I’m seeing various comments around the ‘net indicating that for some, “hearing loss” is a reasonably acceptable umbrella term for all deafies, at least as used by hearies. I’m not that convinced, and I’d like to explain why…
One thing I’ve noticed in reading through blogs by deaf people (and “deaf” I do consider an absolutely umbrella term) is that the biggest difference I see between all the various “types” of deaf people is that between those who were born deaf (or deafened very young) and those who became deaf later in life. There is a (very understandable) sense of loss among the latter group. They used to do hearing related activities and can no longer do so. They used to depend on hearing in certain situations and feel uncertain and off balance now that they cannot do so.
I understand that feeling and certainly sympathize! I only have to think of how I would feel if I suddenly could not see or walk. Nevertheless, these reactions and feelings do not apply to me.
I read about one late-deafened adult who writes that he no longer drives as much, because he’s afraid of overlooking or missing something he would not have before losing his hearing and thus get into an accident of some sort. This is legitimate for him. But it does not apply to me, because what is really at issue here is that he has a habit based on hearing that is hampering him. It is a habit that I never acquired.
Now, this is all well and good, except for one thing. We will have hearies who look at this man’s statements and say, “See!! Deaf people shouldn’t be allowed to drive, they’re a menace on the road!” and point to this for justification. Where can we even begin with this kind of mixup?
This is why I don’t care for the term “Hearing Loss”. It has implicit a number of assumptions including that a person with “hearing loss” MISSES THE HEARING! Misses their hearing! In other words, it is not a neutral description. It presupposes a particular mindset or way of looking at one’s deafness.
It’s like when my last audiologist, upon hearing that I don’t always wear my hearing aids out in public, was shocked and warned me about the hazards such as maybe getting run over by a car. She stopped speaking when she saw the look on my face, I wish I’d seen it myself. But honestly! Getting run over by a car? I never had the habit of listening for oncoming cars, puh-leeeeze! But a late deafened person? Yes, that might be an issue for them, absolutely.
The problem is that late deafened people tend to reinforce what hearing people think about deafness, because late deafened WERE hearing. And they NOW miss their hearing and go through difficulties exactly as hearing people would imagine, because they share the same starting point. This is also where you have people who reject the term deaf because they didn’t start out deaf, and they may also be in denial about the consequences and extent to which they are now deaf.
Born & early deafened people don’t share those traits. We never started out with the same worldview and assumptions. But hearing people still assume these same things apply to us.
So in the end, I have many reservations about the term “Hearing Loss”. Let me make it clear, that I welcome all people who are deaf, whatever the cause, and whenever it happened. But just as I, an orally educated deafie, have some different issues than other deaf folk (such as no knowledge of sign language), a late deafened deafie 🙂 will have some different issues, that I think are very well described under “hearing loss”.
I don’t know if there’s a simple across the board description for us all that we would all accept. I mean, I think little-d “deaf” is perfect for all of us, but as has been pointed out on DeafRead, late deafened people (and perhaps also a number of hard of hearing (HOH) esp. late HOH) don’t always identify with that term.
I dunno. As I understand it “Deaf and Hard of Hearing” evolved to address issues the HOH had, but “Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Those With Hearing Loss” is one hell of a mouthful! 🙂 Which is what keeps bringing me back to the nice, simple, one syllable, term “deaf”.
What do you all think about an umbrella term that’s inclusive, neutral, and doesn’t reinforce inappropriate stereotypes. Does such a term potentially exist?
I think there’s also another issue of what is acceptable to hear coming from hearies versus fellow deaf, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic of its own…
P.S. I realize this is a post that could be characterized as lots of talktalktalk and little progressive action (which is really the sort of thing I prefer as well to be honest) but in sorting out what I really do want to call myself, and as a part of my own deafhood journey, I have been considering these things. And I keep coming back to “deaf” which is what I called myself as a child and for reasons which are still perfectly valid to me even as I re-examine those assumptions…