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Medical & Cultural Views of Deafness
The medical perspective and the cultural perspective of deafness are quite different. Doctors almost always have a hearing perspective of deafness and look at it as a disability, impairment, or handicap to be treated. Almost invariably, medical specialists propose treatment such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, auditory brainstem implants, or speech therapy in order to help deaf individuals to get along in a hearing world.
In contrast, Deaf culture focuses on the strengths rather than the weaknesses of deafness and sees deafness not as a disability but as a linguistic minority. Never having experienced deafness themselves, this cultural view often baffles hearing people. Nevertheless, many deaf people are proud to be Deaf, not just deaf with a lowercase d, meaning unable to hear, but Deaf with a capital D like one's nationality, meaning they are proud to be Deaf, embrace Deaf culture and the Deaf community, and some would not even want to become hearing if they could.
Whereas "deafness" describes hearing loss, in the Deaf community the term "Deafhood" refers a sense of self identity and individuation. Similarly, individuals who are Deaf and proud may use the term "identified" as Deaf rather than "diagnosed" as deaf.
The chart below shows the differences in the labels that the medical view and the cultural view of deafness apply. Notice that the cultural view has gray areas because from a cultural perspective, individuals largely define where they see themselves in the culture. Some people who have profound hearing loss consider themselves to be hard of hearing, while some people who have mild or moderate hearing loss consider themselves to be Deaf.
Source: Oregon Disabilities Commission and Lectures by Portland Community College ASL instructor Mark Azure.
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