I'm stuck with a situation.

Scene 1:

Mike met with a serious accident and he lost his sense for his left ear. As a result, he can listen through only right ear, the left ear is not working.

Scene 2:

Gary cannot listen to you unless you speak loudly. Say, if you and I can hear the sound of 'x' decibels, he requires 'x+5' decibels.

In my medical practice, we call 'partial paralysis' if the condition has not involved the organ fully. Said that, if you are partially paralyzed, you can still move the affected hand but not fully as there's no strength or power.

The question:

What do we call Mike? Half deaf? And what about Gary? Partial deaf?

Is there any idiom, word for these men? I'm not looking for any medical jargon.


5 Answers 5


Mike is deaf in one ear.

Gary is hard of hearing.


My answer is for what you hear in everyday conversation, not formal medical terminology.

Khan's example of "Hard of hearing" is probably the most common, polite way to describe Gary. But he is also "partially deaf", and has partial hearing loss. "Partial loss of hearing," or "partial hearing loss" is how a doctor would probably describe Gary. If he used to be able to hear better, but is gradually going deaf as he ages, he might be described as "Losing his hearing". You won't hear that phrase relating to someone who was born with limited hearing, or who lost hearing due to a single event, such as a bad ear infection.

Mike would be easiest to describe as "deaf in one ear". But if he didn't want people to know the details, he could also describe himself as partially deaf. He might use hard of hearing, but it isn't a usual term for good hearing in one ear, and none in the other.

Half-deaf would be a very casual way to refer to partial hearing loss. Someone who describes themselves as half deaf will have a significant degree of hearing loss, but it's a very general, colloquial term, and could be slightly disparaging. There is no implication that hearing loss is 50%. In the same way, someone who has a high glasses prescription might call themselves half-blind- it just means they have bad vision, not that 50% of their vision is gone.

  • +1, or Partial loss of hearing," or "partial hearing loss" is how Gary would probably describe his hearing impairment.
    – Misti
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:37

In addition to the "hard of hearing" answers already given, which I prefer, I also suggest considering hearing-impaired. This term is more often used to refer to the group of people who have hearing problems than individuals, e.g. "The theater provides amplified headphones for the hearing impaired." It might be used by an individual to describe themselves if they dislike being referred to as "hard of hearing" because they don't want to be associated with the possible implication that they lost their hearing due to old age.


It's common to call someone who has difficulty hearing "partially deaf" or "hard of hearing".

Someone who is blind in one eye but who can see with the other is often called "half blind". It seems logical to call someone who can hear with one ear but not the other "half deaf", though I don't think this is a common phrase. I think people usually just say "partially deaf" or "hard of hearing".

Note that people also say "half blind" meaning that someone has impairment to his vision but is not completely blind. That is, it does not necessarily mean blind in one eye, or exactly 50% of normal visual ability. It's just a way of saying roughly what is level of vision is like. So it seems plausible to me to say that someone is "half deaf" meaning he has limited hearing but is not completely deaf. I don't think people commonly say that, though.

I believe doctors use the term "hearing loss", as in, "The patient is experiencing hearing loss." I'm sure they have more technical terms for specific causes and symptoms.

  • Not "half blind" or "half deaf". Those may be a way for a person to self-describe in a casual context, but quite inappropriate to use to describe another person.
    – James K
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 1:18
  • @JamesK "Inappropriate" in what way? Do you mean rude, or something analogous to racist? I've never heard of a one-eyed person being offended at being called "half blind". Or do you mean technically inaccurate? Or what?
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 18:27
  • It's not polite. Some people might be offended. In particular it's not a very good description, as a person with sight in one eye can still see. Perhaps I'm being overly PC here, but I think learners should avoid expressions like "half blind". One should avoid "half ..." expressions and use the more acceptable "partially sighted" or accurately descriptive "blind in one eye".
    – James K
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 21:27
  • @JamesK I don't know why "half blind" should be offensive while "partially sighted" is not. I have very poor vision -- not blind in one eye, but can't see well with either or both -- and I sometimes refer to myself as "half blind", and I've never been offended when I call myself that. Of course people get offended by all sorts of things that sound totally innocent to me. Have people with impaired vision told you they were offended to be called "half blind", or is this one of those things like white people tell Indians they should be offended to be called "Indians", but few actual Indians are?
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 21, 2018 at 21:33

I am a blend of both scenarios! I was born with a mild hearing deficit in one ear, and deaf in the other. I describe myself as hearing-impaired. I also happen to be visually-impaired, so I probably just do it this way because "visually- and hearing-impaired" flows better than "visually-impaired and hard of hearing." The phrase, "hard of" isn't used in any other context, so I don't really like it, anyway. For example, have you ever heard the phrase, "hard of walking" for someone who uses a wheelchair? Me, neither.

In a nutshell, I'd just stick with hearing-impaired for both cases, since it is truly nobody else's business why there might be a communication barrier. If the person wishes to explain in further detail, such as "talk to this ear," or some such, then that's up to them.

In somewhat-related news, there are now popular tattoos of the mute symbol behind the ear that some individual choose to obtain. As I'm not a fan of needles, I now own a pair of deaf sign earrings! One has the mute sign for my deaf ear, and the other has an unmuted speaker for my good ear. It helps a great deal when I'm meeting new people!

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