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Thoughts on Deaf Gain in Hard of Hearing Communities

Charlie's picture

As I have been doing the readings and videos for today, I've been reflecting on the idea of Deaf gain and my own journey to understanding my disability. It is strange to think that only about a year and a half ago I still considered myself a hearing person with a medical impairment. I still remember getting the diagnosis of hearing loss when I was 13 and feeling terrified. Given the dynamic and sudden nature of my hearing loss, I was scared that I could lose more or all of my hearing overnight, as I had before. During this time, I began to cling to Deaf culture, and more specifically ASL, as a life raft without realizing it. I saw ASL as my last ditch option to staying in communication with my hearing friends "if all else failed", and spent hours pouring over online resources and ASL dictionaries to try to teach myself. I began to see the language, along with other technologies made by or for the Deaf community (like close captioning) as tools, and ironically as a means of staying a part of the hearing world. To me, Deafness was a black void in which people lost hearing, and subsequently lost touch with their hearing communities (and therefore their world, in my mind).

Like many other Deaf and hard of hearing people, learning about Deaf culture, and specifically the idea of Deaf Gain, has helped me reframe my thinking from the medical mindset of "losing" something when becoming hard of hearing or deaf. As the essay by Bauman and Murrey illustrated, there are countless ways that Deaf culture not only creates a rich and unique community within Deaf and HOH spaces, but how it fosters innovative ways of doing things or thinking about the world that can benefit people across the spectrum of hearing and deafness. Reading essays like that and learning about places like Galludet always makes me feel inspired to use my dual-hearing and deaf abilities as a bridge and means of innovation, rather than a hindrance in my navigation of hearing society. Getting that diagnosis of a disability can be a terrifying process without a sense of community or belonging around it, so I appreciate the way that Deaf culture and Deaf Gain acted as a lighthouse to guide me there.