Take My Word For it

One of my pet hates in life is to have to constantly prove that I am deaf. You know society mistrusts everyone so much that you must show that you are the real deal. Often it is necessary because people do take advantage.  For example they will try to de-fraud Centrelink of Disability Pension money by pretending that they have a disability of some sort.  Sometimes proving one has a disability is just logical. Often it is not. In fact  it is often just a down right abuse of human dignity.

For example, a deaf person going to University might meet one of the University disability support staff to try and work out the most appropriate type of support that they can get. Perhaps it is captioning or perhaps an interpreter is required. Some may just simply require a hearing loop so that they can utilise their hearing they have more effectively. The deaf person will rock up for the initial interview. They will show their hearing aids, they might even have an interpreter for the initial interview. It will be obvious that they are deaf. They may have a deaf voice, they may sign to communicate or simply they will have a cochlear implant for all to see.

So they will have their initial interview and they will work out the support that they require to study. It may be technology or it might be a sign language interpreter.  The assessment interview might take an hour. The disability support person will know clearly that the person is deaf simply because deaf person spent the last hour signing their answers to them. Yet despite this they will insist that before any support is given that the deaf person must provide an audiogram or a letter from their Doctor verifying that they are deaf. I mean hearing people just decide for the fun of it that they will pretend they are deaf, book interpreters and have their lectures interpreted  for them … you know simply because its fun. Lots of people are weird like that – go figure. Sometimes a little common sense is required.

So it was with great dismay that I found out today that to participate in national or state deaf sporting events in the future that I will have to provide an audiogram. I mean I have only been involved in the Deaf community for 28 years. I entered it when I was 18 and have partaken in three Australian Deaf Games, numerous national and state deaf golf championships, a few Southern Cross Soccer Championships and even a Deaf Mixed Netball Championships. I thought that everyone knew that I was deaf.  Apparently not.  You see – all these years they have actually suspected that I might be hearing and because of this I now must submit an audiogram before I partake in any official Deaf sporting events ever again. I must do this to prove to them what I and they already know – that I am deaf.

Of course I do not have an audiogram. I have not seen an audiologist since I left school. So I must pay some money to a doctor or an audiologist to show that I am deaf.  Bugger the fact that I must pay registration fees, travel and accommodation costs to participate in deaf sporting events, I now must pay an additional sixty bucks or so to verify I am deaf. I thought they already knew. How could I have been so stupid. I am a hearing person in disguise and I did not even KNOW!

You know  deaf sport is really corrupt. We find the best hearing people we can, just to win, and make them pretend that they are deaf. Yeah, and then these people go on to represent Australia pretending that they are deaf. Real deaf people miss out because hearing people are just wanting to replace deaf people in everything! Winning is so important that deaf sports teams are gonna stack their teams with elite hearing athletes. There is no financial gain involved. These hearing people actually have to pay for the privilege of pretending to be deaf and partaking in deaf sport. They are queuing up to abuse the system – they are everywhere! Yep, they will pay thousands for the honour. ” Hey I am hearing, I am so good I represented the Deaf Tiddley Winks Team in Nepal, and paid $10 000 for the privilege — HE HE HE HE —- Ain’t I sneaky???”

Ok I am getting a little cynical but the Deaf community was the last bastion in the world where I could just be deaf and not have to prove it. I didn’t have to see a doctor for a report that said my mid range frequencies were at the mega hertz levels while my lower range ones were in the mini hertz levels. The Deaf community was somewhere where my deafness was just accepted as a normal state of being. Medical models, doctors and audiologist did not exist. Sadly, not anymore!

Now I have heard all the arguments about why we must now prove that we are deaf. The international deaf sporting bodies demand it. It ensures deaf sport remains deaf sport and it allows data to be gathered that can be used to apply for additional funding,  I am sorry but I don’t buy any of these arguments. If you get picked at international level then why not get an audiogram then. Surely deaf sport at national and state level has more value than simply winning!  Data is available everywhere. If you want to know how many deaf people were fitted with hearing aids  just ask Australian Hearing to provide you with longitudinal data . Hell, if you look hard enough you might even find the information on the Web. Contact the Eye and Ear hospital for information about how many kids have been implanted in the last 20 years and at what age. Its not difficult to develop a statistical argument for deaf participation in sport using this sort of data.

The people that are insisting on this new strict audiogram policy for participation at Deaf national and state sporting events are actually very good friends of mine. I know they have made the decision to demand audiograms with the best of intentions. Unfortunately this time I think they have got it very wrong.  Deaf sport at a national or state level, to me anyway, is about fun, socialising and memories. Winning is way down the pecking order. I find this new policy lacking in common sense. I find it autocratic and overly officious. Hell, they are threatening disciplinary action if audiograms are not provided. The Deaf community, particularly its sporting events, was the last bastion where I could be a person without the medical crap following me – sadly this is now no longer the case.

18 thoughts on “Take My Word For it

  1. I agree Gary – the national and state based Deaf events seem to have an equal focus (if not a greater focus) on the social camaraderie aspects of getting together and competing with your Deaf friends and peers.

    By all means ensure that there is sufficient documentary evidence of hearing loss before all international events when representing Australia – but for the local and Australian Deaf events we shouldn’t be making it harder for people to get involved in these events surely?

  2. Can appreciate your frustration Gary. I also take note of Michael’s concern too but I think the issue is far bigger than that.

    Yes any state/national sporting event should be embracing ANY person who has a hearing loss however the level of loss they have. There are however cases in the past where deaf people who thought they were playing against their fellow peers turned out to find that they have considerable hearing which puts them in advantage.

    Unfortunately we live in a society where the innocent ones are made to suffer the consequences of the actions of some devious people who manage to take advantage of the rules and for their own personal cause/endeavour.

    In the Sydney Paralympics, if I recall the majority of the Spanish Basketball Team who were suppose to represent people with intellectual disabilities were found to contain at least half of the team members who do not possess such disability at all. In fact some were professional journalist! It appears they bluffed their way through the screening process. It was a major embarrassment to the sport and the movement itself.

    Then some of us who have worked with and enjoyed engaging with children are now subjected to fill out and prove that we don’t have any criminal convictions relating to various matters such as indecent behaviour to children by completing a “working with children’ application before we can engage in any activities associated with children per se. We must thank the sexual predators for this!

    And there I vividly recall hearing an array of stories shared by a professional audiologist who has regularly been assigned by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) to undertake compulsory (for new athletes) and random hearing testing and identify quite a number of athletes who do not comply with the international criteria. The lengths they went through to ‘deafen’ themselves was astonishing and very desperate. This sometimes stems from which country they are coming from and whether there are ‘cash for medals’ in play.

    I also understand that Australia kindly invited an overseas deaf soccer team for a few friendlies only to find out later that majority of them were in fact hearing. It left a sour taste in many people’s mouths in terms of ‘fairness and honesty’.

    Responding to the sound of the starting gun can be a major difference between a gold and bronze medal. I would hate to be beaten (let alone see a world record be broken) because a competitor was able to respond a one hundredth of second faster than me due to his ‘better hearing levels’.

    Then again it would be a sad day to see a basketball team beat Australia when half of its team is able to call out a set play or ask for the ball speaking behind their presumably ‘deaf player’ that leads a match winning score.

    Whilst some of these are ‘international levels’ examples, I recall many, years ago at a national sporting event whereby in some cases whereby if a person who plays a sport such as golf really well, it interesting to see how the competitors tend to remark whether the winner should be ‘tested’ not for performance enhancing drugs but to confirm if he/she is actually ‘deaf enough’!

    The debate about hearing levels will continue for some time to come. Deaf Sports Australia took a major step forward to initiate a lowering (or should that be increasing) the hearing loss levels to around 40-45 decibels mostly because they are not catering for a larger untapped market. So it should!

    This process is no different to what the Paralympics undertake due to the various disability levels and if we want to ensure we are competing on equal footing with competitors who share the same level of deafness as you then this is the way to go.
    But, there are and may will be some devious people who will take advantage of this situation for their own personal cause and in this day and age it may be the case of proper ‘due diligence’ checks to ensure everything is above board. I understand you only need to do this once and unless you had a miracle recovering from your hearing loss that puts you above the compliance level one should not have to worry.

    Yes it can be a little insulting and frustrating not to mention costly in this respect. Perhaps If Deaf Sports Australia and all states plus relevant deaf sports associations could approach Australian Hearing to develop and distribute a ‘one off’ special ‘hearing loss confirmation card’ it may go well towards eliminating and verifying (just like a car license) that you have an invisible disability that qualifies you to partake in any sport or to obtain appropriate support/services etc?

    I have met many people with level of hearig loss to have their hearing loss worsen over time. These groups are growing and we should be embracing them as much as possible if we want to show strenth in the numbers and be able to truly identify the status of hearing loss and its challenges in Australia and learn how we can best accomodate them on a fair and even level playing field.

    Our biggest dilemma has always been that our disability is invisible and we are constantly scrutinised whether we are genuine or not. The public also have yet to appreciate just how complex and challenging being deaf can be so with this stigma we need to be proactive, innovative and show integrity of ourselves to eliminate the potential of a non-deaf person abusing a system that will only impose greater pain and hardship on us in the future.

  3. Your comment

    A good response Dean and I do get where you are coming from but maintain that common sense is all that is required. Perhaps we could have a rule that says all people that want to be considered for international events must submit an audiogram. I maintain that requiring everyone to submit one is overkill and that the incidence of abuse in the system here in Australia where state teams have picked people who are not Deaf is low if almost non existent. If someone walks onto court with two cochlear implants do you really need to submit an audiogram. What are we going to do about past winners. Ask they submit an audiogram or have their titles taken away? I just want to play and have a beerM If someone beats me and their hearing loss is 38 DB instead of 40 … I really don’t care. Most of us are init for the fun ….and friendships. Once we lose that sense of trust and desire to just participate and have fun and replave it with suspicion and conforming mentality we lose the real spirit of sport and participation. For me that’s incredibly sad.

  4. You don’t need to prove anything, the advice I got was (1) NEVER suggest to anyone you have a good speaking voice (2) Sign everything and anything (3) Indicate you have been dependent/reliant on care, interpreting, and social services most of your life (4) You went to a deaf school. (5) Tell them you have learning difficulties. (6) Say you don’t really follow English all that well. (7) You cannot follow people who speak at all. (Works for deaf culture).


  5. There are audiological tests designed for “faking deafness” that picks it up. Whether they are practical for screening, I don’t know, but if any audiograms or testing are required, it should be done at the same time for all applicants where deafness is a criterion…only then can it be considered fair.

    Another consideration: if participants are required to be deaf, have everybody wear wax plugs or headphones designed to block, not filter sound. Theoretically, hearing people will feel disoriented by the sudden muffling of sound but it won’t bother deaf people. This has been used in certain situation in aerospace research.

    Interesting discussion, hearing people trying to take advantage of offerings intended for deaf people even at the expense of their hearing. It would be even more interesting to analyze their reasons and motivations. What hearing athlete would be proud of a trophy labeled “deaf soccer tournament”?

  6. Your comment
    What we need is random hearing tests. Instead of athletes going off to pee in a cubicle they go off to a sound proof cubicle and have their hearing tested. And the expense is with the people that are demanding we all have hearing tests and not just the participants that just want to enjoy themselves. (And no I am not serious)

    • Hearing tests will prove nothing at all, unless a strict criteria exists to state you are deaf or not, and the deaf will be the first to challenge any db ID. Let us not forget the American judges who wanted cultural eligibility put into the deaflympics. That is a background of lifestyle and sign language and deaf education. This will still not identify the degree your loss disables (Let’s forget the Deaf versus disability thing, because you are talking medical definitions). As regards to my last comment and ‘cultural’ ID, this is NOT my defintion but an actual copy of an interview I had with a deaf social worker and the disability allowance people in the UK, who refused to accept that as I spoke well, I wasn’t disabled by deafness, I fought that and they started bringing up what THEY saw as someone truly disabled by deafness, i.e. the CULTURAL deaf and gave me those definitions to answer which I couldn’t because my deafness (profound) occurred AFTER full time education. Like I Keep explaining to the cultural deaf, these identifications are the system’s and ones I, have to comply with to get support I need. I could suggest the ‘Deaf’ are not selling much positivity where it counts,and are wise to the effect if they overdo it, they will lose ‘disability’ status and all the financial help that goes with it. I’d be the first to agree deaf people are extremely disabled people. Their entire lifestyle mirrors that. That us why I prefer to say it how it is and not play the “I don’t need anything, I aint disabled, or need anything’ gig. I am profoundly deaf and there is little positive as I can see in that.

  7. Gary… any athlete who wishes to compete at an international deaf competition (well at least the Deaflympics) fo the first time are to submit a audiogram which then goes on file at the international body. Their audiologist may then decide to undertake further testing or conduct random testing.

    As for local event I agree common sense prevail but for events like swimming, athletics and other sports that would require the use of hearing sound to one advantage is a little tricky.

    The Paralympic dodies have so many disabilities categroies and various criterias that it has yet to get it right and continues to cause headaches at all levels.

    As one (current) Deaf Director on DSA continues to use this anology: “Do you think it is fair for a amputee to line up with an able bodied person over 100m? Then again do you think it is fair for a full Deaf person to line up with someone who hearing is better than yours?”

    It may well be that in the future we have different categories for different hearing loss if it will resolve the problem but I need to be actually convince that there is a significant difference in whatever sport they do.

    I have competed alongside hearing athletes and whilst they do get a better advantage over me in many events however it is the techbology that need to be address hence why the starting light system allows a fairer equal level playing field. I cannot see why this should not be an issue across all sports if ‘visual systems’ were in place. (remmber – light travels faster than sound 😉 )

    As for the cochlear implant, at international levels you are to not wear your implants at all and I guess part of this stems to safety issues.

  8. The point I was making re the cochlear implants Dean is ….. why would you bother insisting that they have an audiogram? Pointless really .. You can ask them to take the implants off before they play but why test them? This is where common sense comes into play. Ill say it again … Lets just play!

  9. I remember once, the Deaflympics in New Zealand, they caught one of us being a hearing swimmer. DSA sent him home.

  10. One person made a comment – some of the people playing in these National championships will not be taking part in the Australian Deaf Games, so there is less incentive for them to take a hearing test, especially if they pay for it.
    We need to balance this – or those filler ins of deaf and hearing impaired people who step in to make up the numbers or only want a one of fun social event won’t participate. It’s fine for ADG and Deaflympics/ World Deaf events – but at Nationals it gets a bit autocratic and tricky.

  11. Gary – re the CI issue. I recall a case whereby a person who has full hearing in one ear opt to have a CI in the ‘deafened’ ear. So the rumours whether a CI is completely compliant to existing ‘deafness eligibility’ rules was raised.

    Tim, I remember that incident. The person concerned did a proper test prior to going to NZ (with audiogram in hand) and then was asked to undertake another test because he was considered ‘borderline’. Subsequently the additional test saw this person not in compliance and subsequently sent home. A very sad sight when one is reliant on technology and had to be left to explain to his supporters why he was not eligible.

    I also recall a discussion about this amongst the Blind/Vision Impaired people. There were questions just ‘how blind are you?’ was raise and where you should fit at competition level. Same also applies for non-sport relate matters.

    Marnie’s case is another good example. It is a tricky one which need to be discuss at great lengths considering various scenarios so that it encourages, embraces people rather than deter them.

  12. if someone with full hearing in one ear opted for a CI in the other one would asssume they would have been disappointed with the result 😀 – Also if one is fully deaf in one ear only does that make them 50% deaf 😀 Thus qualifying for the ADG …???

  13. Also where do tye culturally deaf fit in .. from a Deaf family .. profoundly deaf in one ear 35% in the other …. Is that a no? Are the Deaf games not a tradition of the Deaf community .. so many scenarios and judging things on level of hearing alone is just the easy way out.

    • Here’s the simple solution…. if you’re culturally Deaf since birth or be involved in the Deaf community or family for a long period of time, but that person can be hearing or hard of hearing. Gets a box of ear plugs and insert them into their “hearing” ears before taking part in one of the Australian Deaf Games’ sporting games. I am sure this will impacts the “sporting industry” growth and policy development as to increases membership base strengthens an influential organization that attracts sponsors and government grants. Here’s the example, the Deaf Poker founder, Sokong from Sydney helps set-up the upcoming second Australian Deaf poker championship in Melbourne this October have now accept CODA and Hard of Hearing players’ registrations. I think there is an assumption in one of the poker championship rules is that you must be communicate in AUSLAN mode while sitting on tables, if you’re playing or not. Think outside of the square.

  14. Logically if the deaf are otherwise able-bodied then why a deaf olympics at all ? there is the paralympics and the main event they already qualify for, how much access do they want ? Culture isn’t sport, it’s an excuse for a deaf get-together, competition sport-wise means you take on all comers hearing or deaf. It’s only the logistics of the start. Deaf do not campaign to compete that’s the trouble they just want to race each other ? because they are deaf ? Not competition as we understand it… and a niggling doubt the deaf are genuinely wanting sporting competition because they are reluctant to lobby the Main Olympics to be included… Deaf can do anything except hear ? except compete in the Olympics obviously …. mixed message here…

  15. That is being very Black and White MM. There are other cultural sporting events in the world where people of a similar language and culture compete against each other – the Jewish Games come to mind as an example. I certainly do see deaf sporting events as more of a cultural sheebang aimed at bringing deaf people together. Within hearing events deaf people do not get the same experience that comes with the socialising and getting to know other competiters. Arguably there are no sporting events that are soley for the sport. Exchange of goodwill and cultures are all part of these events. For me deaf sport events, especially at local and national level, are more about the fun, for others its about the sport – but its still like minded people that share something similar (an experience of deafness and a desire to compete against others that share the same experience.) Arguably deaf sporting events should include the family of deaf people as well as they share a common experience. But certainly I think the focus on medical means to define deafness at these events is wrong.

    • I think it is about access and acceptance,whilst the deaf still demand to go it alone they are not opening up the access for those who want equality in sporting terms. It’s the bigger picture, and why should mainstream foot the bill for deaf-only events and social gatherings ? I am not asked to foot the Bill for Urdu cultural gatherings, why must I agree to put money into deaf-only ones ? especially when the criteria is cultural as well as decibel related. If you take the medical focus away, then how do you decide who is really deaf or, who belongs to the cultural idea of that ? It would solve a lot if they just said deaf only, and mean that in total and profound terms, not mess about with decibels. Anyway the UK is now refusing to give deaf sports money for their deaflympics. You want, you pay, you decide who is deaf !

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