SoundSpace Online

Describing deafness

Describing deafness is complex, depending on the way in which individuals view themselves and whether they see themselves as part of the Deaf community. One factor impacting on descriptions of deafness relates to the ways in which deaf individuals choose to communicate, use spoken language, sign language or both. While level of hearing loss plays a role, it does not necessarily determine communication choice. Some deaf individuals with milder hearing losses may choose to use sign language as their primary means of communication, and some deaf people with profound losses do not sign.

Another way in which to describe deafness is in terms of degree of hearing loss. Deaf individuals can have hearing losses in one or both ears that can range from mild, moderate, severe to profound. Please visit this MED-EL website page for more information on the degrees of hearing loss. These descriptions are arrived at through audiological testing and in this sense can be viewed as objective measures of deafness. More information on levels of hearing loss can be found at SoundSpace Online - Hearing loss represented on an audiogram
However these descriptions do not effectively capture the wide range of ways in which people with hearing loss are viewed or view themselves. With current advances in hearing technologies, the impact of degree of hearing loss is less clear-cut than it used to be, making these terms rather arbitrary ([144]). For example, individuals with profound hearing losses with cochlear implants may function much more like those with milder losses.
It is most important to remember that deafness is a complex issue, and that the deaf community is made up of a diverse population. It is not appropriate to make assumptions about deaf people or to describe them solely on the basis of an audiological label, or their communication choice. Rather it is important to be sensitive to and respectful of the ways in which deaf individuals choose to describe themselves, as deafness can mean different things to different people. Please visit this Hearing Link website page on how people have described themselves.