The dividing line between being deaf and hard-of-hearing is naturally somewhat fuzzy to most people: the paper "Personal and Social Identity of Hard of Hearing People" by Mark Ross
argues that the distinction should be made on the basis of whether the person in question "developed their linguistic skills primarily through the auditory channel, and if they are capable of comprehending verbal messages through listening alone." Yet, this definition brings up new questions: while the role of Deaf culture
is well understood as a factor in the development of a social identity in those growing up deaf, is there a similar phenomenon of "hard-of-hearing culture"? And how do those growing up hard-of-hearing develop a social identity?
As Shanna Groves proposes in her blog "Lip Reader"
, hard-of-hearing "culture" is characterized by the use of spoken language as opposed to signed language as a communication style, and a strong reliance on technology. These cultural preferences can in large part be related to the overwhelming preference for mainstreaming
especially in the case of the hard-of-hearing, a movement that has roots back to Alexander Graham Bell (yes, that Bell), often viewed negatively for this reason by the Deaf community
While from a cost-based and an educational perspective, there are significant advantages to the child, family and society in using spoken language to mainstream
and from the perspective of many parents, avoids isolating the child from general society (rebutted in the Isolation Myth
), mainstreaming unfortunately puts hard-of-hearing children at risk of bullying, social isolation and negative stigma leading to higher incidences of risky behaviour,
which ultimately correlates to a lower level of educational and vocational achievement, and a higher prevalence of mental illness.
(A summary of the issues and how they are often at odds can be found here.
Going back to the first link, Ross brings up a number of reasons why mainstream education is often not sufficient in providing hard-of-hearing children/young adults with experiences in reconciling their disability with their social identity. Consequentially, many are forced to struggle to fit into the grain of the hearing world: bluffing
is a strategy that the hard-of-hearing almost universially come up with. Desire for increased integration into the hearing world also explains hard-of-hearing reliance on technology as Groves brought up, with cochlear implant acceptance being inversely related to integration into Deaf Culture.
The alternative that others come upon is to integrate into the Deaf community. Karen, in her blog "A Deaf Mom Shares her World", explains her experiences of doing so
. Unfortunately, oralism can be a sensitive topic in the Deaf community
, posing a barrier to those seeking to join the Deaf community (frequentally discussed at alldeaf.com, including here
Unfortunately, no real middle ground seems to exist yet. Laszlo, in his paper "Is there a Hard of Hearing Identity"
explains the barriers and issues preventing the hard-of-hearing from following the model of the Deaf. Ross similarly notes that there have been many tried and failed attempts in establishing these organizations.
(This is my first stab at a FPP. Please me,ail me with comments as to if I did it right or not! My goal was to supplement the primary paper with informational background.)