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Dinner Table Syndrome

As we think of a dinner table, we see it as a gathering of family members sitting down and talking about how the day went. Hearing family members pitch in to talk and laugh over and plan out for the next day. Let us see what is dinner table syndrome.

A few people are dancing and talking while a Deaf girl reads a book on the left-hand side.
What is Dinner Table Syndrome?

Dinner table syndrome, from a deaf person's point of view, deals more with exclusion at family gatherings or events. Unfortunately, it is a global issue. Exclusion at events leads the deaf individual and the deaf community to be secluded from the conversations. A fun fact, 90% of deaf children and hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents and many deaf children struggle to communicate with their immediate family. Exclusions of these kinds led deaf and hard-of-hearing children to be isolated, stressed, lonely, and frustrated. It also contributes to low-self esteem and confidence in young Deaf people.

Dinner table syndrome, and brain fatigue come into play, and it leaves us very exhausted or quiet. We become passive observers observing hearing family members talking.

While the events or family talks are going on, you would find the deaf adult in another room leafing through a book alone, watching YouTube videos, or maybe on some occasions sleeping so, they can avoid it. Deaf Anxiety, Dinner table syndrome, and brain fatigue come into play, and it leaves us very exhausted or quiet. We become passive observers observing and hearing family members talking. Most of the time, I would prefer not to stay for any social gatherings or leave early.

In my opinion, it does not affect young Deaf children as much as it does Deaf adults. The young children would play together, making a noisy racket. But as we become young adults, we would yearn to be a part of the conversations. The language barrier and communication problems also lead to the exclusion of the Deaf person. As we ask someone to brief us on the discussion taking place or repeat the joke, they all were laughing a few seconds ago. They say, “nevermind, it is not important,” or they Waterdown the banter or the conversation leaving all the relevant tidbits to the point that it does not become a joke.

Interactions at the dinner table enable deaf adults and children to learn appropriate social etiquette and behaviors.

In Asian households, hearing family members usually speak more than one language. While getting carried away during the events, they will not converse in the language the Deaf adult is fluent in, which can also lead the Deaf adult to be excluded from the conversation. The same is true if hearing family members converse in the Deaf child's native language. It would isolate the deaf adult in terms of lipreading, Deaf anxiety, and brain fatigue.

Not only that, most family events and intimate parties take place in a noisy environment, and there is no good lighting. Inaccessible group conversations such as being unable to see all the people's lip movements, or people not well conversed in sign language. These situations also led us to be left out of conversations.

The elders, society, and the medical field frequently iterate that children watch us while growing up, learning from us, speaking the language the elders around them communicate and behave. Similarly, interactions at the dinner table enable deaf adults and children to learn appropriate social etiquette and behaviors. Even now, if I have a family gathering, I would be a passive observer or leaf through a novel, enjoying my solidarity world.

I think most of these are unintentional exclusions. For example, I am going out with a hearing friend. She brings a couple of hearing friends. She gets carried away, overlooking my needs. I, as a deaf person, become a passive observer. I can say the same for the family. Hearing people are not experiencing the anxiety that comes with being left out of the conversation, so they do not understand the impact it has on Deaf people and the Deaf community.

On the other hand, When I first met deaf friends, we didn't understand each other, which is normal if we haven't seen each other in a long time. You see, meeting a deaf friend is extremely rare because I have not met anyone my age in Sri Lanka, but I've met three deaf friends so far. Regardless, we'd know how to accommodate each other's needs based on how the conversation flows and how quickly we get used to lipreading. There is no time crunch or pressure on either of us, but when compared to talking with a hearing person who has no deaf awareness, we feel obligated to reply and have a sense of urgency.

So, my readers, I wanted to bring out this straightforwardly without buttering up anything. These things take place frequently during social events or family gatherings. I also wanted to show the impact these kinds of exclusion can have on the deaf community and raise deaf awareness. Most of the time, it is unintentional and occurs without you knowing it. As parents of a deaf adult, I want you to be aware of it and at least try to include them in your family talks. The society, I wanted to bring awareness to this issue that impacts everyone in the Deaf community.


Comments (1)

Dec 30, 2022

I was born profoundly Deaf and use cochlear implants. I'll definitely share this with my family and friends before I go to a gathering.

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