Ireland has about 880,000 people with hearing issues (deafened, and deaf), while about 1,077 people who use ISL are in the signing Deaf community, at 0.1% (zero point one per cent) of the total population.
During a recent chat in a Dublin hotel, two of the Sound Advice team were interrupted by an academic. He had a few questions about being deaf, and did we mind?
All in the line of duty, of course.
His first question was, should he use the term, ‘deaf’ or ‘hearing-impaired’, to refer to people who’re deaf? That was easy. We explained that “deaf” or “hard of hearing” are the best terms, as “hearing impaired” can imply that someone is impaired as a person.
The terms ‘deaf’ and ‘Deaf’ have different meanings and refer to people who are:
- hard-of-hearing (may have hearing-aids & find speech tricky to hear)
- partially-deaf (may use speech/lipreading and have hearing-aids)
- profoundly deaf (may wear hearing devices and lipread/speak, with a minority signing)
The terms ‘deafened’, ‘deaf’ and ‘Deaf’ were explained to our listener.
- ‘deafened’ refers to people who have lost hearing in life. Speaking and lipreading is the favored communication mode; very few may use ISL
- ‘deaf’ alludes to people born profoundly deaf, but who use speech and lip-reading for everyday communication (in English)
- ‘Deaf’ (with a capital D) refers to people who sign or use Irish sign language (ISL) to communicate and are part of the cultural Deaf community
1) “Deaf and Dumb”. Offensive, parallels the ‘R’ word in reference terms.
2) “Hearing-impaired”, “impediment” or “problems”. Not great – see above.
3) “The deaf” – better to write/say “deaf people”, or “people who’re deaf”.
The job done, a happy camper left the hotel, feeling he’d learned something.