Every so often I hear people use language that I don’t agree with to describe people with hearing impairments. Sometimes these instances cause mild annoyance, sometimes they really make me angry. I know that we will never come to consensus about what words to use in what circumstances, but if I had things my way these would be the changes I’d like to hear.
- Person-first language. People can spend the extra time to add the prepositions that let people be seen before their condition. (A person with a hearing impairment not a hearing impaired person.)
- Get rid of “deaf.” (Not Deaf, that’s a culture not an indication of hearing ability.) “deaf” suggests the person in question has no hearing ability at all. Take the glass-half-full approach and look at what a person is capable of, not what they need assistance with.
- Forget “Hearing.” Don’t use the word “hearing” to describe people with normal hearing. Those of us who need assistive devices are still hearing plenty.
- Not everyone has lost something. Hearing loss is fine to describe age-related declines in hearing abilities, but many of us have congenital or early-in-life sources of hearing impairment. We’ve never really known what “normal” hearing is like, and we often have different experiences and feelings towards our hearing than those with true hearing losses.
- Leave “Hard-of-Hearing” behind. Be creative-in-mind and bold-in-choices and leave this clumsy medieval language in the dust.
- Stop defining yourself by your impairment. I try to avoid saying, “I have a hearing impairment” as much as possible. Instead, I say “I wear hearing aids.” Its a small difference, but those of us who use these devices know we have limitations and physical differences in our bodies that cause them. We don’t need to be reminded of this all the time, so try to describe us by our external devices. You would’t say a person with glasses has a visual impairment – you’d just say they wear glasses and everyone understands.