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Terminology | Hope Community Resources




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Which is correct?

There is no easy answer to this question because it is impossible to create a definitive rule that is acceptable to everyone. In most cases, an appropriate label depends on how the person identifies himself or herself, rather than a specific degree of hearingloss. It is preferable to use a specific term - Deaf, deaf, or hard of hearing. 

Deaf: (Please note the capital "D".)

  • This is a reference to members of the Deaf community and Deaf culture.
  • They are proud to be Deaf and feel that Deafness is a vital part of their identity, cherished as much as ethnicity, gender, and religious background.
  • People in this cultural group most likely attended residential schools for the deaf, use American Sign Language (ASL,) and view Deafness as a difference rather than a disability.
  • Deaf people often feel a cultural bond with one another based on sharing a common language and experience oppression.
  • Although they most likely recognize ASL as their primary/native language, they may or may not use speech to communicate.

deaf: (Please note the lowercase "d".)

  • This is a general term which encompasses many groups of people, most of whom do not identify thenselves as being part of the cultural Deaf community.
  • People who are "deaf" are usually oral deaf people who use speech and residual hearing to communicate instead of sign language.
  • This definiton varies in different regions, but it usually is connected to people with severe or profound hearing loss who choose to associate mainly with hearing people

hard of hearing:

  • This is usually a term for people with mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss.
  • Hard of hearing people often use speech as their primary mode of communication, but may be involved in the Deaf community.
  • This group of people usually can transition back and forth between the Deaf and hearing cultures
  • Hard of hearing people often form advocacy groups of their own, due to their special communication needs which are overlooked due to misconceptions about hearing loss

hearing impaired:

  • This term is considered highly offensive. Just as "deaf-mute" and "deaf and dumb" are inappropriate labels, "hearing impaired" is an outdated way to collectively label people with any level of hearing loss. It does not account for cultural identity.
  • The use of "hearing impaired" may be considered less blunt by many hearing people, but within the Deaf community, it is an insulting term and can be a sign of ignorance.


  • This is a label for people who have no hearing loss.
  • "Hearing culture" is the mainstream American culture which is primarily focused on auditory experiences rather than visual experiences.


Contact Information:

Hope Community Resources, Inc.
540 W. International Rd.
Anchorage, AK 99518
Telephone (Voice): 907-433-4778
Videophone: 907-268-4416
Fax: 907-272-8807
Deaf Navigator is a program run by Hope Community Resources, funded
via a grant provided by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services