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*TLDR: Don’t use it.
By William G. Vicars, EdD
The term “hearing-impaired” means “to be partially or completely deaf.” (Source: Lexico)
The term "hearing-impaired" connotes (implies / gives the impression of / suggests) being an inferior (or impaired) version of a Hearing person.
When discussing or referring to the Deaf Community it is strongly recommended that you avoid using the term “hearing-impaired.”
Those of us who are culturally Deaf consider the term "hearing-impaired" offensive. We prefer to think of ourselves as "people of the eye" (or in other words, excellent versions of "visually-based" human beings). Our label for ourselves is "Deaf."
If you are writing about or discussing Deaf people, instead of using the term “hearing-impaired” you can/should just use the word “Deaf.” If you feel an overwhelming need to cover your bases go ahead and use the phrase “Deaf and hard-of-hearing.” However you do not need to include the term “hard-of-hearing” when referring to the Deaf community. Why? Because the term “Deaf community” is an umbrella term that includes those who are “hard-of-hearing.”
Not acceptable: “the hearing-impaired community”
Minimally tolerable: “the deaf and hard-of-hearing community” (lowercased) [Note: Journalists often have editors and bosses who feel they must follow the “AP Stylebook.”]
Better: “the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community”
Progressive: “the Deaf community”
Woke: “the Deaf”
Some individuals or organizations (unfortunately) use the phrase: “Deaf and hearing-impaired.”
Tip: Don’t do it.
The phrase “Deaf and hearing-impaired” is NOT advised for two main reasons:
1. “Hearing-impaired” is an umbrella term that includes both Deaf and hard-of-hearing. Deaf are (technically) hearing-impaired so you are being redundant. It is the equivalent of saying, “Labrador Retrievers and dogs” or “bananas and fruits.”
2. The term "hearing-impaired" is eschewed in the politically aware Deaf Community. The word “eschew” means “Deliberately avoid using; abstain from.” (source: Lexico)
If you are a researcher and face an extreme need to discuss the biological or physiological aspects of being "physically deaf" you should still gravitate toward using the term “Deaf” if possible – or “Deaf and hard-of-hearing”—and if necessary (to differentiate aspects of being culturally Deaf from aspects of being physically “deaf”) use terms such as “deaf” (lowercased), “level of hearing,” “hearing loss,” or even “individuals with hearing loss,” — but not “impaired.”
Do NOT use the term hearing-impaired when discussing Deaf people. Strike "
hearing-impaired" from your vocabulary.
* TLDR stand for “Too long, didn’t read it.”
* Lexico in this article refers to the online dictionary "Lexico.com"
A person reading the article responded (in an online group) that he/she/they self-describe as "hearing impaired" because to them it simply means that their hearing is...well, "impaired." To them the phrase "hearing impaired" doesn't mean anything else about them is "impaired" and they don't feel that by their use of the term means that they are telling anyone that they inferior in any way.
The commenter indicated that they "...don't feel anyone has the right to insist" they "use a different term for" their "hearing loss." The commenter went on to humbly indicate that their comment was just their opinion and personal choice -- as well as to indicate respecting that others feel differently.
RESPONSE from Dr. Bill / paraphrased:
Thank you for sharing.
Rights are negotiated. We have only those rights which we negotiate (through a spectrum of actions ranging from politics to war).
If you start blogging or authoring in the Deaf community an individual may indeed choose to assert their preference to self-label using the term "hearing-impaired."
What tends to happen then is that the Deaf Community (or at least many within the Deaf Community) choose to not read the individual's materials and/or actively criticize or campaign against the individual.
Thus it isn't a matter of me "insisting" you not use the term "hearing-impaired" but rather a matter of me advising you that there is a huge community of people who feel a certain way about the term "hearing-impaired."
What you do with that advice is, of course, your own business.
If you want "business" to be good (sales, readership, etc.) in the Deaf community you now know my advice.
Readers of your comment now know your "vote."
We all get the opportunity to vote. You voted. That makes you a contributor. (Thumb up!)
Knowing of dissention (different opinions) helps us all to work on our tolerance -- so again, thanks!
QUESTION: Is it okay for someone who is medically labeled "hard of hearing" to say they are Deaf?
The answer is going to depend on who you are and who you ask.
Self introspection questions:
1. Do I sign like a Deaf person?
2. Do I mainly hang out with Deaf people?
3. Do I approach life like a Deaf person?
4. Would I rather marry a Deaf person?
5. Would I be 100% okay with and proud of having a Deaf child?
6. Do I look back and wish I had gone to a Deaf School?
7. Did I or do I wish I had gone to Gallaudet University?
8. When I want someone's attention do I tend to try to get that attention via voicing or do I prefer visual methods?
Are you are prevented by circumstances from doing the above but would do them or feel that way if you were not prevented by circumstances?
If you don't know sign and don't approach life as a Deaf person -- and have not yet made significant progress towards learning sign and learning how culturally Deaf people respond and feel about the world -- then no, even if you are hard-of-hearing with a significant hearing loss --you should generally not call yourself "Deaf."
If however you do know sign and approach life as a Deaf person then in general if you ask an emotionally secure, identity-secure, long-term, well-socialized member of the Deaf community if you could call yourself Deaf -- it is my belief that most (but not all) would likely tell you, "Sure."
It doesn't have to be one or the other. You can use a longer phrase to describe yourself. For example you could say, "I'm becoming Deaf."
Also see: "HEARING-IMPAIRED"
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