Lowercase when referring to a hearing-loss condition or to a deaf person who prefers lowercase. Capitalize for those who identify as members of the Deaf community or when they capitalize Deaf when describing themselves. Deaf should be used as an adjective, not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Other acceptable phrases include woman who is deaf or boy who is hard of hearing.
Deaf and hard of hearing became the official terms recommended by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1991. Many people in the Deaf community prefer use of a lowercase “d” to refer to audiological status and the use of a capital “D” when referring to the culture and community of Deaf people. The National Association of the Deaf has not taken a definitive stand on this issue.
Some people living with mild or moderate hearing loss may affiliate themselves with the Deaf community and prefer the term deaf instead of hard of hearing. Alternatively, some who are deaf and don’t have a cultural affiliation to the Deaf community may prefer the term hard of hearing.
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