I was thinking over the weekend about an issue which I sometimes find myself debating with colleagues from time to time: does the term “deaf” put off deaf children?
When I was young, I hated the term “deaf” and generally referred to myself as “hearing impaired”. I always thought that “deaf” gave the impression I couldn’t hear anything at all when, in fact, I spent many nights bopping to Kylie after school. But as I got older, I reclaimed the term “deaf” and became more comfortable with using it. I began to see it as a positive aspect of my self identity.
But what about deaf children today? Are they like me when I was young? I come across a lot of deaf children who don’t regard themselves as “deaf”. Like me, they might grow out of it or they might not – it will be their choice. But, in the meantime, they might be closed off from even looking at services offered to “deaf” children / adults because they don’t see it as relevant. Are they missing out on the support they might need because of definitions that don’t work for everyone?
Complicating matters is that I don’t personally like some of the alternatives. Hard of hearing; it makes me sounds like an old fogey walking around with an ear trumpet. Hearing loss is just inaccurate; many deaf people never had any hearing to lose. It also creates an image in my head of someone saying “darling, where did I leave my hearing? I had it a moment ago..” so that probably won’t work either. And hearing impaired implies a malfunction which, despite me using it as a child, leaves me feeling cold as a deaf adult.
Is there any way of coming up with an acceptable term to all? What do other people think?