What is Deafness? - A guide to Hearing Loss

We often think of deafness as the total absence of hearing but this view is not universally shared. There are people who we might consider to be deaf who don’t feel comfortable with that term and prefer to use an alternative.

The Royal National Institute of the Deaf (RNID) website contains a list of terms used by people to describe their own form of hearing loss. Some people don’t mind the word ‘deaf’ being used but others are offended by it and so use another term. Here are some of the terms used on the RNID website (www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/):

  • Deafened: used to describe people who were born with normal hearing but have gradually lost the ability to hear.
  • Hard of hearing: used to describe people with mild to severe hearing loss. This gradually happens over a period of time.
  • Deafblind: used to refer to people who have impaired hearing and vision or are totally deaf and blind.
  • Deaf community: this term is used by people who use sign language as their first language. This is often their preferred form of communication.

The site also has four degrees of deafness which include: mild, moderate, severe and profound. Deafness can affect one ear (‘unilateral’ deafness) or both ears (‘bilateral’ deafness). It can occur from birth or develop over a long period of time but each person will develop their own way of coping, whatever the type or degree of deafness.

Hearing aids can help but someone who is profoundly deaf from birth will use sign language or lip reading as a means of communication. The main issue here is to avoid the sense of isolation and alienation which some people experience as well as raising awareness in general.

Hearing Loss

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