Learning Japanese with Hearing Loss

Hi there, I think this is my first time posting in this wonderful community.

Let’s get straight to it: I’ve suffered from hearing loss since birth which causes me to be unable to properly distinguish sounds like f, sh, th among others with high pitches. This has always caused me problems in my first language, although recently I’ve been able to access hearing aids which help a lot.

Even with hearing aids however, I’ve been having a terribly difficult time distinguishing sounds in Japanese when listening without subtitles. (Although I do recognise that Japanese is a difficult language to listen to for native English speakers without hearing loss).

Anyway, what I’m wondering is: is there anyone else out there in a similar position who might like to share their experience of learning a language with hearing loss?

Also, am I doing the right thing in learning a language with this setback, or is it a futile endeavour? (I realise this is a silly question, but I think I need a little more confidence).

Thanks!! :smiley:


I don’t have hearing loss, but I imagine that the more you listen, the more you are able to distinguish sounds from what you hear, and the more you are able to understand from context. If you understand most of a sentence, you can guess what the missing words are. I imagine that’s what you do in your first language too, even if you don’t think about it? Even with normal hearing, I do this a lot, both in my native languages and in foreign languages. And if I guess wrong and say something strange, then I laugh and move on!

You’re absolutely doing the right thing! Even if you couldn’t hear at all, you could still read and use subtitles. It may be more difficult for you to learn listening, but then you can spend more time reading and writing. The more you read and write, the more you get a “feeling” for the language, and the more you’ll be able to pick up the spoken language even when you can’t hear it clearly. Good luck!


That’s ok. In the beginning, even with perfect hearing that part still takes way more time than you think it would :slight_smile:

So, two part answer.

First part, I definitely think you’re doing the right thing. If Japanese as a language interests you and it probably has since you’ve been able to get to level 23, then it’s going to be worthwhile to pursue it as far as you can.

For the second part, I don’t think either of us know if it’s futile yet. :wink: That’s life in general.

Sure, with a possible disadvantage, there may be a limit to how far you can go. But I think the process of finding out is just as important as reaching the destination. :smiley:



good luck!


Thanks very much! I think you’re right about working it out by context alongside getting a feel for the language. I’ll keep working hard!
Cheers for the confidence boost and good luck in your studies too!


It’s worth it!!!
Even knowing a few words in another language has helped me make friends.

I bought this book about Japanese sign language last year. Is sign language somehing you might be into?


Comforting to know that it’s difficult for everyone :slight_smile:

I guess you’re right, it’s extremely interesting and at the very least, even if there is a limit, its good brain exercise!

Thanks for the helpful words :smiley:

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Interesting to bring up sign language, I did try learning English sign language once. But since I still have some hearing, alongside the scarcity of people who actually know any sign language, I’ve never found any use for it.

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Also, thanks for the encouragement!

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I know people who are learning Japanese in spite of, maybe even because of, their stutters. And they aren’t shying away from speaking, either! One of them put themselves in customer service, because it is a challenge for him. If you have the will, nothing is futile, or better off not doing.


Knowing these people exist is empowering, thank you!


Welcome to the WK Community; I really hope you’d like it here.
I’m very sorry about your situation, but I hope it won’t discourage you from learning Japanese.

Best of luck with your studies!

P. S. You might find this thread useful:



Cool, will try.


I don’t really know what your situation is like since I only had temporary hearing loss as a child, and I was too young at the time to really appreciate what it meant. (I’m now medically back at 100%, although I still feel like sounds are a bit more muffled in one of my ears.) However, I’d like to say that trying to learn a new language when you have hearing loss is all the more admirable, and it’s definitely a good thing to do, especially if you enjoy it. :smiley: I believe there’s a blind chemistry professor in a particular Japanese university, and I frankly can’t imagine how he studied a technical field full of calculations and visual tools without being able to see, so don’t let the difficulties you face stop you from achieving what you want!

I was just thinking that it might get easier for you to differentiate certain sounds as you get more familiar with how to make them: I often feel sounds other people make while speaking in my mouth and throat, as though my brain is trying to mirror what I hear. I mean, I think that even for people with perfect hearing, it’s always harder to distinguish unfamiliar sounds when they don’t know how how those sounds are made, so perhaps familiarity will help you notice subtle differences more easily. I don’t know if this will be useful, but it might be worth exploring. :slight_smile: You could try looking up pronunciation videos that explain how the mouth and tongue should move, for a start.


When feeling discouraged I find comfort in hearing of others who have been successful at their goals despite various challenges and setbacks, so I hope this gives you more confidence!

I have a friend who has had partial hearing loss from birth and although I don’t know if he has trouble distinguishing sounds in the same way you do, I know he has had difficulties relating to his hearing but has been able to become highly proficient in Japanese. He has conducted field research multiple times in Japan, and is currently writing a dissertation focusing on the impacts of media, technology, politics, and culture on the deaf/hearing-impaired there.



I don’t think it’s futile to learn the language. I think you can make progress in it, though it may be more difficult. And I feel any type of thing you do that enriches your brain is far from a futile effort.

I also have difficulty hearing and I’m unable to speak, so I can’t repeat words out loud to help me remember them. But I’ve also found ways around that, such as signing vocabulary to help me. And I don’t feel like it has been a waste of my time or anything, even if I find my disability restricts me from being able to learn it like how I want.

I hope this will help give you at least a little confidence.


Hi! I’m a severely deaf language learner who also wears hearing aids so I know where you’re coming from.

If you enjoy learning Japanese, it is not a waste of time. I think it’s great that you’re here and doing it anyway.

At various points, I’ve learnt French, Spanish, and Swedish. My current, very slow, project is Japanese. Your main areas of difficulty will be speaking and listening. I think Japanese is quite easy to learn to speak, in terms of pronunciation. Sounds are very consistent but make sure to listen to wanikani sound files and listen to audio books to improve your sound. Listening is harder, obviously. For me, audio books again- listen while reading, then listen again without reading. After practice, listen, read, listen to see if you can start to pick out words yourself.

The best thing I did was sign up to 2 weeks of Japanese classes in Japan. I stayed in an apartment, studied at the school for 20 hours a week and got DRILLED in speaking and listening. I then travelled alone for 2 more weeks and realised that I was able to liprsad simple Japanese! That was massive for me.

(I’m also mostly blind :sweat_smile:)


Also, if you’re thinkjng about doing the JLPT exam, you can get a medical exemption from the listening and you pass/fail based only on the other sections. I intend to do that when I apply to do the test. I know from experience that I can’t listen to a recording in exam conditions and pass, but I can listen correctly in the wild.


Noticed that too :joy_cat:
“Officer, you misunderstood, I was just using Japanese sign language!”

Tell us how it went please…

Thank you for your inspirational words! I’ll be sure to try your technique for listening while reading.
That’s really good to know about the JLPT exam too; back in school I was able to do listening exams in special conditions so that’d be helpful to have!
Best wishes in your continued language studies :grin:

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