Dare to Ask: Do deaf people scream when they are frustrated?
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Do deaf people scream when they are frustrated? — Ezzie, 52, Pittsburgh
Although I don’t, I had a deaf special-needs roommate who did. Man, what a
howler! — Ashley, 24, deaf, St. Augustine
Deaf people have a “voice box” in their throat. They can make sounds
perfectly or awfully. We are human beings, nothing more or less. — Stephen, 19,
deaf, Clark, N.J.
I’m a deaf education/American Sign Language interpretation major. Deaf people
react the same way to situations hearing people do. … except they do not always
know they’ve made noises. — Christy, 22, Jacksonville
Deaf people do not scream when they are frustrated. No more than you or I do
as people who can hear. — Sarah, Rochester, N.Y.
My parents are deaf. Some deaf people are quiet, by choice. Others don’t care
what they sound like and are very expressive vocally. — Kristina, 37, Seattle
I tend to internalize frustration so as not to bother other people. The
answer may also depend on where I am at the time. I won’t scream if frustrated
at work. — Ray, deaf, Iowa
My sister lost her hearing at a very young age. When we were children, when
she was in a room by herself, she would “utter” quite spontaneously, and yes,
the volume did elevate with excitement. — Ed, Richmond, Va.
I teach at a school for the deaf. Often someone without hearing has
well-developed vocal cords and uses them as frequently as anyone else. — Robert,
54, Portland, Ore.
Read our lips: When you gotta scream, you gotta scream.
“Many deaf people yell; it’s a pent-up discharge that everyone needs as part
of their neurological wiring,” said psychologist Deborah Serani, an adjunct
professor at Adelphi University in New York who’s worked with deaf people for
more than 20 years. “It’s not good to hold things in; it can lead to things like
high blood pressure.”
Just like hearing people, their facial expressions can get exaggerated, too,
and they can shake their hands or tap a table to show frustration, she said.
“One [deaf] woman I was working with, she got extremely angry talking about a
situation at work. … She stood up and stamped her feet and was signing in such a
large way that the lampshade on my desk started to shake. She pointed to it, and
we both laughed.”
Overemphasized signing and more expansive gesticulations can be typical for
deaf people when frustrated, she added.
“One of my favorites is a word you can’t print, for someone they’re upset
with … picture them, when mad, taking their hand, making a fist, and instead of
keeping it tight, which they might do if mildly upset, opening it very wide so
you can see a big O — like a sphincter.”
We hear that one, loud and clear.
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his