I’m a HoH. That’s pronounced ho.
If I were to say that out to a person who doesn’t know me, I’d expect their face to turn a fine shade of shock, disbelief and horror – after all I’m no spring chicken and why am I telling them this?
So I don’t say this to strangers. I use more common terms to let people know that I have hearing loss and could they please do me the courtesy of speaking up. HoH, in my world, means ‘hard of hearing’, and describes a person with hearing loss in two slightly different ways.
Short form of a three-word adjective: “She has been hard of hearing since she was 20.”
A noun: “She’s a HoH.”
People who are deaf or hard of hearing have historically disagreed on the correct way to describe ourselves. In my book here is no absolute right way to self-identify, but there’s a long list of terms to choose from: Deaf, deaf, a little deaf, deafie, late-deafened, deafened, hearing-impaired, person with hearing loss, hard of hearing, hearing-challenged, differently hearing, hearing aid user, cochlear implant user, HoH.
I mean, who am I to tell you what to call yourself or vice-versa? I used to correct people who used the term hearing-impaired (which, by the way, is the common term used by hearing professionals to describe their clients), because for some of us, it sounds as if we’re being labeled as defective or flawed. But many others do choose to use this term and to my mind, it’s far better than trying to hide the fact that we don’t hear or hear well.
I use the term HoH for several reasons. First, it’s kind of a generic brand name. For example, Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue made by Kimberly-Clark, but we use ‘kleenex’ to describe any brand of facial tissue. So by calling myself a HoH, I’m able to dodge the what’s-the-proper-name battle, which I’m tired of debating. It’s a generic term for a person with hearing loss who uses speech and assistive technology to communicate. It’s also a fun term that tells you I’m not ashamed of my hearing loss, which I’m certainly not trying to hide.
A couple of years ago, I performed at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual convention. I ended the evening with a rap-like piece called “I’m a HoH”. Here’s part of it; do try to use some rhythm as you read it and trust me, it’s much better live.
I didn’t want to admit it
But I no longer want to fake it
You’ve been wondering about my issue
So I’ll come right out and say it
I’m a HoH!
There’s no sense trying to hide it
Our lack of hearing has defined us
As special people with no shame in
Our need for accommodation
Because we’re HoHs – yes, we’re HoHs.
When you see us with our aids in
Or perhaps we’ve got an implant
Or holding microphones before us
Remote controls in our pockets
If you’re wondering what to call us
Try a HoH.
Some people come and ask me
Gael, you’ve simply got to help me
I think I’ve a got the “issue”
But I am not completely sure…
How do I know – if I’m a HoH?
If you’re staring at the lips
And your head is cocked like this
And your brows are drawn together
Like summer stormy weather
Then the chance is pretty good
That you’re a member of the hood
Bro, you’re a HoH!
If someone says you’re pretty
But you hear “you’re so shitty”
And you go “what’s YOUR problem”
And they go, “all I said was”…
Then you realize you goofed it
And say, “sorry, I misheard that” –
Girl, you’re a HOH!
We say things like “can you speak up”
Or perhaps “would you repeat that”
And if you say “oh never mind”
Just one too many times
We’ll start to tell you off,
Cuz there’s no shame in what we are
We are HoHs!
And that’s why I’m a HoH.