Deaf & Hard of Hearing World Doesn’t Need to be Separate from Hearing

Deaf & Hard of Hearing World Doesn’t Need to be Separate from Hearing World

Editor’s note: If you would prefer to watch the interview with captioning, please click here:

Everyone deals with challenges in life. How we handle them affects our well being.

Danielle Guth turned her difficult life experience into a positive way to help others.

Guth is a mental health and anti-bullying advocate and blogger. She’s also a doctoral student at Penn State as well as a publIc speaker @Compassionately Inspired

Earlier this year, Vü interviewed Guth to get her perspective and to understand her hearing loss journey. 

Feeling like an outsider

“I was born with a severe hearing loss and other medical challenges and throughout my life because of that I’ve experienced different challenges such as bullying and different things that I really wanted to help other people and be that somebody for somebody else who might be going through similar struggles that I went through  because I know what it’s like to not have anybody and feel so alone,” noted Guth.

My hearing loss is bilateral conductive and so in my younger years the bullying wasn’t  as much as prominent until I got to middle school  and when I got to middle school  

I was just very much of what I would call I guess an outsider. In my school, I was in a very large school, you’re one of very few deaf and hard of hearing individuals so you’re kind of surrounded by a hearing world and at that school many people just didn’t really understand the different challenges that came with being deaf and hard of hearing and they just kind of saw it as a difference or being weird or whatever you want to classify it. So I went through a lot of verbal bullying, physical bullying and people just really not understanding what I went through. It kind of changed me but it made me realize that my passion lies in creating a community where the deaf and hard of hearing world doesn’t need to be separate from the hearing world.

Passion to help others

There doesn’t need to be a divide between the two worlds and so really spreading awareness on that has become a big passion of mine and it drew me to the mental health field so now I try to kind of combine that awareness and that advocacy work not only to help others who might be going through it but also to spread awareness to the general community and let other people know that just because we’re deaf or just because we’re hard of hearing doesn’t mean that we’re any less human than anybody else.

We’re all the same and that’s one of the things that I think I struggled with the most about my hearing loss journey is that I’ve always been hard of hearing. I’ve always worn hearing aids and so I’ve kind of just always gotten by with my hearing loss so it kind of felt like I would never felt deaf enough but I also never felt hearing enough because I wasn’t deaf enough to be in the deaf world but not necessarily hearing enough to be in the hearing world and so a lot of my struggles with hearing loss came with that and the bullying and different things like that. 

Bullying a Common Experience

It seems like it’s a fairly common experience for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to suffer bullying is that correct?

“Yeah absolutely and I think you know a lot of that has to do with that gap. A lot of people see It as you know deaf or hearing and there’s really no in between and so they can’t see that we’re just people like everybody else. So that’s where I think a lot of the bullying comes from and it’s hard for people to see different as a good thing instead of a bad thing.”

There are Places to Help with Anxiety, Depression, Trauma

You also volunteer as a crisis advocate and so I want to understand what kind of challenges are you seeing with people who are deaf or hard of hearing and the challenges that they’re facing particularly during and after the pandemic.

“I’m a crisis counselor with crisis text line and I don’t  necessarily specifically work with deaf and hard of hearing people in that context but through HearingLikeMe and knowing other deaf and hard of hearing individuals I see a lot of people are struggling with this concept of just not feeling understood and then like I was talking about earlier feeling in- between two worlds not really feeling in the deaf world as a hard of hearing person they sometimes feel like they don’t necessarily belong there – they’re shut out from there because they don’t maybe they don’t sign or whatever the case may be but it’s also hard for them to navigate the hearing world because it could be overwhelming and people don’t always know how to communicate with them and so that kind of creates a lot of frustration and isolation in people who are deaf and hard of hearing because they don’t really feel like they have a place to go to and it can kind of cause feelings of anxiety, social anxiety, depression and all of these different things because of that.”

What can family and friends do to help and as counselors do you  

always recommend professional help – what do you recommend?  

“So not everybody needs professional help but I definitely always encourage it as it’s  

definitely not a bad thing and everybody I believe can benefit from it. In terms of family and friends, the biggest thing that I can emphasize is just you know being there and accepting people for who they are -especially if they’re coming to you, trusting you with different things. Many of us in the deaf and hard of hearing community we don’t feel accepted by the rest of the world and so we look to our friends and family and those we trust to accept us to have a place where we can belong and have that little safe place to just escape from the rest of the world so acceptance is really a huge thing and just seeing  us as people but also when we’re coming to you with the different struggles specifically just being there to listen sometimes people think that we have to give the best advice so we have to have an answer to somebody’s problem but really what people are looking for the most when they come to us is really that supportive ear for that person to listen and say  ‘I’m here for you, you’re not alone and you can come to me’ so that they know that they have that safe place.

In regard to professional health professional services if you feel like you can benefit from that never be afraid to seek that out because that  could be a really hard thing to do because there’s so much stigma around it, but the way I see it, it’s a sign of strength not a sign of weakness as a lot of people feel like oh If I go to a therapist I must be weak or I must need help and you know everybody needs help so never be afraid to resort to that.”

Online Counseling Available 24/7

And so where should people turn to because some people don’t know where to turn to  

for how professional help?

“If a person has insurance and they can’t really afford to pay out of pocket, one of the first places to go to is finding out from your insurance company who might be covered and who you can go to. One of the things that I see is really difficult for deaf and hard of hearing individuals specifically is finding therapists who sign or therapists who are knowledgeable about the deaf and hard of hearing community so that they can relate to them and the struggles they go through and these can be really hard to find no doubt  

especially if you’re in an area where they’re not so common but I know that there’s off the top of my head, there’s a few different places I think the deaf counseling center and national deaf therapy are two places that offer online counseling so that deaf and hard of hearing people can get access to services to or mental health services in a language and a place that’s accessible for them.”

Yeah and I do know that there’s a national deaf hotline too for crisis so I’ll make sure

include that in a link in our bio.

What should you look for when seeking a therapist?

What should people watch out for when they’re seeking mental health services you know I’m sure you’ve got some tips about what they should be looking for.

Yeah so the first thing because it can be so hard to figure out like what’s a red flag and what’s not and some things are like not so obvious that you might look at it and be like oh I would have never considered that to be a thing and one of the first things that I would caution is you know is asking for very large amounts of money – a lot of therapists do out of pocket and some are more expensive than others so that’s not too uncommon but sometimes people can charge over excessive amounts so be cautious of that if It feels like it might be a little excessive.

Maybe look at other options to see what other people or other professionals in the area are going for and use that to kind of gauge, also you know if a therapist feels like they might be getting too close to you and that in a way that feels uncomfortable for you, be aware of that because you know your own boundaries because sometimes that can happen when you are with a therapist and you get to know them you get attached to them and that could be uncomfortable for you as a client who is going through some  

really personal things and so you know I just caution people to that to be aware of and kind of use their own judgment In terms of if it feels uncomfortable for you, don’t be afraid to say something about it and or seek other options or seek a therapist that might be best for you. The other thing is sometimes you might start with a therapist and they might not end up being the right therapist for you maybe they don’t fully understand what you’re going through maybe you’re just not clicking with them and its okay to switch and different things like that. Those are probably the main things that I would look for.  

Okay that’s very helpful because I wouldn’t have thought about the whole relationship thing if a therapist is getting kind of too close to you and you kind of feel awkward or you’re a red flag is kind of going off like maybe I better kind of step back here and find someone else.

What to do if insurance won’t cover therapy

Okay you talked about insurance too. What happens if someone can’t cover it with Insurance, what do you do, where do you recommend that they turn?

Well, often times you know people don’t have insurance and what I would recommend is seeing what types of clinics are available in your area. Sometimes in smaller towns there’s clinics that will offer therapy for discounted rates or for low-income family’s different things like that and usually they’re like local community-based so If you kind of just search you know mental health services clinics around me or whatever that kind of thing should come up. The other thing that I’ll mention and I think you mentioned it a little bit, there are services like crisis lines out there they’re not meant to be replacements for therapy and they’re not meant to be used as frequently as therapy or anything like that but to know that they are out there you know if you are in a crisis and you don’t have insurance or you don’t have a therapist, those are always available to you.  

Great yeah that’s so helpful because I know a lot of people are stuck in between they just  don’t have the insurance,  they might not be working at the time but yet they still need the help so thank you so much for sharing that.

Adverse childhood experiences higher in Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Tell us what you would like to see happen with your advocacy -I know you’re doing your doctoral thesis on anti-bullying and would like to understand more about what you’d like to see with the advocacy that you’re doing?  

So my biggest goal is to make the profession not just professionals but especially  

professionals who might come in contact with the deaf and hard of hearing community aware of the different challenges that they might experience, for example my undergraduate thesis focused on the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences in the deaf and hard of hearing population and my main goal with that was to gather data that would allow mental health professionals and other professionals understand the different experiences that members of this community face so that they can best help them because unless we make them aware of it they might not know especially if they’re not deaf or hard of hearing or they don’t know somebody who’s deaf and hard of hearing. 

Oftentimes people will say mental health professionals don’t understand them or healthcare professionals don’t know how to interact with them or communicate with them and so I really hope that you my advocacy work can help in that kind of regard and also just like I said earlier just bringing a general sense to the community and trying to bridge that gap that divide between deaf and hearing to where we can coexist In one world and it doesn’t always have to be so separate.

How prevalent is adverse childhood in Deaf/Hard of Hearing

So when you’re doing your data, how high is the prevalence of adverse childhood effects in deaf and hard of hearing?  

So what we found was that the adverse childhood experiences among deaf and hard  

of hearing Individuals was actually significantly higher than those when compared to the other population or other general populations.  I should say by at least 23 at least  

23 percent of people who responded to a survey had an adverse childhood experience score of four or higher and what that means is that they’ve essentially in simple terms have experienced higher rates of adverse childhood experiences. The findings don’t really surprise us necessarily because we are aware that members of the deaf and hard of hearing community go through different challenges and different struggles as we’ve been talking about and so they are more likely to experience those kind of adverse impacts but also we looked at how people who had higher rates of those impacts also reported having worsened mental and physical health outcomes which we know from understanding trauma that any type of trauma especially chronic trauma can impact on mental and physical  health.

We also found on a more positive note that those who had greater access to supportive relationships or access to supportive resources had lower negative outcomes and had more increased levels of resilience and so there are a bunch of different findings both that seem negative but also positive but essentially all of the data really helps us to create this picture of what areas we can be most supportive and help members of this community with.  

Fantastic, that Is really encouraging and so needed in the mental health community to make even the counselors aware that they’re dealing with a different population here that’s very at risk.

Finally can you please let our readers know how they can get in touch with you?  

So I’m very active on my face book page Compassionately Inspired, but you can also find me at site, that’s my website.

It’s so helpful to know a little bit more about what you’re doing and how even one stone In the ocean helps right and that you’re just kind of moving things forward instead of backward and we’re so appreciative of the work that you’re doing and I wanted to just thank you Danielle and for  keeping us posted on your research and we would welcome you back anytime to give us an update.

Free Deaf or Hard of Hearing Communication Card Giveaway

Now a bonus for anyone that’s read this far on our blog,

Vü will be happy to send anyone a free communication card to the first five people in the continental USA who email me at info@ Vü

The card is something you can show people that gives them tips about how they can communicate with you. One of our tips is face clearly, speak slowly.

Many thanks Danielle for joining us today. 

Thank you so much for having me.

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