What if individuals and society looks at the concept of being deaf as a positive thing? What if it can actually be a valuable contribution to the world? In essence, this is what ‘Deaf Gain’ is all about.
The common perception of being deaf and the topic of deafness overall is that it is seen as something negative, something lacking, something void. After all, it’s common for doctors to deliver “bad news” to new-parents when it is found that their baby is deaf.
But by re-framing that into a Deaf Gain, it is possible for everyone to look at it in a more positive light, and it’s something the Deaf community proudly talks about…that being deaf is actually positive.
So let’s get into what is Deaf Gain and why it’s an important topic for people in the Deaf community.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
Here’s a thought that I want you to consider: what if the topic and the whole concept of deafness and being deaf, what if that’s a positive thing?
What if it’s a contribution to society, to humanity?
What if it’s something that is not a loss, it’s not void or lacking, it is actually a gain? Have you ever thought about it that way?
This a topic of ‘Deaf Gain’. In essence it kind of the opposite of hearing loss, and that might be a bit weird for you; it’s a hearing loss but deaf gain sounds obviously more positive.
But how can being deaf is more positive? How is that a “gain”?
This is what want to talk about, what is ‘Deaf Gain’ and why is it a big topic in the deaf community and why it’s something that we should all appreciate and just look at it from a different perspective and I think it’s something that not a lot of people really are aware about, especially if you’re not someone who’s considered to be deaf.
But even if you are, then it may be something that you want to think about yourself and maybe if you are struggling with it in certain ways, let’s see what we can do to look at it in a more positive way.
But the topic of Deaf Gain is huge, so let’s get into the topic of what is Deaf Gain.
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What is Deaf Gain?
The framework of ‘Deaf Gain’, it has been put together by two scholars, Ph.D scholars of Gallaudet University, the world’s first and only deaf college university in Washington, DC.
One is called H-Dirksen Bauman, and the other is Joseph Murray. And basically they have put together a journal entitled, “Reframing From Hearing Loss to Deaf Gain” and it’s something that I think everyone should read themself, it’s not massively long and very easy to consume. And you get a much better perspective of what they talk about and the whole framework of Deaf Gain.
The general essence is that it wants to reframe the concept of deaf. And it want to look at it in a more positive way, because in essence, as I said earlier, it’s the opposite of hearing loss.
Now the thing hearing loss implies something negative, but Deaf Gain implies obviously positive, but how can that be? How can it be a positive thing? Some people might be confused about that, that’s the whole point of a journal, they want to challenge and counter that status quo of deaf being a negative thing and they want to look at it in a more positive thing. And there might be a little thing that people say the benefit of it is for example:
- you will have a different perspective of the world,
- you will have a different creative outlet,
- you’ll have maybe better visual ability than people who are hearing.
These are all little thing that people say that the benefit that you get from from being deaf. But there is a bigger benefit in terms of having access to really important thing for many people in all spectrum of life.
I’m talking about for example:
These are some of the few things that people get to have access to if you are deaf. And Deaf Gain imply that you have access to strong, deep and really powerful meaning of each of this topics and more.
That’s the general benefit of being part of a deaf community, is that you have access to many, many things that you wouldn’t have otherwise have had access to, if you are hearing. I’ll bet it might be possible, but it’s quite difficult.
It’s also very difficult to have access to it, if you have been brought up mainstream and it’s more difficult to access it.
And then obviously underlying issues in terms of, should it be segregated? Should it not? Should it be able to open it to everyone? Should it not? That’s a separate conversation, but what I want to focus on is the whole concept of Deaf Gain and how that can apply to everyone.
And like I said, there is a huge one in terms of all this big things, you get the culture, the language, the community and then there are all a lot of things as well.
But, the big thing as well is that whoever look at it as a positive thing, and as a benefit to them, they don’t see it as a hearing loss, they don’t like the term ‘hearing loss’ and especially ‘hearing impaired’ because that implies negative link attached to it.
“But it’s not a negative link, it’s a positive thing. So, it’s not a loss of something, it’s not a void, it’s not lacking anything, you’re getting something for it by being deaf”…and that’s the general idea of Deaf Gain.
In the journal about the reframing the aspect of Deaf Gain, we (the general society) tend to look at deaf in a “…a purely audiological view of deafness”, which is for example, disability, hearing loss, medical. But we don’t really think about all the other things as well.
And that’s what the journal trying to challenge and that’s why people tend to be more vocal about, it’s not a disability, it’s not a medical thing. There are people who see it as a different way, they see it as part of who they are, their identity, their proud identity as well.
The most common thing you see and hear about when a new parent, they have their baby, newborn baby, and the doctor says, “unfortunately your baby is deaf” or “your child has hearing loss”…all these things. And part of that journal, about everyone else, they talk about how: “why is that a bad thing?” The baby is only a few hours old and has failed something, there’s something negative about that baby.
People always say “unfortunately…” and then negative thing about it and the argument is that, why don’t they not look at it in different way? Yes, “this” happened but the positive thing in gaining deafness is that you have “these” things instead. Plus the parents will have exposure to different things, and their mind will be open and their perspective will be different and that is the benefit of having a deaf baby.
But the general perception is that it’s unfortunate, it’s negative, doom and gloom, that’s what it is, it’s just doom. And not the only individual perspective, but even outside of that, let’s think about it from the society perspective.
How can Deaf Gain benefit society?
People also talk about how Deaf Gain can benefit the society as a whole and the journal has mentioned that as well, what would be beneficial for yourself to get an idea of it, to see more like an illustration or some view of what it looks like for deaf people to talk about Deaf Gain is, they’re is popular clip from a US series called ‘Switched at Birth’. It’s one of the first mainstream series where it had deaf actor and there was a scene where it was just only by sign language, in this case, American sign language.
In one particular scene where the teacher who’s played by Marlee Matlin and she is teaching the student and they’re all Deaf and they’re all speaking in sign language, ASL. She was talking about: “what is this thing about hearing loss?” “Is it a hearing loss?” “What about Deaf Gain?”
“If you were able to cure you’re deafness, if you woke up tomorrow hearing, would you take it?…What’d you get from being deaf?”…all these things.
And then the students start to open up about how they’re tired of being seen as a negative thing, as a burden to society, but they also then talk about, “look at the benefit that we have of being deaf”. “And we would not choose being hearing instead”. Check it out, it’s only a two-minute long video below:
Examples of those contributions
But on the topic of society, this is the thing, history suggests that deaf people have and will continue to provide a benefit to society as a whole. And there have been many areas where it has done that already, for example, there is a rise in popularity of baby signs and Makaton, and it’s a way to reduce the friction of communication with babies and disabled people and that is respectively.
There are conversation about whether that is right or wrong, should it be more focused on sign language, again, that’s a separate conversation, but if it wasn’t for sign language, those concepts would never have been thought of in the first place and now they’re more popular.
So, that’s a contribution from deaf people into the society as well.
One thing I’ve learned just from doing research about Deaf Gain is that did you know the concept of ‘huddle’ in the American football, when people all gather around and huddle together to discuss tactics or whatever.
Did you know that was first invented by a deaf football player called Paul D. Hubbard of Gallaudet university back in the 1890s? And today, huddle still exists and in many format. it’s not just an American football, you see it in other team sport as well, where people huddle together. And apparently it was started by that deaf person back in the 1890s, it’s amazing!
In another sport, the signals that baseball umpires do, and they have those signals that I don’t understand because I don’t watch baseball, but apparently again, this was first being accredited by the first deaf baseball player called William Ellsworth, “Dummy” Hoy.
He was accredited to have that concept in the first place and now again, to this day that’s what baseball umpires do. And that’s a contribution from a deaf person and the deaf community, hence Deaf Gain from a society perspective, not just from that individual.
It benefit the society as a whole.
The idea is that it can benefit in many areas, in art and science and literature and medical, all this things and they had done that in a past and it will continue to benefit society. And that is, again, what I’m trying to say is that, deaf people want you to look at how Deaf Gain can benefit them and it can benefit you and a society.
Even if you’re not deaf yourself, it can still benefit you as I’ve already said in examples from today, from the past, but also in the future as well. So I found all that very, very interesting when I read more about it and I read about different peoples experiences and then I definitely want to talk about a little bit, my own experience to my patrons.
My (lack of) personal experience with Deaf Gain
But even from my own perspective, I definitely did not have that mindset of Deaf Gain, definitely not and I think a big part of the reason is because I was brought up mainstream and I tend to be the only person who’s considered to be deaf. And I was never really part of a community as such, of people who are like me.
So, it’s difficult for me to look at it in a positive way when they are content barriers in front of you and people don’t understand you and you can’t really be part of something together. You’re not really strength in numbers, you are on your own and that’s what I had growing up.
Still, I want to look at it in a better way and gradually over time, especially since I started talking about it on YouTube, on my website, all this things, I am getting to be better at understanding the benefit of being deaf, there are benefit to it. And maybe I’ll go in more detail about that, the individual benefit of what I get from being deaf another time.
I do agree with certain things. For example, I don’t agree with the concept of “hearing impaired”, definitely not. And that was a label at me, I agree with that, I don’t like it at all. And even the “hearing loss” terminology, I don’t agree with that because it’s not accurate for me because I’ve never lost anything. So, why the hearing loss? Because how can I lose something if I never had it in the first place? I have been like this all my life, so, I haven’t really lost anything.
So, that’s another reason why I don’t like the term hearing loss or be it for a different reason, but maybe it’s linked to Deaf Gain as well, maybe I want to look into that mindset.
One thing that I have been a bit funny and not sure about is whether it causes segregation, because there’s a big debate right now on whether concept like the small d,capital D d/Deaf is causing separation, causing segregation in the deaf community.
Should it not be a one unity? Instead of having lots of different communities, it’s going to be a bigger barrier to fight separately, whereas if we’re together, would be able to fight in numbers, strength in numbers, there’s topics about that. And I’ve mentioned that in another video about the definition of deaf, what does that mean? If it’s going to be something that’s going to cause separation between communities, I don’t really feel like that’s a good thing.
And I don’t feel like it’s going to be a positive thing in a long term, as well as that everyone has their own experiences, whether they’ve been brought up, maybe there have been deaf later in life and they get to feel like that way. Everyone had different experiences and that’s thing about being deaf is that it’s an individual thing, you can’t label everyone the same.
So, even if certain people don’t really follow the concept of deaf gain, we shouldn’t really criticise them because we don’t know what they have been going through, but at the same time, we can maybe support them and help them and help each other. And that’s why I’m challenging this argument about whether it’s good to have different communities within deaf community, I’m not sure about that.
Regardless, I think it’s a positive thing to look at it in a way anyway, in terms of the benefit of what you have because then you’ll feel more better about yourself. You will feel less anxious and you will feel more comfortable with who you are and your identity and that’s a good thing, it’s a good thing.
Why would we be challenged about that?
Why is that a bad thing when people say, “no you should be thinking about deafness in a negative way”?
Well, no, why should I? You should look at it in a positive way and I’m gradually getting better at that, I’m not perfect, I still have my moments of complaints, but gradually over time, I’m looking at the good thing about it and the one of the benefit is, I feel a bit more free in terms of talking about it and accepting it as who I am and I can just share my stuff with you, I think that’s a good thing.
It’s such a big topic and there are a lot of the videos and resources available, you can watch them or read them and I’ll put as many links as I can in the actual episode note on the web page and then you can check it out there.
All the videos will be embedded there or you check it out and I would also love to know what you think about the concept of deaf gain, is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing?
And if you can relate to it, how does it make you feel? How did that concept of deaf gain make you feel and what do you want from other people and society in terms of deaf gain when they don’t get it and they don’t follow that concept, especially if they hearing.
I would love to know what you think, link in the description, comment below and don’t forget also to subscribe and like whatever platform that you are on. Thank you for listening to me and in the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
Other views about Deaf Gain
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
Helene Ryles says
I am deaf Asperger and partially sighted but I am definitely happy to stay that way. I was actually glad to lose the rest of my hearing due to sensory integration problems I had. Also the pressure I felt under to communicate orally. I mainly use the deafblind manual but also some tactile sign language but not as well as I would like to. I only started wearing hearing aids at age 11 and I remember being so disappointed that the partial hearing unit discouraged sign language so they were not about to teach me any. I started losing my sight at age 17. Before age 11 I had a very mild 40db deafness. I had communication issues but mainly due to being Asperger as well. I see deafness as a matter of choice (the degree of deafness anyway). I know blind people who then lose their hearing and benifit from CI but I don’t want one and neither do others who are deafblind. Best wishes from Helene
Ahmed Khalifa says
That’s very interesting, Helene. Thank you for sharing your story and making people more aware and understand from a wider perspective using your own experience. The pressure and discouragement sounds like a terrible experience, but I appreciate you sharing that with everyone who will read this.
Alessandro Presenza says
Did you know that the term HARD OF HEARING, although commonly used, focuses on what is perceived as “LACKING or LOST”? WHEREAS the term DEAF (with a capital ‘D’ is an inclusive term because it focuses on what people have-a LIVING CULTURE, an AVAILABLE LANGUAGE, and the INFINITE, UNTAPPED POSSIBILITES being Deaf can offer”. (Source: Signing Naturally, Introduction; Pg. viii)
Ahmed Khalifa says