sign language and participate in the deaf community has been important to our marriage.
  • Our deaf kids' first language is ASL and he does not always understand them. I am often in the role of reverse interpreter, voicing what my children sign.
  • When we get together with other deaf people who sign mostly ASL, I am often in the role of reverse interpreter, voicing what they sign if they don't use voice.
  • Hearing spouse's expressive signing is ok, but hearing spouse's receptive signing is not as good, meaning that hearing spouse relies heavily on my voice for communication. If I did not talk, I don't know if we would still be married. I'm trying to turn off my voice more to get hearing spouse to improve receptive skills. (Communication is one of the biggest problems in deaf-hearing marriages).


    Hearing spouse:

    • I still have difficulty receiving signs--I have not been signing all my life, or even most of it, and am not with people who sign at work. As part of the deaf-hearing marriage, I continue to work on my receptivity.
    • If deaf spouse yells for me at home, I can't yell back. I have to go to where deaf spouse is and find out what deaf spouse wants. Our kids now do this too. In a way, they are taking advantage of the fact that I am hearing and they are deaf!! (Deaf spouse: I'm aware that I do this and I shouldn't be doing it. I'm working on learning to go look for hearing spouse, not yell for hearing spouse. That's one thing you have to do in a deaf-hearing marriage).
    • Deaf spouse is used to the expressiveness of deaf people, and reads a lack of expressiveness on my part or on the part of other hearing people as apathy or lack of enthusiasm. I tell deaf spouse that that is not necessarily true, since hearing people often express emotions through voice more than face.
    • Deaf spouse is still not comfortable in a social situation with mostly hearing people, and I am still not comfortable in a situation with mostly deaf people. However, it is easier for me in a deaf gathering than it is for deaf spouse in a hearing gathering, because there are more likely to be hearing people or people who voice at a deaf event than there are to be deaf people or people who sign at a hearing event.
    • Actually, most of our social life tends to center around the parents of our kids' classmates. This works out well, because most of the parents are either hearing people who can sign or deaf people who use voice.

    Hearing spouse: For all the problems of a deaf-hearing marriage and of raising deaf kids if you are hearing, I have never regretted marrying deaf spouse or having deaf kids, and I would do the same thing again, a million times.

    Deaf spouse: And if you are deaf like me and in a deaf-hearing relationship, you may find yourself sometimes wishing that your partner were deaf or hard of hearing too. However, what is important is the character of the person you have chosen to marry, not how well he or she can hear.

    Read more about Deaf-Hearing Marriage and Relationships in the article on Deaf-Hearing Relationships.

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