Why is 'deaf' or 'hard of hearing' the right term? Why is 'hearing impaired' the bad word these days?
It is not political correctness that is in play here.
It just is. Many people prefer to be considered d/Deaf or hard of hearing because this is how they identify themselves. There are a few people (and the lovely media which is not so much educated) who do not mind being called hearing impaired.
A bit of history: Before the word 'hearing impaired' was coined, deaf and hard of hearing people were called deaf or deaf-mute. Those terms were important to the deaf community and its culture due to its significance as an identifying feature unique to each cultural group whether minority or majority. It was after 'hearing impaired' that the use of 'hard of hearing' was coined.
It was not until the advent of hearing aids that the term 'hearing impaired' was coined. What is the significance of hearing impaired and hearing aids?
Hearing can be 'fixed'. 'Impaired' means to fix something that is broken. So with this concept, it became politically correct to call deaf people hearing impaired without ever understanding the cultural-linguistic significance that 'deaf or hard of hearing' has upon a disenfranchised minority group. Deaf or hard of hearing is an acceptance of which one is with the loss of hearing that they have. It does not matter if one has technology in use or not.
Basically, being deaf or hard of hearing is an cultural thing, regardless of language or technology whereas hearing impaired is a medical term imposed by ignorant medical professionals that do not understand (or they do) how labels are critical to the lives of people.
You will find profoundly deaf people call themselves hard of hearing and hard of hearing people call themselves deaf. I know that is odd but that's the way of life. This is how we identify ourselves. There will be people who would prefer to be labeled hearing impaired. The best way to do that is to ASK, not presume.
Update: a friend of mine posted an experience on Facebook today: "I saw a sign giving instruction start with "Hearing Impaired" in loud and bold fonts! I wrote a note educating employees that they should change it to "Deaf or Hard of Hearing.." because it is politically correction.. Hearing Impaired is like calling someone "N" word." An interesting perspective when compared to another disenfranchised minority group in America. Both equally oppressed (in different manners, but oppressed nonetheless) in the good ole United States.
I am profoundly deaf and will remain so even if I have a hearing aid and speak fluently. Almost always with people, when I tell them I am deaf, they will accept that at face value. This is when I start speaking to people that those who "thought" that I am deaf would say "No, you are hard of hearing because you can speak." Really? Most often those remarks come from deaf people themselves. There was this one person who kept saying this every time she saw me speak, she refused to back down even after I explained until one day she saw me talking to my mother and sister, in front of them she just blurted out that I am hard of hearing not deaf. That was the last straw. After that, she quit saying it. At least, not to my face.
We are not a medical commodity; we are human beings with a different set of cultural-linguistic rules. It would be easier to just ask before presuming. The ability to speak is a tool therefore is not an identifier to be determined by other people to overcome their personal conflict or opinion.
This is my clarification: I am deaf.
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.