I’ve been a “Better Hearing Consumer” follower since Gael Hannan began writing this blog, and Gael’s latest article, “Lament for a Hoh: My Hard of Hearing Identity Crisis”, is as entertaining as ever.
Like Gael, I detest the label “Hard of Hearing”. I rarely use it anymore, but when I did use it, for lack of a better label, people would yell at me and talk to me like I had the intellect of a three year old.
I moved on to “Hearing Impaired”… that is until I was reamed by a culturally Deaf person who said I couldn’t use that term because it groups both of us in the same category and I was very different from her. Okay, I get that we are very different, but why not tell me that in a nicer way?
Then, I found the SayWhatClub, and through talking to many there I realized that often I don’t label myself. I simply tell people, “I need to see you speak, I lipread/speechread.” — those two terms are sometimes at war themselves! So much friction!! — because doing this tells people exactly what I need from them. It works!!
I moved even farther along… I learned to become comfortable with calling myself “deaf”, because for all practical purposes, I am deaf. I have no usable hearing in my right ear and just a few low tones in my left ear, and I don’t wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. I used to feel like a fraud using the label for my very own, but thankfully I’ve moved past that and it’s probably my most used label when traveling.
I’ve gotten pretty comfortable at not labeling myself unless it’s absolutely necessary, but when I do feel I need a label I use whatever is appropriate and works. “Hard of Hearing” and “Hearing Impaired” often cause a look of confusion on a person’s face — you can actually see them trying to work out what those labels mean — so I rarely use them.
What is key? Flexibility and being comfortable when you make it known that you have a hearing loss. Go with what works, and if you don’t know what works then experiment to see what works.