I’m not hearing impaired, hard of hearing, hearing disabled, I’m DEAF.

17 September 2012, 11:01

People tell other people that I have hearing difficulties. That I am hearing impaired, that I have difficulty hearing, that I am hard of hearing.

Erm… nope. Not at all. I’m not hard of hearing. I’m DEAF. Let me explain.

There was an international agreement between the WFD (World Federation of the Deaf) and the IFHOH (International Federation of the Hard of Hearing), to agree on two terms to be used, and these two terms are to be Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Here is the link:http://www.ifhoh.org/wfd.htm

“In a joint declaration signed in Tokyo in 1991 the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People and the World Federation of the Deaf agreed that “hearing impaired” is a term intended to cover deaf and hard of hearing individuals under a single category. However, deaf and hard of hearing persons in most countries reject this definition because it fails to recognize any distinction differentiating these two social categories.

The joint declaration recognizes and respects the right of individuals with hearing losses ranging from mild to severe to regard themselves as either “deaf” or “hard of hearing” and both organizations agreed to recognize the terms “deaf” or “hard of hearing” only in their official terminologies.

IFHOH wishes to make it clear that references to “hearing impaired” people in any document accessed through this web-site is not the responsibility of IFHOH nor are they intended as a contravention of this agreement.”

There is such an ideological chasm between members of the Deaf community and the wider hard of hearing community. If you use the term ‘hearing impaired’ the general public will more than likely think of issues that are more relevant to hard of hearing people such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and so on, and completely discounts the whole experience of being a member of the Deaf community.

As you know, this is why Deaf people do not want the concept of ‘hearing difficulties’ associated with them. They’re DEAF, end of. The problem here is that when a member of the Deaf community sees the word Deaf, they think of something very positive, like the values of the Deaf community, friendship, comradeship, the richness of the various sign languages, Deaf culture, Deaf Arts and so on, whereas the man on the street sees the word DEAF and thinks of affliction, loss, suffering, left out, and all the other negative things they think of.

This is one way of explaining why Deaf people do not want anything negative + ‘hearing’ associated with them.

Hearing difficulties? Nope.
Hearing impaired? Nope.
Hard of Hearing? Nope.
Do we want to overcome our hearing challenges? Nope. We don’t have hearing challenges. These are not really our problem, now, is it? Nope.

People trying to help provide access for ‘hearing impaired’ people usually think of the ear. that’s because hearing, and hard of hearing people, to use a phrase oft used in the Deaf community, are people of the ear. We are the people of the eye. Listening assistive devices? What about visual assistive devices? We totally appreciate their efforts to provide access, having said that.

Deaf people are not ‘hearing’, full stop, as someone said to me. They’re not hearing this, or hearing that, but Deaf.

Again, it’s not about how much or how little you can hear. It’s more about how you identify yourself. If you identify as a member of the Deaf community, see yourself as Deaf, even if you could conduct a telephone conversation without hearing aids, then you are Deaf. (Note the capital D)

How much or how little you are able to hear is irrelevant. totally besides the point. Yes, there is the labelling within the Deaf community, partially deaf, profoundly deaf and so on, but that is internal. You see the word DEAF is used in all cases.

Hard of hearing people, as one man from the Irish Hard of Hearing Association kindly explained to me, comprise of people with all levels of hearing loss, but they have one thing in common… they primarily communicate via speech, not sign. Here is one good example, in my opinion, of something hard of hearing people would do, but Deaf people would never even dream of doing… a woman is asking people on Facebook to send in pictures of their ears, as part of a project.

I wish this woman well in her project, as she is a good advocate for hard of hearing people. Why am I certain that Deaf people would not want to have anything to do with the project? It focuses on the ear. HEARING loss. HEARING affliction. HEARING issues. Deaf people want to stop the focus on the ear by the public when it comes to them, and change the focus to sign language and culture. Aye, we’re talking about two totally different groups.

Me have a cochlear implant?
Nope. Not interested.

Do I want to become a hearing person?
No, thank you.

However, I would not dream of stopping hard of hearing people in their quest to ‘overcome their hearing difficulties.’ I wish them the best of luck.

Hope this helps clarify things somewhat.

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