D/deaf and the difference between them

D/deaf and the difference between them

If you’re relatively new to the world of hearing loss, or if (like me) you’re sort of a latecomer in embracing your identity as someone with hearing loss, there can be a lot to learn about the community itself. You may have seen Deaf or deaf, or D/deaf to refer to both. It’s a simple difference, but a big one.

Deaf, with a capitalized D, refers to a specific deaf culture. Someone who identifies themselves as Deaf likely goes to or went to a school for the deaf, and remains in that cultural and social circle with a lot of pride. The Deaf community correlates with users that rely primarily on sign language; that said, it’s not a requirement for the term at all, but rather their attitude toward their own hearing loss and their passion for the community itself.

With a lowercase “d,” deaf is more of a technical descriptor for significant hearing loss and not a signifier for the cultural belonging seen in the Deaf community. Someone who uses “deaf” may not have strong ties to other deaf community members and may not have attended a school for the deaf. You may find that some people prefer to use the phrase “hard of hearing” rather than deaf, as a way to distance themselves from the social/cultural associations.

As for me (I wear a hearing aid in my “good” ear and am nearing total deafness in the other), I’m not sure which of these I fit into. I was placed into a mainstream school, use hearing aids, haven’t used sign language since I was a small child, don’t spend time with other deaf people, and shied away from my hearing loss as part of my identity for a long time. But I have become more involved and passionate about the unique needs of deaf people with the creation of my website. For now, I stick with lowercase deaf, because I still have a lot to learn. I do tell people in passing that I’m hard of hearing to keep explanations simple, because most hearing people will assume I sign if I throw out “deaf.”

Ultimately, it’s a choice, and if you’re worried, you can always ask someone, especially if you suspect they have strong ties to the deaf community and may prefer the Deaf distinction. Online, you’ll often see people refer to the “D/deaf” community as a way of being inclusive to all those with hearing loss regardless of their social and cultural ties, but don’t stress too much about always capitalizing that D.

If you’d like to do a deeper dive into this discussion, this page from the National Association for the Deaf has a great breakdown of varying terminology.

Side note: it’s been a busy spring for me over here, but happily getting back into the swing of things and more posts will come down the pipeline soon. Thanks for sticking around!



  1. I’m the same as you. Deaf in my right ear, hearing aid in my left. Without the aid I’m very hard of hearing. 🙂

  2. I’m enjoying your posts! Please write more as we need more D/deaf bloggers. I am Deaf myself because I communicate only through sign language and don’t utilize any hearing devices. I live in a town where there is a small deaf community, unfortunately so I feel that it is my duty to educate people in my town. So far, it is going well because I find out that many people around are interested and want to learn how to sign.

    Just wanted to stop by to say HI from a fellow deaf blogger.

    1. Author

      Elizabeth, sorry for the late response– thanks so much! I’m so glad your community is receptive to learning more about you and ASL. Love what I see of your blog so far!! I’ve bookmarked it to check it out during the little one’s naptime 🙂

  3. I wear hearing aides but even with them I’m very hard of hearing! I’ve been on the internet because I have a hearing child that’s in 5th grade and we have meetings with teachers as a group I hear nothing and this year and this teacher is not working with me. Normally lots of teachers are willing to text me but not this one! She the band teacher and my hearing daughter has her heart on joining the band ! Big meeting tonight I will not hear a thing and I get embarrassed asking someone to repeat a hour long lecture of the do and don’t but sitting in bleachers is impossible but my 5 grade daughter is afraid I will embarrass her !

    1. Author

      Hi Amy, I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with the teachers! It sounds like you may need a microphone device and receiver. I used one in school as a child but plenty of adults use them for the situation you are in. Phonak makes the roger pen which is very popular, but it’s worth asking your audiologist for options that would pair with the telecoil setting on your hearing aid. It’ll make a big difference as it will cut out background noise and port the sound directly from the mic in front of the speaker!

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