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What is hearing privilege?

“Hearing privilege [is] the unearned advantages, benefits, and entitlements reserved for hearing people that are not based on talent or effort but rather on (hearing) ability status and their membership to the ‘normal’ social group,” (Easier Said Than Done: Undoing Hearing Privilege in Deaf Studies; O’Connell 2021).


As a hearing individual, you may not realize it but you have privilege. It’s important that you keep these in mind and understand how they may impact D/deaf individuals. Some of these may be:

Attending any social event or gathering – as a hearing individual, you can typically attend any event without thinking twice about language barriers, lighting, or networking opportunities.

Listening to podcasts or audiobooks – as a hearing individual, you can benefit from these services to access information and stories in a variety of settings. Not all podcasts offer captioning and even if they do, there is no guarantee the captions are accurate or a decent quality.

Going to mainstream schools and colleges without support – this is something that we’ve personally experienced with our son. We are grateful that our school district offers a variety of supports but it involves a lot of consistent effort from both my husband and I and the school. Without a solid team in place, this can be a major stressor. If this is something you’re struggling with either as an individual or parent, please feel free to reach out here.

Going to the movies – this is also something we’ve experienced. The captioning technology is fairly cumbersome. It is heavy, awkward, and inefficient whether you wear the glasses or use the captioning device. There is also the occasional struggle if the device isn’t linked properly, causing it to be linked to the wrong movie, to lag, or to be choppy. For this reason, our son tends to prefer movies at home though we’re fortunate to live in an area that offers open captioning for certain movies, meaning the captions are on the actual movie screen. If your area does not provide this, I recommend you request it. If you need assistance, please feel free to reach out here.

Complaining about captioning – in our house, captions are default on all of our devices. As a hearing individual, I have come to appreciate captions as a way to fill in gaps of information I may have missed auditorily. When we visit with others, we request that captions are turned on, especially if our son is present. Most people easily comply, though we have heard the occasional groan and complaint that it’s too distracting. To me, this is an excuse and a very small sacrifice to make the environment more inclusive.

Making “last minute” plans – typically, professional interpreters request 1 to 2 week notice prior to an event. There have been times that we decide a day or even 5 days prior to an event that we want to go. There’s the stress of do we purchase tickets prior to having an interpreter confirmed or do we try to get the interpreter scheduled first and then buy tickets? But what if they’re sold out? What if there aren’t any interpreters available? Many professional interpreters request that the organization put in the request and not the individual. Who do we contact then? What if they don’t put in the request in a timely manner? This is something we’ve come across time and time again. If this is something you need help navigating, please feel free to reach out here.

Enrolling in community classes – many of what has been stated above applies here. A lot more effort goes into enrolling than just filling out the application and paying the fee. For example, to get my son enrolled in just a trial for the local swim team, between emails and phone calls with the coaches, I spent literally 2 full days to demystify the perceived hurdles including hiring interpreters, using interpreters, my son’s capabilities, and that it’s ok to not have it all figured out initially. I always end these conversations with “Everything is figureoutable and we’ll work together to get through this.” (Thank you to Marie Forleo for this mantra and your incredible book, “Everything is Figureoutable”). If this is something you need help with, please feel free to reach out here.


(Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and just because these have been our personal experiences, that does not mean that all D/deaf individuals have had the same experiences. Each individual is unique, as are their experiences)


(list adapted from

What is hearing privilege?

What does D/deaf mean? Why is Deaf capitalized?

Depending on who you’re talking to or what you’re reading, you may see “Deaf” or “deaf”. What’s the difference? “Little d” deaf refers to the actual audiological condition of not hearing. “Big D” Deaf refers to being a member of Deaf culture and using sign language to communicate (

What does D/deaf mean?

Is relying on lipreading an effective strategy for communication?

The quick answer is no. There are individual differences as with everything else so some may be better at this than others but, in general, it is not only ineffective but it can be considered disrespectful to the D/deaf individual. Only about 30% to 40% of speech sounds are seen, meaning the majority of the message is missed. Not only are most sounds not seen, but many sounds appear identical. For example, both b/p and d/t look the same. The only difference is that /b/ and /d/ are voiced and /p/ and /t/ are voiceless.


How can asking a D/deaf individual to lipread be disrespectful? For us, it is upsetting when we come across a hearing individual that asks our son to lipread because the responsibility is then put on him rather than the communication partners working together to ensure both are understood. Some successful ways to communicate may be through texting, writing notes, or voice-to-text apps.

Is relying on lipreading an effective strategy?

What is ASL?

ASL stands for American Sign Language. It is its own complete language. It is typically paired with written English because ASL does not have a written component. ASL is a visual language and has its own grammatical structures and rules.


ASL is typically used in the United States but there are many different types of sign languages such as BANZSL (British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language), CSL (Chinese Sign Language), LSF (French Sign Language), JSL (Japanese Sign Language), LSE (Spanish Sign Language), LSM (Mexican Sign Language), and many others.

What is ASL?

What can I do as a hearing individual?

Initiate conversations with D/deaf individuals. My son doesn’t care if you’re fluent in ASL or you don’t know one sign. All he cares about is being treated fairly and being included.

Speak clearly but do so naturally. For many, the inclination is to overenunciate and to speak louder. Though lipreading isn’t effective on its own, it can help to clarify intended meaning so speaking naturally will help give the individual some visual cues and, possibly, auditory cues if there is residual hearing or hearing technology being used.

Remove the term “hearing impaired”. D/deaf individuals are in no way less than their hearing peers and by using this term, it is implied that they are. Hard-of-hearing, Deaf, and deaf are acceptable. You can also ask the individual which term they prefer.

Don’t apologize for their deafness. My son encounters this ALL the time. As soon as he mentions he’s deaf, the first response is “I’m so sorry!”. It can be an automatic response, especially if you’re unsure what to say but there’s no need to apologize. My son is Deaf but this is a strength and not something to apologize for.

What can I do?

How can I help my deaf employee? How can I hire more deaf employees?

Please visit the "For Businesses" tab by clicking the link at the top of the page or by clicking here.

How can I help my deaf employee?

How can I help my deaf child?

Please visit the "For Families" tab by clicking the link at the top of the page or by clicking here.

How can I help my deaf child?

How do I get an interpreter?

Please visit "About interpreters" under the "Resources" tab by clicking the link at the top of the page or by clicking here.

How do I get an interpreter?

Have another question not listed? Or are you a Deaf individual and would like to add more to a response above? Please send it here.


Please keep in mind this is a safe space to ask any genuine questions you may have.

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