We The Deaf People

13. “Hearing-Impaired” & Other Such Terms

The term “hearing-impaired” is frequently used as a euphemism (“polite” or “genteel” replacement) for deaf. Those who employ this term can thus refer to deaf people without actually using the word deaf. We would like to see this term retired, as Deaf people find it annoying and offensive. Hearing-impaired defines deaf people as broken machinery, in terms of what’s wrong with them, not in terms of their strengths or abilities. There is nothing bad or offensive about the simple four-word deaf. No euphemism is needed. Labeling deaf people as deaf is nothing to be squeamish about.

Moreover, hearing-impaired is annoyingly vague. People who are profoundly deaf have vastly different communicative needs from those who are hard-of-hearing (i.e., persons with a mild to moderate degree of hearing loss), but if hearing-impaired is used to lump all deaf/HoH people together, it does us a disservice of inaccuracy.

Other euphemisms that we would like to see dropped from circulation are hearing-handicapped, hearing-disabled, and hearing-challenged. Again, these terms are negative, judgmental, inaccurate, and annoying. The term “hearing loss” is likewise judgmental; Deaf advocates have coined the term “Deaf gain” to counteract it.

We prefer to capitalize the “D’ in “Deaf” emphasize our cultural-linguistic identity, our affiliation with the ASL-speaking Deaf community.

Our position:

We encourage the U.S. public not to use the term hearing-impaired. Use the term Deaf. It’s a simple, nonjudgmental, neutral term, and is always correct.

See also: Linguistic Minority