Hard of Hearing, Hearing Impaired, or Deaf?

Viki | Ethics | Saturday, June 21st, 2008

I was once told that the politically correct way of referring to a person with a hearing loss is to say they are “hard of hearing.” To say that a person is “hearing impaired,” however, was interpreted as derogatory. I really don’t even remember who first told me that, but it’s something I have heard numerous times over the years and I’ve always been somewhat puzzled by it.

As a hard of hearing person myself, I can’t say that I’m bothered when people refer to me as hearing impaired. Hard of hearing, hearing impaired, and even deaf all are accurate definitions of my hearing loss, in my opinion.

When I take my hearing aids out, I am pretty much deaf. The world becomes silent. I can’t hear voices, the telephone, or the vacuum. I can hear the dog bark if he’s in the same room with me, and an occasional loud thump, but that’s about it.

With my hearing aids on, I can hear voices and follow conversation so long as I can see the faces of the people conversing (I rely on reading lips to an extent). I can hear the telephone ring and the clicking of a keyboard. Sometimes I can even hear my cat meow. But I don’t hear these sounds the way normal hearing people do. Hearing aids don’t correct a hearing loss the way that glasses or contacts correct vision. So even with my hearing aids on I am still hard of hearing or hearing impaired.

I believe that some people feel the label “impaired” implies that something is wrong or abnormal with a person. Well, the truth is that something IS wrong with me. I can’t hear very well. My ears don’t work properly. However, I strongly feel that any kind of disability or impairment does NOT make anyone any less of a person. And I believe that disabled/impaired people should have equal access to the same things “normal” people have access to.

So call me hard of hearing, hearing impaired or deaf. I’m completely comfortable with any of those labels and I feel they are all appropriate descriptions of who I am. ;)

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