One student, David, an older nontraditional student, had mentioned several times in the course of his interview with me that his wife was far more deaf (in strict audiological terms) than he. It came up most strongly when I asked him directly about how much time he spent with hearing people and in “Hearing culture” as opposed to with deaf people and in “Deaf culture.” His answer hinged on his relationship with his wife: “I have a little bit of a struggle with my wife over this issue. She isn’t comfortable socializing with hearing people she doesn’t know or with my hearing friends who don’t sign. So I would end up having to interpret for her or stay right with her to keep her company. So I would either go alone, or go with her with a group of deaf people. I didn’t have problems with either group [deaf or hearing], but she did have a problem with the hearing group.” I mentioned, smiling, that were he asked, my husband might say some of the same things. We left the issue at that, and I went on to other questions. But at the end of the interview, when the videotape was off and the interpreter we used had left the room, David turned directly to me and in both spoken English and sign language, asked, “I’m curious. You said that you and your husband have similar communication problems in hearing situations since you are hard-of-hearing and he isn’t. How,” David paused, with genuine pain on his face, “do you work around this?” I could see that this was a sore spot, a blemish on both our mirrors. And unfortunately, I didn’t have any particularly inspiring answers—no secret passageways to divulge and to help us both thereby solve this mystery more neatly, more quickly. We were (and are) both just stumbling and groping, looking for light switches in the often dark hallways of our deafness within relationships.
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