A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

AN IDENTITY CRISIS OF MY OWN!, by Michele Linder

In Deafness, Hard of hearing culture, Hearing Loss, late deafened, Lip Reading on October 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

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.

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  1. I just shared this on facebook, yet if you don’t use facebook, saying thanks here too. All these labels for millions of us who are deaf, deafened, and folks with hearing loss, are truly confusing to many others who expect us all to use sign language, or ask “don’t you read lips”? (giving us only part of any conversation, sometimes, depending).

    Lauren/www.ccacaptioning.org

    • Thanks, Lauren, I do use facebook and thought I had friended CCAC there, but I checked and I had not. What was I thinking?? Thanks for all you do to bring communication access to the masses through captioning.

      Yes, it’s all so confusing for hearing people, and for us, and unfortunately many make assumptions… I’m guilty of this myself, but I try very hard not to. We are all so uniquely different and communicate in a variety of ways. That’s why I believe you need a mixed bag of tricks that work for you. It takes some effort to figure out your own way.

  2. I like your last sentence. I use all the labels and then some– whatever fits the situation that gets the point across. I don’t think it matters. The main thing is being clear about your needs and comfortable with who you are.

  3. I always tell people I’m half deaf. I’m actually over halfway but it’s close enough I guess. I get better results being half deaf because people face me and let me read their lips. As you said, when I tell people I’m hard of hearing, the just talk louder.

  4. Amazing! I’m hearing impaired/profoundly deaf/deaf WHATEVER! I was on the phone the other day asked about a disabled bus pass, when the women on the phone said to me ‘what are you?’ Like I’m a different species! When I answered hearing impaired (because again I feel like a fraud saying deaf when I’m not fully deaf) she said to me ‘I’m not medically trained, what are you?’ So with much anger brewing in me I calmly said ‘I’m deaf’. We could understand each other perfectly before this on the phone, after I said I was deaf, the women was very rude, talking very slowly and loud to me on the phone, when we had been talking for ten minutes before this just fine!

    I often get friends saying to me ‘well you’re not deaf because you can hear’ yes I can hear a little but I lip read!! Drives me crazzzzyyyy

    • Hi stevieraerae,

      “Deaf” is such a subjective term. Do you have to be stone-deaf to use it? I know some culturally Deaf people who wear hearing aids, so that tells me they have some hearing to amplify, so does that mean they are not Deaf?

      Cutting to the chase and saying “I’m deaf” serves a great purpose in that in some situation it simplifies things for others. You have every right to call yourself whatever you want to call yourself. I pick and choose, and apply where appropriate.

      If a person has sight but they have some vision they are usually referred to as “legally blind”, so I guess I’m also “legally deaf”? All I know is that for all practical purposes I understand little without the visual. I have a few low tones in my left ear, but speech is never clear without lipreading and I can’t recognize most environmental sounds, so I’M DEAF, get used to it. You’ve more patience that I, at this point, I probably would just tell those questioning my deafness to… use your imagination here because my vocabulary has gotten pretty peppery since I turned 50!! :o)

      Sigh… I get so tired of having to explain myself. I understand your being driven to craziness!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. If it’s any consolation you’re in good company :o) ~~Michele

      • Geeze, that should say “If a person has lost their sight…” Typing too fast and not proof reading. I apologize. :o) ~~Michele

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