Why I’m a HoH

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.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. That settles it, I’m getting a t-shirt that says,

    “Get over it Yo, I’m a HoH!”

    Thanks Gail, you’re awesome!

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