It started with a simple Facebook status:
“Please, please, puh-lease, eradicate the word ‘hearing impaired’ from your vocabulary and all those around you who speak such nonsense. Your doctor terminology for my lack of hearing blows. I may not hear very well, but I function just fine. I am not impaired. I’m a ******* superhero. Be jealous of my supreme powers.”
The status was met with many cheers from those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing (HoH), and left many of my hearing friends & family scratching their heads. What’s wrong with the term ‘hearing impaired,’ they wanted to know?
The term ‘hearing impaired’ is so integrated into our language that no one thinks twice about what it really means. The term ‘impaired’ implies something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
While the mainstream public and doctors may view Deaf people as having something wrong with them, we (Deaf and HoH individuals) don’t view ourselves in such a manner. We’re fully able to function in society without being “fixed”, nor do all of us want to be fixed. Doctors and audiologists, who insist on fixing the problem, rather than working towards a common understanding, are part of the problem.
My sister, who recently discovered after 37 years that she is losing her hearing, remarked: “but I am impaired…without the assist of an aid, I do struggle”. As hearing loss may be new to some now, later, as individuals grow into it, they will find the tools and resources to help them succeed. The term impaired sounds so permanent. Hearing loss may be permanent, but your functionality doesn’t cease.
Here’s the short of it all. Those of us with hearing loss will adapt, it is the world around that does not adapt. You will still be able to fully function as you do. Technology will only get better, you will not cease to function, or become helpless because of it.
‘Impaired’ implies that there is something wrong with you, and without the help of a physical aid, you cannot complete the function you are trying to do. If you are able to communicate and be a 100% functional member of society, but the person who is trying to talk to you can’t figure out how to alert you that you may be standing in their way, they are the one who is limited with what they are trying to achieve, and they are the ones who need a tool to aid them in their task.
So let’s eradicate the term ‘hearing impaired.’
Everyone who liked or responded to the status really liked the superhero terminology. So many hearing friends and family believe that I have superpowers because I’ve managed to figure out how to get by in the world with a lack of one sense.
Is it fair that a Dr. can call me ‘impaired’ when others think I’m a superhero?
To wrap it up – we can communicate with the world just fine, but often, it it is the hearing community which struggles to communicate with us. In that sense who is the “impaired” party here?
Losing his hearing at the age of three never slowed Mark Levin down. Graduating from Columbia College Chicago in 2008 with a B.A. in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management, Mark has an all around passion for the music & entertainment industry. For the past 5 years Mark has worked with Sean Forbes and D-PAN: Deaf Professional Arts Network as a Tour & Event Manager, Assistant Director of Film, Guitarist, and many other roles. He has a passion for inspiring others and changing the worlds perception of the ever growing talents of the Deaf community.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics
- Ai-Live: Find out about the human element to live captions.
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Clarion: BSL/English interpreting and employment services
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- SDHH: Project Development and Consultancy
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people
- deafPLUS: Money advice line in BSL
- Happy: Microsoft Office courses taught in BSL and SSE by a Deaf trainer – all abilities catered for
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- Krazy Kat: visual theatre with BSL
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- DCAL: Find out how to study at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, London
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- Sarah Gatford: BSL interpreting, training and consultancy
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people