Gifts and Buttons for Angry Deaf People

by JoHarrington

I've been deaf in one ear since I was nine years old. The most frustrating thing about that is other people. Grab an Angry Deaf badge to defend against the audists in your life.

I didn't mean to create a whole range of Angry Deaf products. It happened quite accidentally.

I'd read a story about a single-sided deaf woman, who was being bullied at work. Her audist colleague seemed intent upon making her feel inadequate, because allowances had to be made in the office so that the SSD lady could hear.

My reaction was to knock up a button in Zazzle, sarcastically responding to a comment that had been made to this lady. I linked it and forgot about it. Then slowly realized that it had become a best-seller in my stock.

There were patently a lot of us out there in need of such things.

What is an Audist?

Audism: "The notion that one is superior based on one's ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears." Tom Humphries

Image: AudismYou've heard of a racist? They discriminate based on the color of a person's skin.  You've heard of a homophobe?  They deem someone inferior, just because they happen to be attracted to someone of the same sex.

Sexist people think that one gender is somehow better than another in general terms. Misogynists hate women.  Misandrists hate men. Misanthropes hate all humankind.

And audists are adverse to deaf people. Even partially deaf people.

It goes above and beyond just advocating a case for stereo hearing being preferable. Those engaging in audism will hound deaf people as a matter of course.

Presumably it's in the assumption that, subject to enough pressure, a deaf individual will stop with this tomfoolery and start hearing again.

Those who think that audism doesn't exist have frankly never been deaf. As a single-side deaf woman, I encounter casual audism on a daily basis.  But now I have an outlet for that frustration.

Welcome to Angry Deaf.

Sarcastic Single-Sided Deafness Cheat Sheet

This was one of my first additions to the Angry Deaf store. It's proven to be VERY well received amongst the single-sided deaf community.

I have a list of people who should receive this card. I had them ALL in mind as I wrote it.

All those years of frustration came into play, and I had so much fun penning it. No need here to be nice and to apologize for my deafness.

It might even be useful too, if they took on board the sarcasm enough to pay attention to the inherent needs.

The biggest issue with unilateral hearing is that the rules do change. How well I hear is entirely dependent upon my surroundings. A lot of people can't get their heads around that. Even those who have known me for decades.

It's not like total deafness, where you can hear nothing.  Or partial deafness, with some hearing in both ears, where it's really all a matter of volume and enunciation.

For some, it's too complicated and inconvenient to bother with understanding.

Initially, I made just the card, then there was a request by a client to put it onto a t-shirt too. I did that quite quickly, then shoved it onto a whole range of products, just for the laugh.

It seems to have become a cathartic addition across the board.

Looking for Something Less Reactionary?

These t-shirts were designed for deaf babies, toddlers and small children, but they have adult versions too. And there are badges at the end.
Let Deaf Bunny help your partially deaf child socialize while out playing. Informative clothing to articulate the hearing needs of deaf kids unable to explain for themselves.

Not Ignoring You, Deaf T-Shirt and Badge

I've had people who've known me for twenty years accuse me of ignoring them, when I haven't responded in the midst of lots of background noise...

This situation must occur a lot. Enough people have bought that button that I've been nudged into creating the shirt too.

The classic scenario is that you're in a noisy environment (or the telly is on as background noise). You've switched off because that's easier to manage the LKDFALKSFJS sounds that are assaulting your ears.

Then you look up to find someone staring at you, or else something hits you on the head - a bunched up ball of paper for instance - and you pay attention.

Usually the background noise hasn't ceased, so you're lip-reading what comes next. It'll be an accusation of ignoring everyone, or being anti-social etc.

You gently point out that you're deaf, not ignoring anyone. But that doesn't go down well. Deaf people are SUPPOSED to make the exhausting effort to be part of the group. We aren't supposed to ostentatiously ignore people.

However, these scenarios invariably take place when folk are intoxicated. Therefore the things that you lip-read are slurred, drunken rubbish. Hardly worth tiring yourself out over that. If you had stereo hearing, you'd be tuning them out, so way not embrace the gift of deafness.

Pins for Those Who Hate Background Television Noise

"Just got the TV on for background noise" translates to a single-sided deaf person as "just going to ensure that you can't hear a damn thing while you're here, ok?"

Social exclusion doesn't come more often and more absolutely than this. The single-sided deaf person in a room with people talking and the television on for background noise.

In my dreams, I take a sledge-hammer. I walk into the house and I stand before that television. A primal scream as the hammer hits the screen. I smash it to smithereens. Then I move onto the next house and the next house and the next.

Every single, solitary house where the television has ever been left on as background noise, while someone deaf in one ear has sat there mutely suffering through the cacophony of sounds. Every single television, I would take down. Then I'd smile and say, "I'm sorry, can you hear me now?"

But those are only my darkest dreams. In reality, I make badges, and ornaments.

Nobody wants to put a damper on the Christmas celebrations. Let an Angry Deaf Christmas tree decoration gently say it instead!

Only Deaf When You Want to Be Gifts

Are stereo hearing people REALLY that unimaginative? Apparently so, given the number of times the rest of us have to hear this comment.

The Only Deaf When You Want to Be button proved so successful that I created a t-shirt with the same slogan upon it.

It's the last malicious retort of the terminally selfish. They've been trying to talk to you. You can't hear them (probably over the blasted television). You suddenly realize that everyone is looking at you.

By this point, the average single-sided deaf person will be laboring under the intense exhaustion of having to sit through such noise. It's not silent. It's a jumble of sound, none of which makes any sense, assaulting a solitary ear.

It gives you a headache. It's hard to think through it. It's tiring and that means that it also makes you irritable. It makes you feel isolated and under attack.

Everything goes quiet and you hear someone say the usual words. "Oh! She knows what we're saying. She's only deaf when she wants to be."

As I wrote in the blarb there, 'If I had a penny for each time I'd heard this accusation, I'd probably be able to afford a hit-man to take down the next person to say it.'

They're all lucky that I'm too nice and polite to just do it with my own bare hands.

Dark Imaginings Badge for Single-Sided Deaf People

Those who are deaf in one ear spend an inordinate amount of time pretending not to be bothered, while everyone around them are ensuring their social exclusion.

The inner text is deliberately tiny on the first button. It reveals the deep, secret and utterly horrific thoughts going on behind the smile of single-sided deaf people politely not making a fuss in noisy company.

What it actually says is this:

I Love You All
But every time you talk over each other, socially excluding me in my deafness, I imagine stabbing you in the ear so you can experience this confusion and cacophony of competing din too. Then the imaginings get seriously dark. Instead I sit quietly and pretend everything is alright. It's only polite. And when you look at me
I Smile

But a cursory glance says, 'I love you all, I smile'. Which is pretty much all those making the aforementioned din really want to know.  If they were at all interested in deaf awareness and creating an environment suitable for a single-sided deaf person, then none of us would be there.

I guess I went beyond the bounds of sarcasm and humor with this one, into the realms of brutal honesty instead. Yet I defy any unilaterally hearing person to deny that they've been there and got the t-shirt.

I should make it into a t-shirt...

Sarcastic Deaf Apology Accessories

What does it say about how society treats the SSD in its midst, that this is far and away one of my best selling slogans?

I've been downright stunned by the popularity of this badge. The t-shirt is relatively new - I only added it a couple of weeks ago - so it's not had time to settle into the listings yet.

But the button frequently appears in my sold items, sometimes in multiple lots. I imagine the purchaser handing them out to dozens of family and friends, or else a group of people getting one each. In truth, I have no idea what's happening there.

I guess that I hit just the right level of informative defiance, with the sarcasm layered on in spades.

The Sarcastic Deaf Apology was a response to the number of times you feel, as a single-sided deaf person, that some kind of apology is required.

It's usually around the time that someone gives you that cringing look, because they've only just remembered that you're deaf. You haven't been able to join in the conversation for hours and, you know, that's patently your fault for coming here without stereo hearing.

The room goes quiet just long enough for someone to very patiently explain that it's not fair on anyone to accommodate your deafness. You're REALLY inconveniencing them, you know...

With the above in mind, I've only just added this badge. It recalls the same sentiments, and its the one that I wish I could have worn quite recently.

That's the beauty of having Angry Deaf. Every time I'm in one of these situations now, I can occupy my time by thinking up the slogans to match it. It keeps me sane, and perhaps helps out the next single-sided deaf person in a similar environment.

This badge was imagined in a pub. Everyone was having such a good time, it was a shame to disturb them. After all, it was me being inconveniently deaf, not them.

It was such a productive few hours that I came up with this entire Still Deaf range too. Some based on the excuses that friends gave when they realized I'd been locked out.

Hear More Deaf Than You Do Hearing Badge

For all those not listening before they speak over their peers with some banal crap.

Being cut out of every conversation in the room does convey a certain kind of freedom.

Your sheer invisibility means that you're free to people watch, and to note all those clues of body language missed by everyone else. You see the quiet grimaces and the people sneaking out at the back.

There's an argument to be made that you're the only person actually listening, just not with your ears. People talking over each other aren't really interested in listening. They're delivering monologues, not having conversations.

If they were at all socially aware, then you wouldn't be locked out of the scene for a start. So watch, learn, understand the dynamics, know everything.

Gifts for Deaf People Accused of Talking Too Loudly

The solidarity sloganeering accessory which kick-started the whole of Angry Deaf.

Here it is!  This is the badge which I made for that lady bullied by her work colleague. I created it in a blaze of solidarity; to salve the inherent wish to step through cyber-space and defend her with all the repressed fury in my soul.

It's always easier to stand up for other people, even if there is a huge dollop of projection involved.

The Listening with too Many Ears button is one of my best sellers on Zazzle. There are a lot of us frustrated enough to want one, it seems. And I smirk every time one crops up in my sold inventory. You go, single-sided deaf person!  You go tell them!

You may find more of my sardonic barbs in my highly cathartic Angry Deaf store on Zazzle. If anyone feels the need to purchase any, then please know that I'm standing right behind you in spirit.

I'm the one holding your coat when the audists descend. Go get 'em!

Angry Deaf - New Items

Deaf Drivers Born to Ignore Road Ragers Bumper Sticker $4.85 ...
Amused Deaf Driver and Road Rage Mimes Bumper Sticker $4.85 ...
Deaf Driver Immune to Intimidation Bumper Sticker $4.85 by...
Deaf Driving Legal and Safe Bumper Sticker $4.85 by TheWri...

More of my Articles about Single-Sided Deafness

Unilateral hearing affects a significant percentage of the population. How would you welcome a client or guest with this kind of deafness?
Unilateral hearing can result in some excruciatingly awkward social situations. A heart-breaking search query has led to this article.
The Age of the Internet has meant many things to many people, but for those with a hearing impairment it's been fantastic! Now we get a conversation without the hassle!
Alarms in your house warn of anything from a fire to a burglary. But what if the only person there is hearing impaired?
Updated: 10/29/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 07/15/2014

So you've heard both! What's it like?

frankbeswick on 07/14/2014

Good article, Jo. I can sympathize, though my own hearing loss was greatly ameliorated by medical treatment. But while it was happening I could not triangulate sound.

JoHarrington on 07/14/2014


Yet we do have ways to deal with it. You don't experience something daily for decades without having dozens of tools for reacting to it. In general terms, I'll quietly get on with whatever I deem appropriate in each given situation. I guess everybody in my boat (and yours) does. At least 70% of those involve meeting people halfway - lip-reading, paying attention to body language, waiting to leap upon every clue which apes communication. In short, it's about making life easy for the people not having to deal with this.

The problematic nature - making a fuss etc - usually stems from me deciding not to employ the 70%. Either because I'm irritated enough to wonder why I should be the one bothering, or I simply can't be bothered. (Conversing with proper audists goes into the latter category.) Or else I genuinely am too tired to do all that's being required of me.

You (and by that I mean me, or SSD people in general) are always more amenable to going the extra 70% if they're having fun. So yes, you called it there. But even at festivals there are plenty of places where the clash of similar sounds isn't occurring, many more than you'd think actually. In a quiet corner of the Leftfield, I can almost even hear. As we go walking down the Old Railway Track, I'm probably paying attention and employing the whole 70% in order to converse. In Shangri La, no-one can converse, so nobody bothers, and I find some peace to simply be.

In reality, somewhere like Lunched Out Lizard at night is the worst case scenario for me - it's quiet enough to have the cacophony of voices chattering in a mush, but too dark for me to attempt most of my tricks to participate in conversations. And too secluded to have much to look at for distraction. Thus I'm left alone with my own mind, my own thoughts, and the growing irritation due to the fact, if we were just sitting ten or twenty feet away, the other voices would be faint enough for me to not be deaf at all.

But how can you say that, when everyone is having so much fun and they think all the world is great? And your reminder will come like a swooping condemnation and a fuss? The answer: Easily, and I should have said it or else moved away myself. :) 3/3

JoHarrington on 07/14/2014


However, there's something very different going on here. You and I experience auditory data differently. No matter how loud or overwhelming it may become, you still have depth to that sound. You can triangulate the source of each facet of the cacophony, separating one from the other. They may wash over you like an avalanche, but you could technically inspect the torrent for each little snowflake.

I can't. Every single source of sound is in the same place. They're not so much layers as a mush. You get the Battenberg of hearing. I get the blancmange. I get loud and quiet, but not direction and certainly not distance. When, say, you and Liz are both speaking together (in your separate conversations), it's like you're standing in the same spot, simultaneously talking into my single ear.

I can tell music from voices. I know a car's engine from birdsong. I pick out the clang of a hammer from the rustling of leaves in the trees. In that way, I find the layers, as an exercise in reasoning them out, rather than naturally knowing that they aren't the same noises emitted from a single source. Because how I hear it, they actually are that.

In such over-whelming situations, my mind is working consciously. What you may hear as a fleeting sound registered somewhere in the background, I have had to concentrate on discerning it from the rest, examining it for meaning, then reacting accordingly. It's an endeavour of the conscious mind, not a sub-conscious sorting. It's exhausting over a long period of time. It's the exhaustion that gets to all single-sided hearing people in the end.

And no-one, however ordinarily compassionate, is at their most understanding of the forgetfulness of others when they're exhausted and subject to a din.


JoHarrington on 07/14/2014

I'm not certain about the fourth form of audism, as it was a concept to which I've only just been introduced. My understanding of it is precisely your haggis example though. To my mind, it's about as horrific as it can get, because I'd feel soooo impolite correcting them, when they've tried so hard!

But Liam pointed out that such things are bad or cursory research, lumped together with a lot of pre-conceived notions, stereotypes and all the rest. In that way, it's possibly the most insidious form of audism (or any prejudice) of all, as it leaves the victim squirming even harder.

Now to start from the beginning - one thing I've learned is never to assume you know what will sell on Zazzle. The more niche the better! 'Argh, Sorry I Forgot!' would probably be a best selling badge! (And applicable in so many situations...)

Conflicting needs is absolutely the root of such clashes. I think you're spot on there. In the situation that you described, there's also another side. Which is that someone else is denied the right to be noisy in their own home, and all society blames them for even wanting it. Plus they've lost the easy conversation of someone not engrossed in heavy academia. There is always many more sides to any given story.

I get that you can be over-whelmed by stimuli. I've experienced that too in all of my other senses. There are moments when it all becomes too much for any of us, and we have to blank things out or shut them down. Or remove ourselves from the situation.

I do attempt to do this with hearing too. How many times have you heard me say that I've disappeared inside my own head? Or I've distracted myself with reading/inspecting things on the walls, people watching etc? 1/3

Ianjames on 07/14/2014

Angry hearing...hmm... to be fair that is probably one of the few things I'm *not* angry about. The response would probably be either "we're trying!" or "argh, sorry I forgot!". Might not sell *all* that well...

I think a lot of this comes down to conflicting needs. I'm assuming my hearing is better than yours, given previous conversations. I have always found it hard to concentrate if input is coming from multiple sources - this can include visual as well as auditory input. In my case, I think it is also sometimes due to processing all at once. As you know, while I was completing my degree I was living in an environment where those needs were not entirely respected (I am putting this as nicely as possible, with it being a public forum). The result of having to manage anyway was a mix of anger, sadness, anxiety, self-criticsm and wondering why it was so hard to speak up about it. I have never enjoyed the audio-visual dominance that a television can impose upon a room. I don't want to be drawn into it, but I am unable to ignore it in a way that others appear to. The difficulty differentiating stimuli gets far, far worse when I'm tired, or have been drinking.

It occurs to me that festivals are a prime example of this! So, clearly there's something else going on. Some of this is down to other needs being met, isn't it? I went out on Saturday and often apologised for not being able to hear, but the fact that I was enjoying myself and I liked the environment despite (or perhaps because of) the noise made up for that. Similarly, in that pub, my belonging needs (which were very strong at that point) outweighed my need to hear what was said by all those around me. There were several occasions where I just switched off, drank my drink and did the "let it all wash over you" thing. Sometimes that just feels easier, and such a relief. People seemed happy to have me there, even if my contributions were a bit sporadic (this is NOT me implying that you should do the same, btw). And actually, I think sometimes I enjoy the feeling of being "lost" in sound. So much better than being lost in thoughts. Perhaps this is what you find in the very loud environments?

I wondered about the fourth form of audism. What would that look like in practice? Is that the hearing equivalent of "this is what you gay people like, isn't it??". Or "I got some haggis, you Scots like that, don't you??". I'm trying to picture it in terms of deafness, and failing.

JoHarrington on 07/12/2014

As for the products, the ones that you're seeing here are the knee-jerk, cathartic responses to that moment when the isolation bites hard. The nice, understanding, lovely ones (which is 99% of the time) are featured in the other article.

My friend Freya - who is brilliantly deaf aware to the point of learning sign language shortly before first meeting me, and habitually monitoring the Skype call for deaf friendliness - has pointed out to me that Angry Deaf is very one sided. It attacks without giving the right to reply. It's scathing and dripping in sarcasm over situations which might never have been viewed as such by the other party.

I've got on my list of things to write an article suggested by her: 'Are single-sided deaf people too hard on their hearing friends?' Or 'expect too much of...' etc. She never asked me to write it, nor really phrased it in such a way, but our conversations re Angry Deaf did get me thinking on it.

But all of this is outside the remit of Angry Deaf. It's more down to the likes of you and Freya to make an Angry Hearing Zazzle store - the responses to all of my badges! That would so own! :D You should do it. 3/3

JoHarrington on 07/12/2014

Actual response to Ian James: I can confirm that you do spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make everyone happy. I must do your head in at times, either wandering off because I'm being sensible about things, or else suddenly going a little yampy.

I wonder if there's a word for the dreadful moment when you realize that a) you've forgotten that your friend is deaf; b) that (s)he's been sitting there pretending to be ok for hours; c) (s)he's just hit their limit and the irritation is erupting; and d) it's been so good until now and this is going to ruin everything. I'm usually on the other side of that, but I imagine it is quite, quite awful. You have my sympathy.

It's that pub. It's every pub. The eve of Glastonbury is a big shining example, but it could equally have been the pub I went into with my parents a week before, or those in Cornwall, or that I nipped into with Eric on New Years' Eve. I do try to avoid pubs for all the reasons that you've highlighted, unless there's a quiet beer garden outside.

By choice, I want the silence of a quiet country field or the ear-splitting noise of somewhere like Arcadia or Shangri La. Kate asked me on the latter, saying she thought it would be my worst nightmare, but it's not. No-one tries to talk to you there, nor makes decisions about what's happening next without including you in the process. Because no-one can hear to have a conversation in those circumstances. To all extents and purposes, the whole world is deaf but for the music. 2/3

JoHarrington on 07/12/2014

You're certainly inspiring some articles here! Yesterday, I wrote one highlighting some of my nicer Angry Deaf stuff: The badges at the bottom might be more like you had in mind.

Also last night, I was chatting with a friend regarding Audism and other forms of prejudice/bigotry etc., as he'd been lecturing on another form. He pointed out that there are more than the three categories that we'd highlighted. The fourth horrified me, as it hadn't actually occurred to me that it existed.

It's the state of someone thinking that they're totally deaf aware/deaf friendly, so they set about habitually creating what they believe to be a good environment for folk like me. But they've got their information wrong. Hence they'd be looking for the pat on the back for being a wonderful human being, but those subject to the bad environment are thinking them ignorant and/or Audists.

How freaking awkward would that one be? I don't think I've ever encountered it, but then, I wouldn't know, would I?

Liam did have a word for it, but I've forgotten what it is. -.- I may end up writing an article on it though, as there are some interesting discussions to be had.

Sorry, none of this responded to anything that you said in your comment. It's more a heads up on what kind of things you're prompting me to think of writing and/or actually writing.

Ianjames on 07/11/2014

I totally agree that creating an environment happy for all is not always possible. In fact, one can end up negating ones own needs constantly trying to create a happy balance between those of others. As someone who spends a good deal of time trying to do this, and consequently tieing themselves up in knots, I am very aware of how difficult it is.

I wasn't dismissing your products at all, and I hope it didn't come across like that...though I do hope nobody ever directs one at me!

I'm not sure if the situation in the pub we discussed is one where I was present or not? If it was then I do not believe that group would have been prejudiced against anyone who had hearing difficulties. And if we're defining audism along the same lines as sexism (power + prejudice) then no, according to that definition, people were not being audist. Inconsiderate (from one individual's perspective) does not equal prejudiced. And, in terms of that group, I think we tried to change our behaviour accordingly as we became more aware. Perhaps if that venue really is problemmatic then the key is not to return there, though?

If I've got the wrong end of the stick, and it wasn't that group, then I really don't know because I wasn't there!

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