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Deaf Ministry 101: Understanding Deaf Terminology

Written by: Deaf Millennial Project   |   Jun 13, 2022
Deaf Millennial Project

Understanding “Deaf” Terminology

This resource covers some important jargon that focuses on Deaf communities and the appropriate terminology used when discussing the topic of Deaf people. 

“Deaf” vs. “deaf”

Deaf communities are just like every other culture in that it has their own language, identity, values, etc. 

When reading and writing about Deaf people, you’ll notice a distinction between capital “D”-eaf and lowercase “d”-eaf. Capital “D”-eaf reflects the culture, use of American Sign Language, and its value in the community. Lowercase d is used only when writing about an auditory loss of hearing.  Use of capital D when describing Deaf people and their language is encouraged. It is appropriate to view Deaf ministry as a cultural and ethnic ministry that is different from a hearing church ministry. 


“Deaf” vs. “hearing impaired”

The terminology “hearing impaired” is a medical term that identifies the diagnosis of hearing loss. The majority of Deaf people view the term “hearing impaired” as negative,  limiting their abilities.

Every individual is unique, but there is one thing we all have in common; we all want to feel valued and be treated with respect.

Deaf communities proudly identify themselves as “Deaf” and is the majority preference.


“Hard of hearing”

The term “hard of hearing” is a term used when making the distinction between those with some type of hearing loss but may not necessarily identify fully with Deaf culture and communities. Typically, those who identify as  “hard of hearing” may use spoken language as a main mode of communication or use hearing aids as a tool, however, they may also use sign language at times. 

It is always best practice to use the term “Deaf” upfront. Then, ask the Deaf person their identity preference. 

Following these guidelines will greatly be appreciated as your Deaf ministry grows.

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Deaf Millennial Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization pursuing the Great Commission with Gospel centered resources in American Sign Language.