So what is the difference between being deaf and or being hard of hearing? Throughout my career as an educator of the Deaf/HH and a speech therapist, I have been asked that question many times by parents and other professionals. What is it? I can give you my definition of what they are and what they aren’t, however, there are many layers to discuss to help answer that question, but the ultimate definition of being deaf or hard of hearing is not as simple as it would appear. Let me take a shot at this and feel free to tell me what you think.
Medically, the definition depends on how many decibels of hearing loss you have. A loss that is less than profound is generally considered hard of hearing.
Some people who view deafness by the functional definition think that if a person is deaf but uses hearing aids, they function in society like a person who is hard of hearing.
According to the cultural definition and people in the Deaf Culture, being deaf or hard of hearing has nothing to do with how much you can hear! It has to do with how you identify yourself to society. Do you identify more closely with hearing people or with deaf people? Some medically hard of hearing people that I taught in the public school system or currently work with in my clinic consider themselves culturally Deaf. Others consider themselves Hard of Hearing.
According to a site I read and forgive me I am unable to remember where I got this from but according to the site they posed the question: “ Are people with cochlear implants whose hearing losses are reduced to as little as 20 db hard of hearing or deaf? In my opinion, the answer is, “both.” The author of that site says both because “when a person has the implant on and can hear that well, they are hard of hearing. When the implant is off and they can-not hear anything, they are deaf.” I agree with this for the most part, but the ultimate decision is the individual themselves who possesses the hearing loss and how they view themselves in our society based upon their personal experiences.