Deaf/deaf/HoH – What’s The Difference?

We’re almost halfway through Deaf History Month- It’s time to talk about what it means to be deaf! People with hearing loss (or deaf gain) around the world can be grouped into the following three identities:

  1. deaf
    The word ‘deaf’ (no capitalization) means only one thing: They can’t hear. When ‘deaf’ is not capitalized it is generally in reference to the ability to hear. Culturally Deaf individuals may also use this to describe individuals that do not use sign language, but still cannot hear.
  2. Deaf
    Deaf (capital D) is specifically used to reference deaf individuals that are involved in Deaf Culture and primarily use Sign Language to communicate. People like Marlee Matlin and Sean Forbes are great examples of the ‘Deaf’ identity, as they are regularly involved in Deaf rights and the community.
  3. Hard-of-Hearing
    The term ‘hard-of-hearing’ is used to describe people that use assistive devices, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, to understand the world around them. These individuals may be able to use the phone, and may or may not use Sign Language at all. It is also important that we do not use the term ‘hearing impaired’, as it implies a negative attitude towards hearing loss.
  4. Hearing
    Any individual that does not have any issues being able to hear is referred to as ‘hearing’. Hearing individuals are still crucial to the Deaf Community: they are allies, advocates for Deaf rights, and Sign Language Interpreters! Thanks to interpreters, the deaf/Deaf have more access to the world around them than they’ve ever had. They help with phone calls, work meetings, and even the Super Bowl half-time show!

What do you identify as?

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