acquired hearing loss
hearing loss that occurs any time in a person’s life after birth. Contrasts with congenital hearing loss.
American Sign Language (ASL)
the predominant sign language used by culturally Deaf Americans.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
a public law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination based on one’s disability—including hearing loss—in employment, education, transportation, public accommodation, government and telecommunications.
(slang) audiologist
a graph that shows how much a person can hear in a certain range of frequencies, usually between 250 and 8,000 Hz.
a healthcare professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating ear and balance disorders.
discrimination based on hearing status, typically against those with hearing loss.
Auditory-Verbal Therapy (AVT)
a training methodology that emphasizes the use of hearing through assistive listening devices and residual hearing in order to improve a deaf child’s speech and listening skills. Because of its focus on hearing and speaking, AVT typically eschews other methods of communication, such as sign language. Also sometimes called Auditory-Verbal Training.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
a condition that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss or balance problems.
BANZSL (British, Australian, and New Zealand Sign Language)
the language family that encompasses British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan, and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). These three languages share the same grammar and manual alphabet, as well as a number of signs. For this reason, they are sometimes considered dialects of a single language, BANZSL.
relating to or affecting both ears, e.g., bilateral cochlear implants and hearing aids or bilateral hearing loss. Contrasts with unilateral.
bilingual-bicultural (BIBI)
an educational and cultural approach to raising deaf children by teaching them sign language as their first language; written or spoken language is taught as a secondary language once the deaf child has established a strong first-language base. Typically, the deaf child will be exposed to Deaf culture in school and the family’s native culture at home.
Captioned Telephone (CapTel)
a specialized telephone with a monitor connected to a relay service that displays what the other person says as both parties voice and hear each other.
a waxy substance produced by glands in the ear canal to protect the ear from infection; colloquially called ear wax.
excessive build-up of cerumen, or ear wax, which can cause conductive hearing loss.
Child of Deaf Adults (CODA)
a hearing child of deaf parents. CODAs often identify with both Deaf and Hearing cultures.
closed captioning (CC)
transcription of dialogue and other relevant audio on a television or other video display. Closed captions are more comprehensive than subtitles.
a spiral-shaped cavity in the bony labyrinth that is the auditory portion of the inner ear.
cochlear implant
an electronic hearing device that is surgically inserted into the inner ear (cochlea); the outer piece consists of a headpiece and a processor.
communication access
accommodations that enable deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-impaired people to participate directly in programs, services, and activities.
Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
the system used by closed captioners and others to convert speech to text. The CART provider types into a stenotype machine using machine shorthand, and the computer software translates it into realtime captions. Also sometimes called open captioning, realtime stenography, or realtime captioning.
conductive hearing loss
hearing loss that occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or the ossicles of the middle ear; usually reduces sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds.
congenital hearing loss
hearing loss that appears at birth. Contrasts with acquired hearing loss.
contact sign
a mixture of English, either signed or spoken, and sign language, depending on the user’s proficiency in and comfort with either language; sometimes called Pidgin Signed English.
Cued Speech
a communication mode based on handshapes and movement to phonetically represent sound; not to be confused with Visual Phonics. Also see transliterator.
De’VIA (Deaf View Image Art)
an art genre that seeks to express the Deaf experience. One of its most notable founders was American artist Chuck Baird.
deaf (lowercase d)
used to refer to the audiological state of being deaf and sometimes used to refer to individuals who do not identify with the Deaf community or culture.
Deaf (uppercase D)
sometimes used to refer to the Deaf community and culture or to individuals who are members of the Deaf community and consider themselves to be culturally Deaf. One can be Deaf (with a capital D) without being deaf (with a lowercase D).
Deaf President Now (DPN)
a student protest that took place at Gallaudet University beginning on March 6, 1988, when the Board of Trustees announced the appointment of a hearing person as the university’s seventh president. Students shut down the campus and presented the Board with four demands, including the appointment of a deaf person as president and the reconstitution of the Board with a 51% majority of deaf members. The protest concluded on March 13 with the appointment of the university’s first deaf president, I. King Jordan.
(slang) deaf person.
complete or nearly complete hearing loss in one or both ears.
decibel (dB)
unit used to measure the intensity or loudness of sound. Hearing loss is measured in decibels.
the representation of individual letters and numbers using standardized finger positions; the manual alphabet in sign language. Fingerspelling is primarily used for names, places, and objects without a sign.
Gallaudet University
the world’s first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing; located in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1864.
hands-on signing
a method of tactile signing in which the receiver’s hands are placed lightly upon the back of the hands of the signer to read the signs through touch and movement; used by some deaf-blind people. Also sometimes called hand-over-hand.
hard of hearing
used to refer to an individual who has partial hearing loss in one or both ears.
(slang) hearing person.
hearing (lowercase h)
used to refer to the audiological state of hearing and sometimes used to refer to individuals when the focus is on their ability to hear.
Hearing (uppercase H)
sometimes used to refer to the Hearing community and culture or to individuals who are part of the Hearing community and consider themselves to be culturally Hearing.
hearing aid
a small device that amplifies sound and sends it into the ear canal.
hearing dog
an assistance dog specially trained to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
hearing impaired
a term created by the Hearing community in an attempt to be politically correct. Most people in the Deaf community prefer the terms deaf or hard of hearing.
International Sign (IS)
a sign language sometimes used at international meetings to communicate more effectively; heavily influenced by ASL and European sign languages.
an individual who lost his or her hearing as an adult; most are raised in the Hearing community and do not use ASL. Also sometimes called latened deaf.
the practice of understanding speech by interpreting a person’s lip, face, and tongue movements. Also called speech-reading.
an educational philosophy that emphasizes the use of sign language.
Manually Coded English (MCE)
a generic term encompassing all manual systems designed to represent English. See Signed English, Cued Speech, Simultaneous Communication, Total Communication, and Rochester Method.
Ménière’s disease
a disorder of the membranous labyrinth of the inner ear that causes recurrent attacks of dizziness, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Also called Ménière’s syndrome.
mixed hearing loss
when conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with sensorineural hearing loss, meaning damage in the outer or middle ear as well as in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
a civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States. Established in 1880, NAD represents the U.S. to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).
oral deaf
a deaf person who participates in the hearing world by lip-reading and learning how to speak. Oral deaf people typically do not learn ASL or participate in the Deaf community.
an educational philosophy that emphasizes the use of spoken language and lip-reading.
a physician who specializes in disorders of the head and neck. Also called an ENT (ear, nose, and throat).
an otolaryngologist who specializes in the ear and its diseases.
causing damage to the ear via a toxin; typically as a side effect of medication.
Pidgin Signed English
a mixture of English, either signed or spoken, and a sign language based in a predominantly English-speaking country (e.g., British Sign Language and Australian Sign Language). See contact sign.
post-lingual deafness
deafness that develops after acquiring speech. Also see late-deafened.
prelingual deafness
deafness that either appears at birth (congenital) or develops before the acquisition of speech.
hearing loss that is the result of aging.
relay center
a center that facilitates communication between a deaf person using TTY and a hearing person on the phone through the operator.
residual hearing
the hearing that a person has left following a hearing loss.
Rochester Method
a type of Manually Coded English created in 1878 in which both parties fingerspell everything. Used until about the 1940s, it has since fallen out of favor. It is still used in some cases.
sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)
hearing loss that occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain; the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
Sibling of a Deaf Adult (SODA)
a hearing person who grew up with a deaf sibling. SODA is also used for Spouse of a Deaf Adult.
Signed English
a sign language based on English used by many late-deafened and oral deaf individuals.
Simultaneous Communication
a technique in which both a spoken language and a manual variant of that language (such as Signed English and Manually Coded English) are used simultaneously. Also called SimCom or Sign Supported Speech (SSS).
speech-language pathologist
a professional who specializes in communication and swallowing disorders.
sudden deafness
loss of hearing that occurs all at once or over a period of up to 3 days; affects only one ear in most cases. Also called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL).
(slang) interpreter.
the perception of non-existent noise, often “heard” as ringing or buzzing; common in some types of hearing loss.
Total Communication (TC)
an approach to deaf education that aims to make use of any means of communication—sign language, voice, fingerspelling, lip-reading, amplification, writing, gesture, visual imagery, etc.—depending on the needs and abilities of the individual.
a professional, similar to an interpreter, who conveys English in its exact form either through Signed English or Cued Speech.
relating to or affecting one ear, e.g., unilateral hearing loss or unilateral cochlear implant. Contrasts with bilateral.
Video Relay Service (VRS)
a videotelecommunication service that enables deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired people to communicate over video telephones and similar technologies with hearing people in realtime, using a sign language interpreter. Also called Video Interpreting Service.
using speech recognition software to produce captions; an alternative to closed captioning and (CART).


  • ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act
  • AGB: Alexander Graham Bell
  • AIED: Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
  • ALD: assistive listening device
  • ASL: American Sign Language
  • AVT: Auditory-Verbal Therapy or Auditory-Verbal Training
  • BAHA: bone implants
  • BIBI: bilingual-bicultural
  • BSL: British Sign Language
  • BTE: behind the ear (typically refers to hearing aids, but can also refer to cochlear implants)
  • CA: Communications Assistant (usually in relay services)
  • CAN: Computer-Assisted Note-Taking
  • CapTel: Captioned Telephone
  • CART: Communication Access Realtime Translation
  • CC: closed captioned or closed captioning
  • CDI: Certified Deaf Interpreter
  • CI: Cochlear Implant
  • CIC: completely in the canal (referring to hearing aids)
  • CODA: Children of Deaf Adults
  • dB: decibel
  • DHH: deaf and hard of hearing
  • DVR: Division of Vocational Rehabilation
  • ENT: Ear, nose, and throat (specialist)
  • GA: Go Ahead (used on TTYs)
  • HL: hearing loss
  • HOH: hard of hearing
  • IEP: Individualized Education Program
  • IS: International Sign
  • ITC: in the canal (hearing aids)
  • ITE: in the ear (hearing aids)
  • MCE: Manually Coded English
  • NAD: National Association of the Deaf
  • NTID: National Technical Institute for the Deaf
  • PSE: Pidgin Sign Language
  • RIT: Rochester Institute of Technology
  • SE: Signed English
  • SNHL: sensorineural hearing loss
  • SODA: Sibling of a Deaf Adult or Spouse of a Deaf Adult.
  • SK: Stop Keying (used on TTYs)
  • TC: Total Communication
  • TDD: Telecommunications Device for the Deaf
  • TTY: TeleTYpewriter
  • VP: video phone
  • VRS: Video Relay Service