*snip snip snip*
I caught myself in the mirror, bewildered, trying not to cringe at the sound that reverberated into my hearing aid.
Feeling locks of my hair fall gently across my face, I looked up again in the mirror, this time directly at the barber who expertly snipped his way through my full raggedy bonnet of hair. I hoped it was a masterpiece and that we fully understood each other what we were aiming for – a wonderful haircut that I could proudly show off my cochlear implant and hearing aid yet look stylish and smart at the same time.
Now, I guess you’re wondering why I am anxious.
Being a deaf person, having my haircut is one of the times when I feel communication is non-existent. Most of the time, my hearing aid is taken out due to the copious amounts of scented water sprayed into my unruly hair and I’m utterly dependent on the barber to get what I want.
I see on television programmes and non-creepily staring into the windows of hairdressers that people converse with their hairdressers/barbers in great detail, revealing their innermost secrets throughout the entire process. Also, guide the hairdresser to what they want in their new hairstyle.
Not me. As soon as I plopped myself into the barbers chair, it’s time to take out my hearing aid and cochlear implant and sit in silence while they start up the razors and prepare their sharpened scissors. For the next hour, it would be me and my own thoughts interspersed with blind moments of panic when you think they’ve cut your hair wrong. Or perhaps when they start talking to you, as you can see in the mirror, and you nod and smile rather too vigorously whilst wondering what the hell you may have agreed to. Perhaps a full mohican? A mohawk?
That’s what my life was like before I started to take full control of how a deaf haircut experience should be like a couple of years ago. Particularly when I found myself on the other side of the world desperately needing to have a haircut on this mop of hair that flattened into my face every time the humid moist air breezed right in.
Basically, the issue is communication, right? But to be honest, it’s all on me causing the issue. The barber/hairdresser don’t really know what to do if they have a deaf customer walk into their shop. It’s up to me to educate them and also how you should have the confidence to say ‘hey, it’s okay, I’m deaf and I know what I want. Listen to me.’
Here are some tips on what you can do to get the fantastic hairstyle of your choice.
- Wherever you are in the world whether the main language is your language or not, always be prepared which hairstyle you want. I usually take a picture of someone whose hairstyle I admire or an older pic of me when you thought your hair as on point. Show it to your hairdresser and they will understand. I still chuckle at the time when I was in Argentina and they fell about laughing when I wanted a hairstyle that was one of the Jonas Brothers.
- Be clear in how you prefer to be communicated to. When I sit in the chair, I take a beat to tell the hairdresser to be aware that I’m deaf and that if I have my hearing aid out, I won’t hear what they are saying. I ask them to either tap me on the shoulder so I can put my hearing aid in for a few seconds to converse quickly or wave to me in the mirror and gesture if they want this particularly way of hair cutting done. For example, do I want my sideburns trimmed how high?
- After the wetting of the hair and the razoring/cutting of the sides of the head, I usually place my hearing aid back in to listen to the hairdresser shop whether it’s music, conversation or not. Just inform your hairdresser that you have it in and if they need to get close to your hearing aid, just tell them to tell you to take it out. After all, you don’t want your tubing sliced!
- If the music in the hairdressers’ is too loud, tell them to turn it down. You’re the customer and the customer is always right.
- If you are in any doubt about you want your hair to look, take a few minutes to talk with your hairdresser/barber before you start. You’re the customer and you’re in no rush. Confirm and then remove your hearing aids/cochlear implant and relax.
- Ensure your hairdresser/barber’s face is visible in the mirror, perhaps you can lipread them?
- How about making appointments? I usually find places where you can book online, and you can find them too.
‘There we go!’
The barber placed the mirror behind me for my reaction. I was shocked. This guy has done gooooood! Running my fingers through my number two sides, my fingers slightly knocking into my hearing aid, I grinned ear to ear. Still looking into the mirror, he tapped me on the shoulder and motioned at the hair product in his hand to indicate if I wanted any.
I nodded feeling the comfortable atmosphere allowing me to sag into the plush leather chair while he rubbed and massaged my head. Only one thing crossed my mind:
I communicated easily what hairstyle I wanted and, by god, he did it.