When speaking about a person who is Deaf or hard of hearing, it is important to refer to an individual as they prefer to be identified. You can ask them their preference. At Canadian Hearing Society, we use the terms Deaf and hard of hearing. Audiological labels can separate people and communities. It is most important to be sensitive to individual functional preferences and needs. Individuals may choose to use a sign language or a spoken language or both.

People who refer to themselves as Deaf tend to identify with the Deaf community as a distinct cultural group, its heritage and literature. They use sign language [such as American Sign Language (ASL) or langue des signes québécoise (LSQ)] to communicate. Culturally Deaf people may use sign language or gesture, write, use speechreading or spoken language to communicate with people who do not sign.

People who identify themselves as hard of hearing tend to use spoken language and residual hearing to communicate, supplemented by communication strategies that may include speechreading, hearing aids, sign language and technical devices.