Listen to DO-IT

Karyn and Keaton at computer
Phase I Scholars Karyn and Keaton, at 1997 Summer Study.

Besides large-group discussions on the Internet, DO-IT's electronic community supports small groups formed around interests and accommodations. In these smaller groups participants get to know one another and share personal challenges and insights, sometimes related to their disabilities. One interesting conversation emerged in the group that focuses on hearing impairments when a DO-IT Ambassador, after reading an article posted by another participant, sent the following electronic mail message to the group:

Hi all.
I was reading this and found it interesting. However, I read the last part where it said that most hard of hearing people prefer to be called "Deaf" over "hearing impaired." I just wanted to say that as a hearing impaired individual...I always found it uncomfortable or upsetting when people would say I'm deaf or ask me if I'm deaf. I prefer "hard of hearing" or "hearing impaired" over Deaf. But that is just my opinion. I know some others that are hard of hearing see it differently. I do not know of anyone who has found "hard of hearing" offensive or upsetting so far, so that is how I would refer to a hard of hearing person just to be on the safe side.

Here are some of the responses to her message:

  • I agree because this is sometimes rude to me. So I prefer hard of hearing.
  • Hi! It is good to hear from you! I read this and know how you feel. :) I used to say I was "hard of hearing" and hated to be called deaf, and I hear ya about how people get uncomfortable when they hear "deaf." After losing more hearing my freshman year of college, I became severe to profoundly deaf and so legally I am deaf. Even though I can talk and sing (badly :) ) etc., I am deaf. So in my case, I find it easier to say I am deaf, then people will know that I NEED an interpreter, and a notetaker. Otherwise they assume since I can speak and use my residual hearing fairly well, that I don't need assistance. Baloney! :) Isn't it hard when people stereotype us hard of hearing and deaf people! Man! :) Anyway, that is just my case. I know it is different for everyone of us. I just find it easier to explain that I am deaf but can speak etc.
  • Hi. I also 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 that I'm hearing impaired, people think I can communicate, just that I have some trouble. I find the term "deaf" offensive because people associate the word with being dumb, even if they don't mean to. Does anyone agree?
  • You took the words right out of my mouth! If I say "what?" people think it is because I didn't understand the question or the words in the question so they use shorter sentences with shorter words and it drives me bonkers! Have you ever noticed that all you hard of hearing people out there?
  • ...same happens here too.
  • "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!"
  • "hard of hearing" is hard to say!
  • Hi! I have been following this discussion with interest and thought I would add my two cents...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, speech, and so forth. I was kind of "on the fence." 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!) I also find that people respond just fine to that term...The problem I have with the term hearing impaired is that it implies that the hearing is still there and if I or they just 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. Soooooo...In the end I think it is whatever person is most comfortable with because, if we are comfortable, those we deal with and who deal with us will be comfortable. I do love that phrase..."The real disability is attitude." I'm loving the whole DO-IT program and the ideas it generates...Thanks!!!

As with most discussions, consensus is not the goal - greater understanding and respect for the opinions of others is the target. DO-IT makes steady progress toward that end!