E-Community Activity: Thinking About Language

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Subject: Thinking about language

An interesting online conversation about labels emerged within a group of young people and adults with hearing impairments.

  • As a hearing-impaired individual, I always found it uncomfortable when people would say I'm "deaf." I prefer "hard of hearing" or "hearing-impaired" over "deaf."
  • I used to say I was "hard of hearing" and hated to be called "deaf." After losing more hearing, I became legally deaf. Even though I can talk and sing (badly), I am deaf.
  • I prefer the term "hearing impaired" because people don't react as badly as they do when the term "deaf" is used. When I tell someone I'm deaf, they act as though I can't communicate at all. But if I say I'm hearing impaired, people think I can communicate, but I just have some trouble. Some people associate the word "deaf" with being dumb, even if they don't mean to.
  • "Deaf" simplifies things for me. The only problem that I've encountered over this terminology is that somebody heard me wrong and told another person that I was "death!"
  • I became deaf as an adult and in the process went through a period when I was "hard of hearing," meaning if I really concentrated I could still get information from sounds. Then I became totally deaf and now rely completely on my vision and other senses for all my information. I am "deaf" and feel that gives a clear picture of me and how to communicate with me (i.e., no matter how loud you speak, I am still deaf....GRIN!)....The problem I have with the term "hearing impaired" is that it implies that hearing is still there and if we work hard enough it might kick in....It also labels me impaired, which "I ain't." I'm just deaf. The hearing isn't impaired either. It just isn't there.
  • I sometimes forget I am deaf because the silence has become so "normal," and on those days I am startled to be labeled.

How do you like people to describe your disability? If wording is important to you, what can you do to let others know?