Deaf vs hard of hearing. What’s the difference and what am I?
It’s a very common question that I hear all the time. People ask me that and I see it searched on Google, so I thought “let me answer it for you” and I’m going to answer it in two different ways.
Watch the video below, or scroll down to read the transcript:
What’s the difference between deaf / hard of hearing?
1) It’s not any different at all.
2) It’s very different.
Yep, I know I made it very confusing, two answers. I shouldn’t be doing that, It’s not allowed.
But allow me explain why I’ve given these two answers.
Is it different at all?
Let me start off with it’s not very different all.
Well, the reason I say that is because there are conversations going on that maybe it should just be one label and that’s it called deaf.
That is there’s no need for all the different terminologies like capital ‘D’ Deaf, small ‘d’ deaf, deafblind, deafdisabled, late deafened and hard of hearing.
It’s not very different. They’re all same thing. Just have one label: deaf.
But then your other answer is that it is very different.
Because hard of hearing implies that you have a moderate to maybe mild hearing kind of situation where it’s not severe.
You can hear some things or a lot of things. You don’t use sign language as your first language.
So it’s very different because there’s a perception that deaf means that you can’t hear very much or at all.
So that’s why I’ve given you that answer as well.
So what does that make me then?
And then to answer the question of what am I, well I don’t know, it’s not that straightforward.
Because you see, I grew up in a mainstream hearing world.
I went to a mainstream school.
I hear most things okay.
I speak orally.
I don’t use sign language as my first language.
So immediately, that puts me into the hard of hearing.
And that’s how I have always labelled myself. Because the word “deaf” has a perception or meaning that you can’t hear very much or at all.
So it is different in that sense.
But over time, I have struggled with my own identity and I’ve struggled to kind of embrace that until the past couple of years, and doing these videos.
And it made me realize that, you know, I should embrace that more and also made me think about am I using the wrong “label”, the wrong terminology to describe myself because it’s a very very grey area.
And because of the common perception that the word deaf mean that you can’t hear much or at all, then naturally I didn’t use the word deaf a lot.
Why I don’t like ‘hearing loss’ or ‘hearing impaired’?
However, I didn’t like the word hearing impaired and a lot of people don’t like that as well. Hearing impaired or hearing impairment; it implies that there is something wrong with you and kinds of put in a negative way.
So I never liked that word at all. At the same time I did originally accept hearing loss, but then I realized that doesn’t describe me very well because I haven’t lost anything.
I have always had that same situation all my life. Most people will say that if you have something and then you’ve lost it, then okay, you’ve lost it.
So if we had perfect hearing and then you’ve lost it, some people prefer to be called, you know “I have a hearing loss” and that’s their way.
Other people don’t, especially those who are more profound deaf because they feel like they haven’t lost anything.
If anything, they have gained a new world to have their own culture, their own identity, their own language and they see it as a positive thing, not a negative thing.
So not everyone will embrace the word “hearing loss”, which is quite confusing as well.
So because of that, I’ve always used the word “hard of hearing” over “hearing loss” or “hearing impaired”.
Using the word ‘deaf’ more often
I am starting to use the word “deaf” even more now, especially, you know, over the past couple of years when I’m being more vocal about it.
And even there was a Twitter conversation I was part of about the use of the word deaf, capital ‘D’ Deaf, the deafblind, deaf-disabled, late deafened and hard of hearing all these words, do we need it?
Should we have just under one word, “deaf”, and nothing else?
And I had gotten involved with the conversation and I explained my situation and the person who described herself as deaf, she said that “I see you as deaf”, regardless of whether it’s severe, whether you’re using sign language or not…we are all under that label.
In my eyes, you are deaf.— It’s Jules! (@julesdameron) March 20, 2019
And I felt okay with that. I felt fine with being called “deaf”, even though a lot people say you’re not deaf, you’re hard of hearing.
But frankly, not up to you. It’s up to me. Let that be very clear.
You don’t decide: I or we decide the label.
What does that mean for you?
So what does that mean? Should I use the word deaf or hard of hearing?
Well, to be honest, you can use either. I’m okay with both, however, I am leaning towards the word deaf because, well, it looks like I’m going that direction anyway and maybe our lose the tag of hard of hearing in the future.
Who knows? Maybe that would be another video in the efuture if something like that happened to me.
But I’m okay with both and I’m okay with having that label because for me, well I see it as one label. I see it as the same thing.
But then there are other people who will see it differently. But after that’s the point, it’s not up to you.
One person might say one thing, another person might say another.
And my advice for you is to ask that person; what do they prefer to be called? Is it hearing impaired? Is it hearing loss? ls it deafblind?Is it hard of hearing?
Ask that person because they get to choose their identities, not you.
And I should also point out that the word “deaf” is not an insult. You are allowed to use that as long as we say in a positive way.
You don’t say, [negative tone] “oh he’s deaf. You just say [normal tone] “He’s deaf”.
That’s it! It’s not a negative things to use.
And if you use that word to towards me, I’d be okay with that. It’s fine. It’s part of who I am part and many, many people.
But like I said, just ask before you assume or you imply anything.
So what’s the difference between deaf and hard of hearing? Well, for me personally, I don’t see it as being very different at all.
However, I am very curious to know what you think: whether you’re hearing or whether you’re hard of hearing or whether you’re deaf, whatever it is you prefer to label yourself.
Let me know what you think is the different between deaf and hard of hearing? And what do you prefer to choose? What do you prefer to use?
And let me know in a comment down below. I would love to know your opinion.
As well as that, make sure you hit subscribe button, it would be awesome if you could do that.
And of course I will come back with another video, another time, in the future.
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- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
I was born with mild hearing loss but now have severe hearing loss and the loss is increasing still. I grew up as hard of hearing but I’m deaf now. I think there’s the hearing perception of hard of hearing means you have more hearing than deafness. Without my hearing aids I can’t hear – with hearing aids I can follow a conversation most of the time. As you say, it’s how we describe ourselves that’s important. My mum is really deaf now but she hates it when I refer to her as being deaf – she wants to be called hard of hearing. Each to their own.
Ahmed Khalifa says
“Each to their own”…you’re exactly right.
It’s not anybody’s right but ours to decide how we should call ourselves. If I used the term deaf for your own mother, I imagine she will feel annoyed. But to another person, he/she might feel very proud about it. There’s no right or wrong answer.
I am severely deaf. I live in the Inbetween world of hearing people and those that are totally deaf and sign . It can be very lonely at times when people near you chat and don’t include you
. I can’t hear on the phone so I tell people I am deaf with a little hearing so that they know to text me .
I have a friend who seems to want to speak on my behalf when we are out which frustrates me. She tells people I’m deaf which I object to. So yes, sometimes I have to say I’m deaf but mostly I explain I am hard of hearing and then tell people how to speak to me. Not to shout in my hearing aids but to speak normally but a little slower . Then you get those that mouth at you. So all that has to be explained as well . I will stop
Them if I don’t understand .
Ahmed Khalifa says
Hi Yvonne. I totally agree that it’s a lonely world as an inbetweener. It’s a tough spot to be in when you can and can’t hear at the same time. It’s exactly where I’m at.
Sometimes, I want to let things slide or just be polite when people are trying. But I would struggle to continue that if people exaggerate their communication skills or, in your case, have someone to “be you” like your friend. If we are able, we just want to do it ourselves, but with a few minor tweaks.
I have come late in life to deafness. For about four years I was what I could describe as hard of hearing. I could hear with difficulty with hearing aids in both ears. Last year the left ear joined the right ear and I had total sensineural hearing loss. This is what I call deaf. No sound whatsoever gets to my brain. Stone deaf, deaf as a post you might say. For me, with poor lipreading skills and no signing it is a totally different world. The tinnitus remained sadly so it is anything but silent. Luckily I can read and most people can write but there is a reluctance to write much so I am excluded from most conversations.
If a programme has no subtitles I am totally lost. No radio or podcasts. Most speech to text apps are poor, certainly not good enough to keep up a conversation.
Ahmed Khalifa says
Thanks for sharing your own journey John. It’s clear that everyone has their own reasons and stories on what makes sense to them.
I’m curious; do you ever use the term ‘deafened’ in your case?
I am also very much dependent on subtitles too, and for years I have been pushing myself to go to the cinema but then I had to accept defeat. Technology is getting better but they still require some assistance and it’s not perfect. As for the content creators out there who have YouTube channel and podcasts, they have no excuse; they [b]SHOULDb/b] be providing captions and transcripts. It’s really not that hard and it’s cheap too. So give them a nudge about that so that more people can access their content. Everyone wins when that happens.
John Campbell says
No, I don’t think I have ever used deafened in that sense. I think people usually use in a sense of temporary deafness, such as “I was deafebpned by last week’s concert” or ” turn down the telly, it’s deafening.
On the subtitle front, my biggest gripe at the moment is the ITV hub. Programmes on the day before on ITV with full CC are shown on the hub without. Why? I’ve complained but got no answer yet.
Ahmed Khalifa says
I have the same problem with ITV Hub. It’s very poor in my experience. The same with Channel 5’s own ‘My5’, which is not always consistent when it comes to subtitles, even if it’s based on a programme within the same series. There could be 5 episodes in a series, and for some reason, 1 of them doesn’t have subtitles. That doesn’t make sense to me.
I tend to focus on Netflix and iPlayer at the moment, and they tend to be more consistent.
Hello. My hearing loss ranges from mild to profound. Been that way all my life and has not gotten worse. Growing up (young age), I was labeled as half deaf. When I was a teenager to young adult, I changed it it hard of hearing. Now that I’m older, I am just recently realizing that I prefer the term partially deaf. Hard of hearing no longer fits me, nor truly explain my hearing loss. I feel I received negative feedback from hearing people because they seem to downplay it. True deaf doesn’t fit cause I can hold a conversation (for the most part) without hearing aids. Partially deaf is what I’ve settled on. I’m not sure if that is a true term, but it is what it is.
Ahmed Khalifa says
If you prefer the term ‘partially deaf’ and you are comfortable with it, then I respect that and everyone else should respect that. I know a few people who uses that term (heck, I’ve used that a few times myself) and I can understand very well why it’s a preferred term for many people including yourself.
Thank you for sharing your own story Stacey.
Tracey Jackson says
I was born with nerve deafness but was told I was hard of hearing. But didn’t start wearing hearing aids until I was 4/5 years old. I’m in profound hearing loss, but I’m honestly stuck between if I’m hard of hearing or deaf. I do wear hearing aids, but it is still hard to hear a lot and I do read lips. But even reading lips can be very difficult.
I get so emotional a lot because I’m not sure what to tell people when they are curious when they ask how it happened etc. It is very hard to be in crowded places. I also had the high pitch sound taken off my hearing aids as I can’t hear high pitches at all. So would that mean I’m deaf? It’s so confusing.
Ahmed Khalifa says
It has taken me a long time to work it out, and to some extent, I still get confused by it. It’s a learning experience to understand who you are and how you want to define yourself, even though I would say you are deaf. Expose yourself and learn as much as you comfortable can, and hopefully over time, you will feel comfortable.
This post may also interest you on how I define the word ‘deaf’: https://hearmeoutcc.com/defining-deaf/
Pradeep Thota says
I have 85 dB loss in my left ear and ~30-35 dB loss in my right ear. I use hearing aids. But I don’t know if I can call myself ‘hard of hearing’.
Ahmed Khalifa says
It might take you time to learn about your deafness. Surround yourself with the right people and resources to help you in your journey and identity.