The Difference between Being Deaf and Having Hearing Loss
People often confuse hearing loss with deafness, often using both the terms interchangeably. In reality, those who have hearing loss are actually not deaf for the most part. Being deaf refers to people who have a severe level of hearing loss which renders them with very little or no hearing whatsoever. People with mild or even moderate levels of hearing loss are actually not deaf and have a significant amount of functional hearing intact. Simply put, if you have hearing loss it does not necessarily mean that you are deaf, but if you are deaf, it means you definitely have hearing loss.
It is important to note the difference between Deaf with a capital letter “D” and deaf with a small “d.” Those who use “Deaf” refer to members of the Deaf community where they have their very own history as well as their own cultural nuances and language. On the other hand, the word “deaf” is used to define the condition of having severe hearing loss that cannot be helped using hearing aids.
As such, being deaf differs from being a Deaf person. The former depicts a medical condition while the latter refers to a person who belongs to the Deaf community. In fact, a Deaf person may not necessarily be deaf! Deaf people have faced several years of struggle in order to be recognized and valued in society. Several laws and legislation changes have occurred and are occurring till date to give them the recognition, rights, and dignity they deserve. The most noteworthy of this is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against potential employees because of their hearing loss.
It may come as a surprise but there are Deaf people who actually choose not to treat their hearing damage through the use of any kind of assistive technology. Other Deaf people take pride in using cochlear implants or hearing devices to treat their hearing loss.
People of the Deaf community often use only sign language to communicate. Several movies and television programs now use mandatory closed captions keeping their hearing disabled audiences in mind. Even concerts have begun using sign language interpreters to help increase their appeal to the Deaf community.
Being Deaf gives a person the right to decide whether they wish to try and fit into the world of verbal language or whether they would rather use sign language as a primary mode of communication. Most of the world puts undue pressure on Deaf people to have them try and fit in with the hearing world to make them feel “normal.” This again, is just another form of discrimination. Being Deaf gives a person the right to choose to be different, unique, and accepted just the way they are.