‘Deaf’ (capitalised D) is used to describe individuals who use Australian Sign Language (Auslan) to communicate, and who identify as members of the signing Deaf community. Deaf people often do not consider themselves as ‘hearing impaired’. The Deaf community is more like a different ethnic group, with its own language and culture. Deaf people often interact with both Deaf and hearing communities.
In contrast to Deaf, the term ‘deaf’ (lower case d) is used to describe both the physical condition of not hearing, as well as people who are physically deaf but do not identify as members of the signing Deaf community (i.e. they do not communicate using Auslan).
‘Hard of hearing’ is used to describe individuals who have acquired a hearing loss in late childhood or adulthood, or who have a mild or moderate hearing loss. People who are hard of hearing typically use spoken language, lip-reading, and residual hearing (possibly with use of a hearing aid) to communicate. ‘Hearing impaired’ is also often used in Australia to describe people who are hard of hearing, but this is generally not the preferred term.
Using the wrong word to describe a person’s hearing can be offensive, so it is important to ask the child or their parent which group they identify with.
Kids who identify as Deaf, deaf, or hard of hearing may have different ways of communicating. In the dance class, these kids may not be able to hear spoken instructions well.