Marriage Between Deaf and Hearing Persons

For related articles, click:


The biggest difficulty, which most deaf people face in life, is socializing with hearing people. Nevertheless, several deaf people socialize with hearing people. Some of them even marry hearing people.

Deaf-hearing marriages have their own special challenges. The best analogies from outside the Deaf world are:

  1. Marriages of people from different religious and/or cultural backgrounds.
  2. Marriages between an able-bodied person and a disabled person.

Related links:

Hearing centered vs. Deaf centered marriages

(Contributed by Holly Geeslin at 30 Mar 1995.)

We have seen two kinds of deaf-hearing mixed marriages:

Hearing centered
The Hearing centered marriages have the following characteristics:
  • Hearing spouse answers the phone 100% of the time.
  • H is responsible for ordering food at restaurants.
  • H does all or most the planning and interacting in situations like - buying a house, fixing the car, getting a new hot water heater, etc.
  • H socializes frequently with hearing/non-signing friends.
  • H goes with D to their doctors appointments to interpret.
  • H doesn't feel comfortable with Deaf friends.
  • H often doesn't Sign well ("still learning").
  • H is primary language model for hearing (and sometimes DEAF) children.
  • Deaf spouse says things like (well, s/he isn't really ready to be around my friends, you know, still learning's a pain sometimes, but SO much easier for my (hearing) family......S/he couldn't come, s/he is home taking care of the kids.....etc).
  • D doesn't challenge or get involved in family decisions often.
  • D is passive when at home
  • D uses spoken English or simcom with H cause "it's so much easier for him/her."
  • D feels hearing people are the best language role models for children.
  • D has not yet been empowered.
Deaf centered
In Deaf centered marriages:
  • D/H both have Deaf friends and socialize mostly with them.
  • Sign is used at home when no one else is around.
  • D orders for self and sometimes for spouse, too in restaurants.
  • D does the "yelling" at the mechanic, doctor, or whoever provided poor service, when necessary.
  • D equally shares in family decision making or is primary decision maker.
  • D is a language role model for Deaf and Hearing children.
  • H doesn't "do for" spouse.
  • H is comfortable with both cultures.
  • H can understand Sign well enough to follow a group of Signers.


  1. All of this is off the top of my head and very unorganized and I'm sure worthy of great revisions, but I think you can get my idea. My point is, in my experience hearing centered marriages are the ones which often fail or are unhappy.
  2. The above categories are ONLY talking about SIGNING Deaf people. I haven't any idea how Oral deaf and hearing people get along in marriage.

Hints for Successful D/H Marriage

(Contributed by Holly Geeslin at 30 Mar 1995.)
  1. Try to have Deaf-centered rather than Hearing-centered marriage (see the section about Hearing centered vs. Deaf centered marriages).
  2. How your family communicates when children are born seems to be the maker or breaker.
  3. Also, both partners ability to respect and learn from the others culture and language.

Should the Hearing Spouse help the Deaf Spouse in D/H Marriage?

(Contributed by Omer Zak.)

There is a couple of a Deaf man and CODA woman who works as Sign Language interpreter. They have a policy whereby the wife does not interpret for her husband. They say that she is his wife rather than his interpreter.

On the other hand, there is a couple of a very successful oral deaf man and hearing woman. The man says that he'd not marry a deaf woman. According to him, an hearing woman adds a very useful capability which facilitates several aspects of life. This is analogous to marrying someone with an occupation with high earnings potential.

(Contributed by Robert Rourke at 3 Oct 1995.)

As a matter of fact, I did not even think about the additional dimension of deaf/hearing relationships at all before my current 6-year relationship with a hearing lover, even long before my first two previous relationships with hearing people. Their (hearing's) personalities, ablities to understand, willingnesses, patiences, charmings, intellectuals and/or others are the more compelling reasons for me than their ability to help me in daily life.

(Contributed by Susan A. Pollack at 10 Oct 1995. She is a deaf woman married to an hearing man.)

On occasion, I have him make a phone call or do something inanely "hearing" for me, but that's not why I married him. The fact that he can hear doesn't add any real useful aspect to my marriage (and I'm not putting him down -- he knows this) because I'm an independent person and married him for the person he IS, not for his ears. I don't like to take advantage of the fact that he CAN hear because when I'm in a situation where he's not there to fill me in on what's going on, I can get even more lost because I'm not paying close enough attention to the situation or the people around me; I may end up expecting someone else to fill me in when they don't even know that they should.

The best thing my husband can do for me is tell me what someone said on TV when the captions are garbled or when they're not there at all. But that's not always a big deal either because I read the newspaper and talk about TV programs the next day with my coworkers.

If a person suggests that deaf people should marry someone who's hearing only because the hearing spouse can help out the deaf spouse all the time, he/she implies that the deaf person will (or even should) become dependent on the hearing person. What kind of life is that? I personally don't ever want to reach the stage where I have to ask my husband to be my interpreter everywhere I go -- what would I do if he left me? In some cases, it's good to depend on and get help from your spouse. But in the big scheme of things, it's better to depend on yourself.

Alexander Graham Bell's opinion

In early 20th century, Alexander Graham Bell advocated legislation to prohibit deaf persons from marrying each other (and require compulsory sterilization of deaf girls). The reason was to prevent hereditary deafness from passing to new generations, forming a deaf human race. Such a legislation would have required every deaf person to marry an hearing person, or else live "in sin" or live alone.

Would it be wise for a deaf person to be involved with another deaf person?

Some well-meaning parents tell their deaf son (or daughter) that it would not be wise to be romantically involved with someone who is as handicapped as they are. This is because they need someone to make up for their hearing loss. If both sides of a marriage are hearing impaired, it is more difficult to live.

The opposing point of view is that deaf-deaf marriage is just like hearing-hearing marriage. It will be obviously difficult on the surface but only on the surface. In a deaf-deaf marriage, the deaf spouses, despite their broken ears, can feel like hearing people, without domination by the better-hearing side. It is also more likely for a deaf person to identify with and love another deaf person, because of the communication and similarity of their backgrounds. And of course, the deaf-deaf couple can overcome obstacles and it is more fun doing it together than alone.

Last update date: 
2007 Dec 28