Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Why deaf people have terrible haircuts

Posted by Ian Noon on March 29, 2011

I hate having my hair cut. I have always hated having my hair cut. I go as rarely as I have to and consequently people rarely ever say to me “ooh, that’s a nice ‘do”.

I always have to take my hearing aid off when I have my haircut. Hairdressers then always try to make small talk with me. They seem incapable of not making small talk. So when I explain that’s not going to happen with me because my ears are FAULTY they look like they might self-combust. And they then forget 3 minutes later and start trying to make small talk again. I always feel like slapping them but then I remember I don’t want them to go all Van Gogh on my ears.

But last week when I was in Mr Toppers having my £7 hair cut (bargain!) I thought: Enough! I decided to just politely ignore the hairdresser, stop looking around at the corner of my eye and just think to myself.

And I concluded that actually there are 2 more substantive reasons why I hate having my hair cut. They may be personal to me. They may be common to other deaf people. I’ll let you decide.

Firstly, I’m deaf but I still exist in a mostly hearing world. So going from being in a noisy bustling environment to not hearing anything, whilst knowing that people are still talking around you and possibly to you can be discomforting. And it’s worse when you’re fixed to a barber’s chair, unable to move.

Secondly, to this day, I’ve never really been quite sure what to say in a barbers. Only a few years ago did I get the memo on what asking for a no.1 meant, and luckily just in the snip of time. So I waffle when trying to explain what I want and spend the next 15 minutes hoping for the best. Maybe I’ve just not been paying attention. But I think this is the kind of language and vocabularly that hearing people would pick up not by being taught but by listening in at the barbers. “Incidental learning”, learning from picking things up from the world around you.

I’m not saying that all deaf children and grown ups are like me in hating the hairdressers. But I think we sometimes overlook the fact that quite mundane situations can be awkward for deaf children and young people – unless they’ve been taught the skills to confidently manage such situations and to ‘own’ their deafness. Deaf children are taught to communicate, speak, do numbers, but what about the basic stuff that you take for granted? Do we need a greater focus on life skills and independent living?

My final thought on this is at least I’ve moved on from having hair like Boris Johnson

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7 Responses to “Why deaf people have terrible haircuts”

  1. Rachel said

    Maybe its different in the States (are Yanks less sociable than Brits?), but all the hairdressers I’ve gone to dont try to make small talk much once they realize that I’m deaf. Or at least cease and desist once they realize that my conversational prowress is quite less than expected. As to your other observations regarding feeling discomfitted amongst the babbling hordes, yes indeed, I always feel out of place. I think that oral and mainstreamed education tend to dismiss independent living skills because they take for granted the “incidential learning” you mentioned. My perception is that Dedicated Schools for the Deaf have a more proactive approach.

  2. Mark said

    It got so bad for me (I suffer from anxiety-related issues as well as being Deaf), that I’ve been shaving my own head for the past 13 years…

  3. My mom has been deaf in one ear since I was a small child and as she’s gotten older her one “good” ear is failing. She has asked me to go on appointments with her to help her to communicate with people like hairdressers etc. so she can get a good cut. This was such a blow to her independence and it took a lot of talking to get it worked out – but at least she tends to like her haircuts!

  4. […] I used to dread having my haircut until I started going to my husband’s aunt and could have my hair cut by someone who really understands. I always hated taking my hearing aids out and worrying I’d miss something or not be able to explain myself fully. Ian Noon explores the topic on Campaigning for deaf children. […]

  5. Heather said

    Ian – I must have some deaf genes that I’m not aware of (yet!) as I too hate going to the hairdressers and would rather visit the tooth man! Maybe my problem is just related to not wanting to be socialable – and having to take my specs off so not having a clue what I’m looking at when they show me the mirror. Hey we all havve our little hangups – thank god! So hopefully that explains my very unladylike short back and sides!

  6. keth said

    “Hairdressers then always try to make small talk with me. They seem incapable of not making small talk. So when I explain that’s not going to happen with me because my ears are FAULTY they look like they might self-combust.”

    This is why, when i find a non-combustible hairdresser, i hang onto ’em for dear life…. 🙂

  7. Dee said

    I’m not deaf myself, but my mum is. Coincidently, she never quite gets the cut she wants either…but also neither do my hearing friends. I have seen my mum explain what she wants and it’s jibberish. Not because she’s deaf, but because she, like most of us, she is very bad at explaining something conceptual and because she’s not a hair stylist and not talking the lingo.
    The answer to the problem is to always bring a photo of what you want because a hair cut is a quite technical and conceptual thing to explain. In the words of the guy from the tv show ‘Little Britain’, tell them ..”I want that one”
    I have crazy curly hair, but I have not had a bad cut since the internet was invented. There’s thousands of hair cuts online or celeb photo’s to use.
    Think how often in life we need to explain things with photo’s – When redecorating a house, we would never explain what we want to our builder without referring to photo’s and colour swatches. Imagine just verbally describing your house renovation to someone and hoping 2 months later they create what you explained? Also if you take a photo, you have something to point to and argue with if they take “creative license”.
    Another method I’ve used for sourcing a decent cutter, when I moved to a different town, is by looking in the windows of salons when I pass by to check out the cuts of the hair stylists themselves. When I see one who actually has a similar hair cut to the one I want, I go in and ask “who did your hair cut?” – then book an appointment with their stylist.

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