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Hearing Impairment and the Deaf Movement By and large, the deaf culture rejects terms related to hearing

impairment i.e. "hearing impaired," although it can be argued that the phrase adequately describes the condition. Terms such as deaf and "hard of hearing" are preferred since these words do not insinuate that people unable to hear are handicapped or "less than" in some manner. This critical difference in nomenclature is but one of the significant outcomes of the social movement known as deaf culture. One of the movements core principles is that deafness is a unique human experience rather than a form of disability. This notion changes the perception of how deaf people view themselves and how others perceive them. Deaf culture also influences art, literary traditions, history and many shared value systems. By definition, the culture includes individuals who are not hard of hearing, such as sign language interpreters, family members, educators and even healthcare professionals in the auditory field. It is also recognized in article 30 of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (even though they prefer not to be thought of as disabled) with the following passage: "Persons with disabilities shall be entitled on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture."

There are two distinct types of hearing impairment, or deafness: conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. The former is a result of physical damage or improper operation of the pathways that carry sound from the outer ear to the eardrum and through the middle ear. This is all sensitive human equipment and there are plenty of places for things to go wrong. Sensorineural hearing loss tends to be related to the inner ear, the cochlea in particular, which is responsible for the conversion of conduction, or physical vibrations, into neural signals, which are electrical in nature. Some deaf people have mixed hearing loss, a combination of conductive and sensorineural. Deaf culture doesn't discriminate on the type of hearing loss or its severity, which ranges from mild (26 dB of hearing loss) to profound (91 dB of hearing loss). Rather, deaf people are incredibly inclusive and value the power, camaraderie and support of the group. The ability to sign is a unifying force for the culture and is celebrated in a number of ways. American Sign Language performers such as Clayton Valli, Benjamin Bahan, Ella Mae Lentz and C.J. Jones continue to grow in popularity serving as both a form of entertainment and sign language refinement for those with hearing impairment.


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