Easier Said than Done

Undoing Hearing Privilege in Deaf Studies

  • Noel O'Connell Trinity College Dublin
Keywords: hearing privilege, Deaf studies, deaf people, hearing people, hearingness, audism


Although Deaf Studies has made a significant contribution to research on oppression, there has been little attempt at sensitizing hearing students to issues of power and privilege within the field. A major reason for this lapse is the manifestation and maintenance of hearing privilege within Deaf Studies. Most Deaf Studies courses tend to discuss oppression as problems affecting deaf people, thereby neglecting to explore the advantages of hearing-abled people due to that oppression. The workings of hearing privilege are rarely problematized in Deaf Studies teaching and research because it is invisible, normalized, and structurally embedded. In this study, the author argues for the importance of incorporating the concepts of both oppression and hearing privilege into Deaf Studies programs. If there is an expectation to study oppression, then hearing students and academics of Deaf Studies need to be prepared to explore the concept of hearing privilege. The author discusses and reflects upon his experiences of delivering social justice workshops to hearing people within the field of Deaf Studies. He contends that bringing hearing privilege into debate within Deaf Studies can enable hearing people to become aware of their privilege and take responsibility for challenging inequality.

Author Biography

Noel O'Connell, Trinity College Dublin

Noel O'Connell, PhD, is a deaf social justice scholar and academic advocate interested in matters concerning the human rights of deaf people. He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. He earned his PhD degree in 2013 and has published widely on the sociology of deaf education, sign language, sign language interpreting, autoethnography, ethnodrama, teaching sign language, and disability studies. Contact him at: oconneno@tcd.ie

How to Cite
O’Connell, N. (2021). Easier Said than Done. Understanding and Dismantling Privilege, 11(2), 22-45. Retrieved from https://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/21278