Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing and hearing impaired are some examples of terminology used when referring to someone who is unable to hear the sounds usually detected by the human ear. There is wide variation between individuals with deafness and what sounds they are and aren’t able to hear and understand.
There are differences in the way people with hearing loss identify with their deafness, therefore the use of the individual’s preference of terminology is important to note and respect.
The term deaf (with lower case letter “d”) is used more generally when referring to the condition of not hearing or not hearing the full spectrum of sound available to the human ear.
Deaf (with a capital “D”) people identify as part of a Deaf Culture and Community. In Australia they are likely to use Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as a first or preferred language.
Hard of Hearing
Generally this term refers to people who have a hearing loss and use speech as a primary means of communication. Children with hearing loss born into hearing families or people who experience deterioration of hearing at a later stage in life having always used speech to communicate would be referred to as “hard of hearing”.
The use of this term can be controversial. Members of the Deaf community are unlikely to relate to the description of being “hearing”. Additionally, they do not consider their Deafness an “impairment” but rather a way of being. Those who are hard of hearing may also not appreciate being referred to as “impaired”.
The use of the term is however, still in use, often to describe varying degrees of hearing loss during or after the acquisition of speech. As mentioned, individual preference should be noted.