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Deaf man recounts heartbreak, isolation from never-ending mask mandates

Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Brad Kirby — a deaf man and former law enforcement official who lives in North Carolina with his family — says that he's experiencing a variety of negative feelings and emotions from having to deal with ongoing mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the details?

In an article published in the Federalist titled, "For Deaf People Like Me, Mask Mandates Impose Never-Ending Isolation," Kirby recalled what it feels like to be a deaf person living under mask mandates.

He wrote, "Alone. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Empty. Sidelined. Ignored. Dismissed. Did I mention alone? These are just a few of the words that describe what a person who is deaf or hearing-impaired feels like on a daily basis."

Kirby, who was born with a congenital birth defect preventing him from hearing, wears hearing aids, but heavily relies on lip-reading for communication.

"As a child I couldn’t hear the whistle while trying to play sports, and continued playing until I see people laughing or trying to get my attention," Kirby recalled. "I’ve missed jokes because I couldn’t understand the words being spoken. When I laugh, my hearing aids squeal because my ears move and the gap in my ear canals causes feedback."

He continued, "I only hear parts of sentences and I am constantly having to process, in a fraction of a second, the sounds of words said, then to mentally match those sounds to words I have heard before, then to put the whole sentence together in my mind just to be able to communicate."

Mask mandates, however, have made difficult hearing nearly impossible.

"I knew I was in trouble," he admitted. "Not only do I not like things in my face because of incidents in my law enforcement career, it also hurts to have the loops behind my ears when wearing my hearing aids. Couple the pain and discomfort and my mild PTSD with the fact that now I cannot understand a single word spoken to me by someone wearing a mask because I can’t read their lips or see their facial expressions."

Kirby said that the public has been unforgiving of his condition and that he gets glares when he asks those in service or retail if they can pull down their masks so he can understand what they're trying to say to him.

"I went to a hardware store to look for a specific part, only to get the wrong thing because I couldn’t understand the associate," he said. "I got harsh looks from the teller at the bank and a cashier at the grocery store because I asked them to pull down their masks and repeat what they said because I can’t hear. That got me harsh looks from people behind me waiting in line too. I was told 'no' by a store associate that he will not pull his mask down to tell me what I needed, for fear that I would get him sick. These are a few of countless other incidents of looks, stares, and comments when I have a family member with me and ask them to tell me what is being said."

Kirby said that he believes never-ending mask mandates are not only harming the way that people communicate with one another but hindering the progress of ending the pandemic once and for all.

"Don’t get me started on the hundreds of studies disproving the efficacy of masks," he wrote. "I have asked our health department, county commissioners, city council, church leaders, even the governor’s office and the state health authorities if they would reconsider the mask mandates and why. I never got anything but grief about it and excuses. Each order or mandate includes language like 'must wear mask unless communicating with someone hard of hearing or deaf' or something like having a medical reason not to wear one. Yet they are treated as mass mandates for all with no exceptions, even for people who have legitimate reasons. So I have avoided going places that require masks so I won’t cause a scene when I say I can’t wear one."

Kirby said that he felt the treatment was nothing short of discrimination, so he reached out to personal attorneys and even representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"No one has been willing to hear my concerns," he said. "No one cares that there is a group of people in the country being 'legally' discriminated against in the name of 'science,' even though with all the mandates and orders there are loopholes for when you don’t have to wear one."

He concluded, "I served and protected people from the evils of humanity for two decades in law enforcement. Now I need the help and it is falling on deaf ears."

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