A Deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind person’s identity are typically tied to three things: medical diagnosis/audiological condition, communication preferences, and cultural/community ties. This identity can be fluid, changing as a person grows and learns over the course of his/her lifetime.
Medical diagnosis/audiological condition - Hearing loss is diagnosed medically on a sliding scale. Degree of loss starts at mild to moderate, progresses to moderate to severe, and ends at severe to profound. Individuals that are medically diagnosed as experiencing a mild to moderate hearing loss are considered to be hard of hearing. Individuals that are medically diagnosed as experiencing a severe to profound hearing loss are considered to be deaf.
Communication preferences - Communication can be incredibly varied and is not tied to an individual’s hearing status. It can range from individuals who use only American Sign Language (ASL) or a signed system such as Signed English, who use pantomime and writing back and forth as needed to communicate. Other individuals may speak English and lipread. Others may combine signing, speaking, and lipreading on as needed basis.
Cultural/Community ties - Deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind individuals may identify as being part of the Deaf Community. Deaf individuals who refer to themselves in that way are referred to as Deaf with a capitalized D. If an individual sees themselves as being part of the hearing community or prefers to refer to their audiological condition, they are referred to as deaf with the D not being capitalized. Hard of hearing individuals may identify with the Deaf Community, the hearing community, or both.
The Deaf Community is sociologically recognized as being a linguistic and cultural minority group. This means it has its own mores in terms of behaviour and values as well as its own distinct languages, American Sign Language (ASL) in Canada and the United States, Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) in the French speaking communities of Canada, as well the Aboriginal Indigenous Signed Languages of North America.