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Information to help you better understand the different types of relationships between hearing, Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

The different types of relationships

Deaf / hard-of-hearing centred relationships: Both partners are active members of the Deaf and/or hard-of-hearing communities. They choose to sign or use sign as as their preferred language to each other and assume equal responsibility for communication issues. Couples with Deaf and/or hard-of-hearing centred relationships usually socialise with other Deaf, hard-of-hearing and signing hearing friends. They tend to avoid (or keep to a minimum) social situations where the hearing person must interpret for their Deaf and/or hard-of-hearing partner.

Hearing centred relationships often find the Deaf person dependent on the hearing partner for communication with non signing hearing friends (which can create feelings of stress or frustration for both).

A deaf hearing relationship can have a number of possible scenarios, as outlined below or any other combination of partner backgrounds.

  • A signing, culturally Deaf person partnered with a fluent signing hearing partner
  • A hearing CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) with a culturally Deaf person
  • A Deaf person partnered with a moderately fluent hearing person or with a non signing hearing person.
  • An oral Deaf person with a non signing hearing person
Balancing Between Deaf and Hearing Worlds (Kersting, 1997)
This qualitative study explores the social aspects of mainstreaming from the perspective of deaf college students. Research indicates that social satisfaction is just as critical to deaf students as to their hearing peers. This study provides an in-depth perspective on three main themes (see below).
1. Feelings of alienation and separation from the deaf student community
2. The importance of close relationships with other ‘oral’ students experiencing the same difficulties
3. The struggle for acceptance from the hearing student community