Even though there are various ways of describing someone who has some kind of deafness, a common choice of phrasing is “hearing impaired/impairment”.
On most occasions, I don’t believe there are bad intentions. Still, it’s time we stop using those words, particularly as we tend to frown upon these phrases and there are better choices of words to choose from.
I would like to use this opportunity to explain why we should refrain from the using the words “hearing impaired” or “hearing impairment”, in a bid to help you become more deaf-aware.
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast here (on a podcasting platform of your choice…
…or read the transcripts below.
The beauty of deaf and deafness is that in itself, it’s quite diverse, and I’m not just talking about the age, gender and ethnicity (and there are so many different kinds of people in the concept of people who are deaf), but also there are different kind of deafness.
The topic of deaf is a spectrum. Very few times you see two people are exactly the same thing, and that’s kind of the beauty of it. It is diverse.
As part of that diversity as well is the spectrum of deafness and there are different ways of what to label that person, call that person, what type of deafness there is.
And what I’m talking about is the topic of ‘D/deaf in terms of capital ‘D’ and the small ‘d’ (which I’m not really a fan of) hard of hearing, deafened and deafblind…again, it’s so so diverse.
There are certain words that are just not appropriate. And the most common one I’m hearing a lot nowadays, which is not tend to be chosen by deaf people, are the words “hearing impaired” or “hearing impairments”, either one.
They are often said and really we don’t want it anymore. Let me explain to you why that is. I want to get into the topic of the use of “hearing impaired” and why we should stop using it.
But don’t forget as well that you can support this channel. Check out my Patreon page, where it will allow me to continue education, continue sharing my story to the world out there, and just to make the world more deaf-aware.
My background experience with “hearing impaired”
I’ve grown up with “hearing impaired” and “hearing impairment” quite a lot. I used to see a lot in application forms, whether it’s for jobs or universities. People used to say out loud all the time. And at that time I used to just accept it or I just brushed it aside. And that is mainly because I wasn’t really, really sure about my own deaf identity.
So over time I just brushed aside and just didn’t really take notice of it. But then obviously I became more vocal about it. I talk about it here and it gradually started to make me itch when I hear that word.
And the more and more I hear about it, the more I’m like, “nah, I don’t want that word”.
Over time I’ve realised that it’s not just me, which is great because I thought I’m the only one who doesn’t like it, but a lot of people don’t like that word.
And there are some people who absolutely hate and detest that word to the point where it just wanted to stop and ban it completely. And I agree to some concept that we should just stop using really.
The problem with the words “impaired” or “impairement
The big reason is because of that word “impaired” or “impairment”. It has a negative connotation to it , where anything that impaired is broken or there’s something wrong with them.
So when you add that to the topic of “hearing impaired” or someone who is deaf is also impaired, then it makes it sound like that person is broken. There’s something wrong with them. And that word wrong is highlighted.
But it shouldn’t be like that. It should never be like that at all. And one thing that you should understand is that there are people out there who are proud of it. They actually shout out about it. It’s part of their identity, and they just want to make it loud and clear that they are not broken. A lot of them don’t even see it as a disability (and that’s a whole topic).
But people just want to really express themselves using their own identity. But if you use the word “hearing impaired”, then it takes it away from them and it make them feel like they are something that they are not. They don’t have this thing. They are missing something. But a lot of people don’t feel like that.
I have talked about this before how I define deaf, because different people define it in different ways. And really, that is also subject to change because people change, culture change, languages evolve. We all evolve.
And you only have to look at the history in any topic, but let’s just focus on the topic of deafness, you look at history and look at the words that had been used in the past, for example, “deaf and dumb”. That used to be a very common thing.
But can you use that today? No, of course not. You don’t use that today because we have evolved over time. Languages have evolved and we realised that’s not the right terminology.
And that is where the topic of “hearing impaired” came into it. That’s why I talk about how I define deaf, because then you learn about it. You learn what is attached to that word, because when you have a label or a category, you also have to look at the history behind it, the meaning behind it, and most importantly, listen to the people in that sector, to deaf people, the hard of hearing people who are really being labelled that: do they accept it?
Because if we don’t accept it, then it’s up to us to decide how we want to be called, it’s not up to you to decide, and we (and there’s a lot of us) don’t want to use the word “hearing impaired”, well then you should appreciate it, because it’s not for you to decide.
Will I be offended if you say it to me?
Here’s the thing, though. If you have said that to me directly, I’m not going to be angry and offended at you, especially if you are willing to listen and understand where I’m coming from, then that is fine.
I’m not going to have a massive argument with you for using that word. “How dare you…”.
If you’re going to listen, that’s awesome and that has happened to me many times, which is great.
But if you are not going to listen to my reasons or our reasons and you want to continue using those words, well, it tells me a lot about you as a person rather than about me.
You would be surprised to know, even though I’m talking about if there are some people out there who maybe don’t mind, but the majority I’m seeing is that they just don’t want that at all.
So this is why we should stop using the word “hearing impaired” or “hearing impairment”, whether it’s orally or written down or anywhere.
Let’s just stop using it! There are plenty of other more appropriate words that you can use, such as deaf or hard of hearing, and then you can get more specific to that.
One simple thing you can do if you don’t want to offend anyone
But if you don’t know or if you are having trouble to work out what do you say, well, here is a solution that you can really make it easier for everyone.
if you have any doubt, just ask. That is it, and then you’re happy that you are starting from a positive way. And then you know that person, what that person prefer to be called and you remove any doubts at all and everyone’s happy. Yeah, I’m happy.
So that’s about it, really. This is why we should stop using the word “hearing impaired” and I would love to know two things. First of all, do you use it often? And are you aware of it yourself?
And the other thing I would love to know if this applies to you is, if you are someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, then if you use that word often, how do you feel about it now? Does it bother you? And do you prefer it to be removed or not?
Because I’m hearing a lot of people saying yes, but I’d love to hear from those who are happy with it and I’d love to know why from your point of view. I would love to learn from your perspective.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- 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
Tony NIcholas says
I use the terms Deaf to denote culturally Deaf and deaf to denote those who don’t. In the Hearing world [note capital H], it gets difficult cos they understand the terms hard of hearing, hearing impaired and deaf [in the cannot hear at all sense]. In my last job, where I submitted plans for supports for Deaf and deaf people, I would often use the Deaf, Hearing and hard of hearing.
Ahmed Khalifa says
It’s why we have to speak up. Otherwise, hearing impaired/impairment will forever be imprinted and be used in favour of everything else.
Tony NIcholas says
True, but as you know, it’s a never ending process…