by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
As hard of hearing people, we have the right to choose what we want people to call us. Overwhelmingly, we prefer to be called “hard of hearing people.” Yet many well-meaning, but misinformed, people persist in referring to us as “hearing impaired.”
The term “hearing impaired” was supposed to be the politically correct term to be used when referring to all deaf and hard of hearing people in a collective sense. However, this term is almost universally resented by both deaf people and hard of hearing people and, as a result, is most definitely not politically correct.
So don’t be afraid to use our preferred terms. If we say we are hard of hearing, refer to us as hard of hearing people. If we say we are deaf—use the word deaf. These are the terms we want you to use. Don’t ever say we are hearing impaired. Most of us hate that term.
If you want to talk about all people with hearing losses, either say “people with hearing loss” or “deaf and hard of hearing people.” If you want to be more specific and single out one group or the other, either say “deaf people,” or “hard of hearing people.”
Actually, “people with hearing loss” is the best term since it puts the word “people” first, not our disability. After all, we are people first and foremost, but people who just happen to have ears that don’t work very well.
And while I am at it, we hard of hearing people should always say, “I have a hearing loss” not “I am hard of hearing.” Why? Because when I say “I am hard of hearing” the inference is that I am nothing but one big broken ear. However, when I say, “I have a hearing loss” I am saying that I am a person who just happens to have a hearing loss—but the hearing loss doesn’t define me, any more than my tall height defines me. It is just one of the many characteristics that goes into making me me.