Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deaf, Hearing Impaired, Hard of Hearing...

Warning: overanalysis ahead. I tend to do this, just ask my husband!

I was at work yesterday and happened to mention to a patron that I am deaf. His response surprised me - "What?! You can't be deaf. You're talking to me, aren't you?"

In my time since writing this blog, I have considered how to explain my hearing loss to people. I grew up with everyone saying I was hearing impaired. It was only when I began taking ASL classes in high school that I learned of the controversy around the term "hearing impaired" and began to agree that, yes, impaired is not the best way to describe it. The problem is, "hearing impaired" seems to get it across correctly - I've never had anyone doubt me when I use the phrase, and people seem to understand that I do have residual hearing and I may wear a hearing device.

I prefer the term "deaf" because it is short, sweet and gets the point across. People understand what the term means right away and the phrase doesn't necessarily indicate I am 'impaired' in any way. But it also opens the door for people to misunderstand me like the gentleman I mentioned above. Many people in the general public seem to think deaf = cannot hear at all. Judging from the reactions I have gotten, people do not think that I fit the mold of 'deaf'.

From June 2010 - Me and my hearing aid
An old photo of me and my hearing aid.

There's also "I have a hearing loss," which is clunky, and tends to lead people to think I am just a little bit hard of hearing, plus, it makes me feel like I lost something. The same goes for that term, "hard of hearing." People I've spoken to think "hard of hearing" means "just has a little bit of difficulty." Yes, I get along well in an auditory world - but that doesn't mean I just have a little bit of trouble hearing. I have definite, actual challenges. I don't hear about 50% of your sentences unless I know you. I don't know where sounds are coming from. I can't identify sounds. I don't enjoy music to its fullest and I can't pick out individual instruments. I will probably not hear that car coming up behind me. I may not be able to hear you on the phone at all. So I can't give people the mistaken impression that I'm just a little bit hard of hearing, although that's what that term tends to do when I try to use it.

Of course I know other people might have other experiences. In some areas different terms for the same thing might be more familiar. In my particular area and at my job, I meet people from all over the country (they like to winter in my hometown). So I meet a lot of variety and I have encountered a lot of different reactions.

I think I will stick with "deaf" for now. Short, sweet and requires little explanation except when people doubt me. And if they're going to be rude about it, well, they don't deserve an explanation anyway, do they? :)

8 comments:

  1. Hi, Megan,

    I received the lecture from my doctor this summer, to use "deaf" because anything prefaced with "hearing" implies I hear more than I do, and that is an inaccurate depiction of my situation, which is similar to yours.

    I was raised to say "hearing impaired" as well, and to me, saying "hard of hearing" implies there is something hard about me. Personally, I'd rather be an "impaired" person than a "hard" person. :-)

    I think it is relative to how the person prefers to present themselves as to which term to use. At church and other public places, I see "reserved for our hearing impaired guests". I think it is also a regional term as well. Out west, where I am from, we used "hearing impaired". Here in the east, I see more "hard of hearing".

    As for you and me, I like how my doctor explained it, and I use the term "deaf". Like you said, "It's short and sweet....."
    You're right, "..if they're going to be rude, they don't deserve an explanation."

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  2. I think you should just tell people, "Stop mumbling, please" or "Could you speak up, please" and repeat this several times until they are speaking at the top of their lungs and then tell them, "Oh, by the way, I'm deaf, so you can stop screaming." By that time, the other library patrons will think they are complete jerks. :-)

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  3. I usually tell them that I can't hear very well and I show my hearing aid. And then I may say, "I'll let you know if I don't hear you or it will be blatantly obvious that I did not hear you."

    I only say that I am "deaf" when a stranger is pestering me, when I am at the airport, or when I am in a noisy area where really I am pretty much deaf.

    (e

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  4. I used to say that "I do not hear well" or something similar until I realized that I was prefacing that with "I'm sorry...". Well, I'm *not* sorry, I just have specific communication needs.

    Now in business situations such as sales, trade, or in restaurants, I tell people "I need to see you to understand you" This usually has the desired result of having the person face me and speak a bit more clearly. Occasionally I have to tell someone "I need to see your face" or "I need for you to write that down". (I especially use the last for numbers and addresses.) Since I've changed what I tell people, I have not gotten into any long conversations about my hearing (or not hearing) history in inappropriate situations.

    I do not see any need for a long explanation at the Home Depot, any more than I should need to give all my physical dimensions if I want them to get something down from a shelf that's out of reach.


    David

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  5. If I tell people that I am hearing impaired, they think something is wrong with me. However, if I tell people I am deaf, they say nothing is wrong with me except that I can't hear!

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  6. Interesting blog. Several months ago I finally decided I was tired of asking people to repeat themselves, or sitting out of conversations simply because I could not understand what was being said. I got a hearing test and found that being deaf or "hearing impaired" or whatever you wish to call it does not always mean you cannot hear sound. I've been wearing hearing aids for the last several months and I've noticed a profound improvement - although I still have issues in noisy environments. I dunno, "deaf" sounds so final and complete, but I guess it does get the message across.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting blog. Several months ago I finally decided I was tired of asking people to repeat themselves, or sitting out of conversations simply because I could not understand what was being said. I got a hearing test and found that being deaf or "hearing impaired" or whatever you wish to call it does not always mean you cannot hear sound. I've been wearing hearing aids for the last several months and I've noticed a profound improvement - although I still have issues in noisy environments. I dunno, "deaf" sounds so final and complete, but I guess it does get the message across.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting blog. Several months ago I finally decided I was tired of asking people to repeat themselves, or sitting out of conversations simply because I could not understand what was being said. I got a hearing test and found that being deaf or "hearing impaired" or whatever you wish to call it does not always mean you cannot hear sound. I've been wearing hearing aids for the last several months and I've noticed a profound improvement - although I still have issues in noisy environments. I dunno, "deaf" sounds so final and complete, but I guess it does get the message across.

    ReplyDelete

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