Warning: overanalysis ahead. I tend to do this, just ask my husband!
I was at work yesterday and happened to mention to a patron that I am deaf. His response surprised me - "What?! You can't be deaf. You're talking to me, aren't you?"
In my time since writing this blog, I have considered how to explain my hearing loss to people. I grew up with everyone saying I was hearing impaired. It was only when I began taking ASL classes in high school that I learned of the controversy around the term "hearing impaired" and began to agree that, yes, impaired is not the best way to describe it. The problem is, "hearing impaired" seems to get it across correctly - I've never had anyone doubt me when I use the phrase, and people seem to understand that I do have residual hearing and I may wear a hearing device.
I prefer the term "deaf" because it is short, sweet and gets the point across. People understand what the term means right away and the phrase doesn't necessarily indicate I am 'impaired' in any way. But it also opens the door for people to misunderstand me like the gentleman I mentioned above. Many people in the general public seem to think deaf = cannot hear at all. Judging from the reactions I have gotten, people do not think that I fit the mold of 'deaf'.
An old photo of me and my hearing aid.
There's also "I have a hearing loss," which is clunky, and tends to lead people to think I am just a little bit hard of hearing, plus, it makes me feel like I lost something. The same goes for that term, "hard of hearing." People I've spoken to think "hard of hearing" means "just has a little bit of difficulty." Yes, I get along well in an auditory world - but that doesn't mean I just have a little bit of trouble hearing. I have definite, actual challenges. I don't hear about 50% of your sentences unless I know you. I don't know where sounds are coming from . I can't identify sounds . I don't enjoy music to its fullest and I can't pick out individual instruments. I will probably not hear that car coming up behind me. I may not be able to hear you on the phone at all. So I can't give people the mistaken impression that I'm just a little bit hard of hearing, although that's what that term tends to do when I try to use it.
Of course I know other people might have other experiences. In some areas different terms for the same thing might be more familiar. In my particular area and at my job, I meet people from all over the country (they like to winter in my hometown). So I meet a lot of variety and I have encountered a lot of different reactions.
I think I will stick with "deaf" for now. Short, sweet and requires little explanation except when people doubt me. And if they're going to be rude about it, well, they don't deserve an explanation anyway, do they? :)