What does being DEAF mean?

According to The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, as an adjective, it means to be ‘partially or completely lacking in the sense of hearing.’ And as a noun, it means ‘Deaf people considered as a group’. Being deaf by no means has anything to do with lack of intelligence. However being deaf does mean different things to different people. Typically, we have two groups- Deaf (with the capital “D”) and deaf (with a lower case “d”). The word Deaf (with a capital “D”) is a noun- a group which embraces American Sign Language and Deaf culture. Deaf people from this group typically grew up with the language and Deaf culture. Many Deaf individuals are politically active within the Deaf community. The other group (deaf with a lower case ‘d’) also a noun, typically prefers to use speech and residual hearing as their mode of communication and identify themselves as being part of the hearing community. There are deaf individuals who use sign language though not necessarily part of the Deaf World.  Some prefer to stay within their own core group or can bounce back and forth between both worlds.

VARIABLES – Age of onset of deafness

  • Born Deaf 3% – 5%
  • Pre-Lingual Deaf – occurring within first 3 years
  • Post-Lingual Deaf – occurring after age 3
  • Pre-Vocational Deaf – becoming deaf as a teenager
  • Post-Vocational Deaf – becoming deaf after age 19


  • Deaf Residential Schools
  • Mainstream (IDEA)