TIPS ON WRITING DEAF/MUTE CHARACTERS?

is there anything i should avoid when writing this, anything i should know about?

Note: I’m not deaf, but here’s some information I know.

  • Put signed words in quotes like you would spoken ones.
  • Lip reading is very hard and usually isn’t a good way to consistently interpret what words are being spoken.
  • Deaf people often pick up on body language more than spoken words.
  • Sign languages are their own languages and have their own variations, dialects, and vocabulary. They’re not just English Lite.
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Hi there,

This seems better suited in #story-services:special-services so I’ll go ahead and move it over there.

Thanks for understanding,
Fray - Community Ambassador :frog:

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how would i have them understand what a character who can’t speak sign language is trying to say if they lip reading is hard?

Writing things down and pantomiming comes to mind.

@neegas First you need to ask yourself - how is the character hearing impaired? Was it since birth? How bad is it? What help have they had? Educational? Speech and Language therapy? Medical?

Noise induced hearing loss - that can affect people at any age is a common cause of an acquired hearing loss. Even one dose say at a rock concert could permanently harm hearing.

Inner ear infections (glue ear) is another one - but can be resolved with grommets. (surgical procedure).

Can he/she use amplification eg. hearing aids? Or maybe is going for a cochlear implant to correct the hearing?

If the hearing loss is only partial, the person may be able to understand some speech.
They will also use contextual cues and perhaps written language.

Signing isn’t often effective - as it relies on the other person knowing the signs. US sign language is different from UK - which is again, different from Irish and systems used by people with learning disabilities.

Only lip sounds such as w, f, v ,b can be lip read effectively and often that’s hard if the speaker has a beard, mumbles or covers his/her mouth.

If your character can speak ( as perhaps they could hear for some of their life or the hearing loss is only partial). they may have speech sound. grammatical errors and intonation difficulties.

Background noise will make it very difficult if they have a hearing aid - and is stressful for people with hearing loss.

So there’s lots to think about.

Any questions or clarification needed - fire them at me.

I’d like to follow this topic because I’ve been asking myself the same questions! I’m writing a fantasy story and I’ve been trying to make it as realistic as possible. There is a mer character in my story and obviously, no one can speak underwater so I had the character use signs as a form of communication but I was looking for a way to better my descriptions.

I wanted to say that he was born with 75% hearing in one ear 25% in the other that slowly get worse by the years. I wanted to say that it was caused by his mother drinking/smoking while pregnant.

I wanted to say that maybe he got hearing aids, but since his family doesn’t have much money and has on and off health insurance. Would that be plausible? I don’t know how much hearing aids cost.

Also since his family doesn’t have much money wouldnt that mean that he wouldn’t have the money for therapy or special education. I don’t know if special education in a school cost money or not.

Yes. All of that will work,

Prenatal neglect can cause hearing loss.

Hearing aids are expensive - and also temperarmental. So that is plausible that he doesn’t have any. Even if he got them free through school, child health care, his mother wouldn’t have brought him to the fittings or damaged them.

They need repair and maintenance and the ear moulds have to be changed as the child grows.

Special education in school can be free - but again if there isn’t parental backup, it’s generally not as effective. So many are screaming for limited resources.

Also he mightn’t have been diagnosed in time to avail of it if mum won’t bring him to appointments. (Maybe just considers him slow, unmotivated or bold). Also kids get good at hiding that they can’t hear - perhaps with distracting behaviour or guessing what was said.

The hearing loss can also put him in danger while out and about as he can’t hear traffic or other warning noises.

Signs are a possibility. As it’s fantasy, you can have your own sign language.

He raised his index finger twice meaning that…

Remember the listener must be looking at you to see the sign. So perhaps making splashes in the water or something as well to get the listeners attention.

You could also have facial expressions eg, nodding shaking heads, taps like Morse Code and also drawings or symbol books.

They hold up say the symbol for danger/ l love you or whatever is needed.

thank you but question do you have any examples for distractive behavior that hides the disability.

also i was hoping to have characters meet at maybe a disability club association for young kids, maybe they have activities that help kids with disabilities. Are these type of clubs a thing?

also is there any examples you can find in books of deaf characters? I feel like there aren’t any to get get examples in literature

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Distracting behaviours might be - in class for example, pretending to have no interest or getting up to mischief. Also encouraging other children to play up.

Being a loner or the joker in the group.

He/she might also pretend to understand when he/she didn’t or copy someone else’s work. In all honesty, the sky’s the limit for this one. You can go wild.

Clubs/groups exist for teens with hearing loss - such as perhaps those organised by education or a National group for hearing Impaired.
You could also use a more generic one for those with coping/ behavioural issues - like a social skills group for the set up if your other character isn’t hearing impaired.

Sometimes summer camps may be arranged by a charitable organisation for kids with special needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I don’t know any fiction stories with hearing impaired characters. It’s not something people seem to have for their lead characters. Communication impairments like stammering/selective mutism, cancer, blindness or mobility issues are more popular.

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Lip reading is hard but there are things that a hearing person can do to make it easier on a deaf person, such as making eye contact, speaking slowly and annunciating.

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do you have any examples of summer camps/clubs for deaf or mute kids? Like what type of activities would they do

i read that speaking slowly could make it difficult as well tho, or does it just depend on the person?

I think people can take that to extremes, so not too slow but not too fast. I would say slower than people would normally speak.

Charities or sporting organisations might run camps - but they would be hoping to integrate the kid with special needs with whoever else is there. (They might use a buddy system to do this -whereas the other kids look out for him/her).

A special camp for hearing impaired kids might focus on communication, confidence, life strategies and social skills but also do normal camps things like art or sport.

I’d just make up the name of a camp - and also what organisation is running it.

News reader intonation!! They’re trained to speak in such a way that it’s easy for people with hearing issues ( or low volume on their devices) to understand them.

Do you have any real life camps as examples

I’m hearing, but I’m on the road to being an interpreter so I’ll give what I’ve learned. This is all from the perspective of American Deaf people, so some of it may be specific to their group.

  • Understand the difference between “deaf” and “Deaf”
    ** deaf is the medical condition
    ** Deaf refers to being culturally Deaf

  • Deaf people who are involved in their culture can be very proud of that, and for good reason
    **They may not want to be hearing at all, very much okay with themselves
    **They may not consider deafness a disability, and if so, would not want to be referred to as disabled
    **Hard of hearing is preferred over “hearing impaired”

  • There are a plethora of different signed languages. Look up your location to understand what yours is called.
    **The country and the language name may not match up (e.g. Canada using ASL in most places)
    **The spoken language and the signed language are not inherently related. ASL derives from French Sign Language and has nothing to do with English, for example.

  • Lip-reading is not easy. It is also not common. Writing on paper can work.

  • Signed languages are not any easier to learn that spoken languages

  • Facial expressions can be half of the grammar, which is why all of those “signing gloves” inventions that supposedly interpret what you’re saying do not work.

  • Deaf clubs are a thing. Deaf meetups in general are pretty common in their community.
    ** Deaf coffee, for example, is popular. It can be any coffee place, usually on a consistently scheduled basis

  • If you’re bringing education into it, please please research this. Understand the difference between a residential school and mainstreaming. Know the pros and cons of each. Know what the Oral Program is (and that many Deaf people do not like it).

  • If you include interpreters in your story, know that they speak in first person from the d/Deaf or hearing person’s perspective, and that, unless you are specifically looking to write about problematic interpreters, they do not provide any other service outside of facilitating communication
    ** e.g. an educational interpreter is not also going to take notes for you or help you with your test.

I don’t know many books with d/Deaf characters. I do know of Zach from the Hollow Earth trilogy (middle grade story). I think there was another book I know of but I’m blanking.

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