What is the correct term to use when referring to someone with a hearing loss?

There is some confusion surrounding the terminology of hearing loss.  In meeting people with hearing loss, you will hear terms such as hard of hearing, deafened or late-deafened, hearing impaired, hearing disabled, deaf and culturally deaf.  The use of these terms is a matter of personal preference when referring to one’s own hearing loss.  It is important to determine how a person with a hearing loss prefers to be identified and to respect individual preferences.

The acceptability and usage of terms related to hearing loss also change over time.  The terms “hearing disabled” and “hearing impaired” have been used in the past but have become less acceptable to the hard of hearing as some feel the terms present a negative image of people with a hearing loss.  Many people with hearing loss prefer to be identified as the hard of hearing.

The terms deafened and late-deafened are terms commonly used to describe people who have grown up communicating orally before experiencing severe to profound hearing loss.  Oral language is their primary mode of communicating to others, supplemented by sign language, residual hearing, hearing aids and technical devices, speech reading, and implants.

The deaf and culturally deaf are terms used to describe those who were born deaf or became deaf before acquiring speech.  The majority of deaf people use sign language instead of speech for communication.  They participate primarily in the deaf community, language and culture of the deaf.