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What is ‘Deaf Gain’ and ‘Deaf Identity’?

What is Deaf Gain?
Recently I came across the term “Deaf Gain.” It made me wonder, what is Deaf Gain? Then again, what is hearing loss? These terms play an integral role in shaping our identity and how others view us.

The more I have become involved in the hard of hearing and deaf communities, the more terms I’ve learned. These words describe hearing or lack thereof. For example, “hard of hearing,” “hearing impaired,” “deaf,” and “Deaf” are some terms that are often used. Through these words we use, we have the power to shape how others view us.

Deaf Gain 

The term “Deaf Gain” is becoming more prominent in our society, but what does it mean? Essentially, for those of us who have been affected by our hearing loss since birth or a young age, we never has hearing to lose, but had everything to gain from being Deaf. People who gravitate toward this term feel they’ve gained something from their deafness.

Whether it’s the language or culture, being Deaf allows people to gain the perspective and life they have. It also means that there is a deeper meaning in the term “hearing loss,” as it becomes a narrower perspective. “Hearing loss” places value on something we potentially do not need. For example, not having hearing in the Deaf world is not considered a loss.

Read more: How deaf space and deaf gain inspire author Michael Chorost

Differences in Interpretation

Then there are terms such as “hearing impaired” and “hard of hearing.” The difference in interpretation depends on how the individual interprets the word “impaired.” Some view it as only a word to describe the limitations of their hearing. Others draw a negative connotation because the word is attached to other cases where the outcome and state of mind are not positively perceived. An example is when one is driving impaired. In this case, one’s state of mind is not functioning right because of, for example, the influence of alcohol, which impacts one’s driving.

People who prefer not to be identified as “hearing impaired” view hearing or not having hearing as something positive. They might choose to represent themselves as “hard of hearing.” “Hard of hearing” in this case does not have any other potential limitation. It does not hint at a negative perception. However, it really depends on how accurate the term is relative to the hearing loss, how the word is interpreted, and how the person with hearing loss believes it will empower their identity.

Identity and Perception

In all these cases, whether we choose to say that we are “hard of hearing,” “hearing impaired,” “deaf,” or “Deaf,” we are choosing the word(s) that we believe best fits our identity and how we want to be perceived. For some, that means embracing the idea of Deaf Gain.

“…we are choosing the word(s) that we believe best fits our identity and how we want to be perceived.”

Regardless of the complexity of terms and their meanings, the most important thing is that I am me, and you are you. We are not shallow, 2-D figures that are only represented by our hearing. Our hearing makes up a fraction of our full-bodied personalities. We all have the power to choose our identity and how we most accurately want to be portrayed.

Read more: Hearing Loss Terms You Need to Know

What does “Deaf Gain” mean to you? What terms do you use to identify yourself?

Author Details
Maddy is 19 and currently in her third year at university studying International Relations. She wears Sky V90 hearing aids in both ears, and has been wearing hearing aids since she was three. In her spare time you can catch her painting, playing volleyball and watching YouTube. Some of her goals is to continue to work for better accessibility at her university and to break down the stigmas surrounding hearing loss.