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Avoid signing the concept at all.
Instead adjust your sentence or discussion to be about Deaf people rather than a medical condition.
If you "must" for some reason sign the concept of "deafness" here are a few ways to go about it:
Version 1: [context] + the sign DEAF
Sign DEAF and spell N-E-S-S
Warning to those of you who only look at pictures and don't read. WAKE UP and read if you go any further:
The "Signed English" version of the sign for "deafness" is a combination of the ASL sign DEAF and the Signed English suffix sign "-NESS." The sign DEAF touches the index finger to the cheek near the ear. Then the finger lifts off of the cheek a bit and moves in a small arc and touches the cheek again near the mouth. Then you hold the side of an "N" hand onto the upper palm of the non-dominant flat hand (of which the palm is forward and the fingertips are up) and slide the N-hand downward toward the heel of the non-dominant flat hand. This sign is generally considered Signed English.
Some of you are or will become interpreters for the Deaf.
As such if you become a working interpreter for the Deaf and go out into the Deaf World you will very likely eventually see someone use the Signed English sign for "deafness." I'm assuming here you would rather recognize it than have to interrupt and ask what it means.
Such being the case I'm going to show you the Signed English version of the sign.
Some of you are going to be an "idiot" and run to your ASL instructor or Deaf friend and say that "Dr. Bill" of ASLU / Lifeprint says the sign for "deafness" is [__________]" and then you will show them the following sign without context or explaining that the only reason I'm showing you is so that you can add it to your receptive vocabulary.
Since the above notice is too complex for some of you I'm going to put this clearly:
I'm showing you the Signed English version of the sign so you will RECOGNIZE it -- NOT so you will start signing it.
Understand it if you see it -- but don't sign it.
DEAFNESS [Signed English version] [not recommended]
Animated gif: DEAFNESS:
Remember the above version using the "NESS" suffix is:
Most "culturally Deaf" leaders and authors have negative views regarding the use of the word "deafness."
Most of us prefer to simply avoid the phrase and use some other way to discuss the state of being deaf.
"... people who are Deaf,"
"... Deaf and hard of hearing people..."
"... since becoming deaf she..."
"... being deaf..."
"... her being deaf did not prevent..."
"... the fact that she is deaf had little bearing on..."
Some authors use the phrases "... not hearing..." or "individuals with hearing loss." While that is better than the (unacceptable) term "hearing impaired" it focuses on loss rather than gain. Instead it is recommended that you simply use the term "Deaf" or if you you have some strong reason to indicate the state of being physically deaf (such as writing a dissertation comparing the outcomes of children born deaf into (culturally) Deaf and Hearing households) then use the lowercase term "deaf." Be advised though that there are those who feel that the word "Deaf" should always be capitalized. A dictionary entry is not the place to deep dive into a topic deserving of a nuanced chapter in a book. Such being the case, readers are encouraged to go read several "Deaf Culture" books or view numerous vlogs (preferably written or signed by culturally Deaf individuals).
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