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  1. Original Manuscript by Humprhies (1975)
  2. Doctoral Dissertation Excerpt by Humphries (1977)
  3. Articles
  4. Books
  5. Chapters
  6. Dissertation & Theses
  7. Films & Videos
  8. Social MedIa
  9. Websites

Disclaimer: These resources are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the Deaf Studies Digital Journal and Gallaudet University.

Original Manuscript on Audism: 

Humphries, T. (1975). The making of a word: audism. Unpublished manuscript.

Doctoral Dissertation Excerpt on Audism: 

Humphries, T. (1977). Communicating Across Cultures (Deaf/Hearing) and Language Learning [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Union Graduate School, Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Here I have been writing of audism and audists.  I would like to explain the terms as I coined and defined them and have been using them.  Recently I experienced a need to have an English word that is to the deaf as “racism” is to blacks.  After some consultation with friends about various possibilities, I decided on the word audism from the Latin “audire” (to hear).  I think the definition of audism might be listed in the dictionary as:

Audism (o diz m) n.  The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.

From audism, we can derive audist which needs no explanation.

Having coined this word, I immediately felt better for it.  Why would one feel better for having invented a word that carries such negativity?  Why invent a word that might be used in the future in conflict situations?  Because I have experienced the full power of what I will now call audism again and again for as long as I can remember.  Recently I have begun to recognize it for what it is and I needed a name for it in the worst way.  Naming it gives me a better handle on it and makes it somehow less frightening.  But it is no less a problem now that it has a name.

It is only in the past few years that I have been able to recognize some of the forces working against me as a deaf person as being audism.  Most of my life I have been an audist.  And even now, still have some behavior and values that are basically audist.  I believe this to be the result of being brought up as a hearing person with basic hearing person behavior and values in a hearing society that is audist.  Being hearing or raised as hearing does not automatically make one an audist but given our society and its views of deafness, it is almost a certainty.

What is this audism?  It is the bias and prejudice of hearing people against deaf people.  It is the bias and prejudice of some deaf people against other deaf people.  It is manifested in many ways.  It appears in my own life in the form of people who continually judge deaf people’s intelligence and success on the basis of their ability in the language of the hearing culture.  It appears when the assumption is made that the deaf person’s happiness depends on acquiring fluency in the language of the hearing culture.  It appears when deaf people actively participate in the oppression of other deaf people by demanding of them the same set of standards, behavior, and values that they demand of hearing people.  It appears in the class structure of the deaf culture when those at the top are those whose language is that of the hearing culture or closest to it.  It appears when deaf people refuse to believe, accept, or give value to the language of their own culture.  It appears when deaf people in positions of power keep this power by oppressing other deaf people.  (The oppression is rationalized in various ways such as not being fluent in the language of the hearing culture, not having the ability necessary to perform in the hearing culture, i.e., speech, not having the credentials of the hearing culture, not having the experience necessary to fill a position, etc.).

It appears when deaf and hearing people have no trust in  deaf people’s ability to control their own lives and form the systems and organizations necessary to take charge of the deaf as a group to seek social and political change.  It appears when deaf persons in power are in reality holding this power only as long as they continue to play the hearing role.  It appears in many other ways subtly and obviously, directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally, consciously and subconsciously.

It occurs in the form of tokenism.  Again and again, organizations and committees have gotten their token deaf person or two and considered themselves to be doing a good deed.  There is never any thought of a majority of deaf people in these organizations and committees.  One deaf person is still one vote.  And what is one vote?  Another form of tokenism is in the hiring of schools and colleges which have deaf student bodies.  Where do you have a school or college with a majority of deaf faculty?  You don’t.  But you do have institutions feeling pride if 25 percent of their faculty is deaf.  What kind of pride is this?  25 percent?  Would an all Black college stand still for a 75 percent white faculty today?

Audism occurs in one million and one excuses and rationalizations.  Some of the most common are:

“The deaf must learn English (forget ASL) because when they grow up they will have to function in the hearing society and need it to find good jobs, find happiness, and have full and useful lives.”

“We want to hire more deaf people but there just are not any deaf Ph.D’s.”

“But he can’t use the phone.”

“She is nice and very intelligent but her English is just terrible.”

“Oh, you have such beautiful speech.  What is your hearing loss?”

“He is a very exceptional deaf person.”

“But I don’t need a TTY.  My wife/husband can hear on the phone.”

“I really can’t stand her.  She’s deafie deaf.”

“He doesn’t understand deafness.  He wasn’t born deaf.” (To a person deaf for 22 years.)

“But why should I sign?  She isn’t interested in our conversation.  She’s not watching me.”

“ASL isn’t an academic language so we can’t use it to teach high level subjects.”

“How can we give a liberal arts degree to someone who can’t read and write?”

“No, no, no.  Language work isn’t college level work.  What?  P.E.? Of course it’s college level work.”

You get the idea?  Most of these statements could and have been made by either hearing or deaf people and frequently are.  

What are the myths, the deep beliefs and attitudes that cause audism?  If racism and male chauvinism are based on ignorance, audism most certainly is too.  There is ignorance about the language of deaf people which leads people to believe that it is not a language, or if it is, is inferior and limited.  There is a lack of understanding about how deaf people learn which leads people to assume that they will learn best in the same way as hearing people and to seek methods that try to duplicate the hearing experience for the deaf person.  There is ignorance about the impact that deafness has on one’s life which leads people to believe that deaf people are inferior both in intelligence and ability and thus should be treated accordingly.  There is a lack of knowledge about deaf people’s state of well-being which leads people to believe that happiness is not possible except in hearing modalities.

There are a lot of other causes for audism.  One is the basic intolerance in our society for anyone different in the slightest way.  Another is the need for power. Yes, there is power in controlling the destiny of other people and the need for power has led many people to oppress deaf people to keep that power.  Power politics has been the hallmark of the manual-oral controversy (and now the ASL-English controversy) with the result that winning has been more important than the human issues involved.  Yet another cause of audism is the missionary spirit.  This is not the same as ignorance.  I have seem perfectly knowledgeable people carry on about saving deaf people, fixing the hearing loss, preventing deafness, the risk of genetic deafness, opening up the world of deaf people, etc..  This is something deeper than simple ignorance.

Whatever the cause, audism is.  And it is the cause of much of my anger and frustration.  Naming it, as I have done, helps me deal with it, helps me to discuss it with other, and reminds me that what I am dealing with is yet another -ism that each individual (hearing and deaf) and society as a whole must come to grips with.

I have tried to come to grips with it and to the point that I recognize my own audist self and have tired to change, I have succeeded.  My thinking about audism has helped me to understand my other -isms just as other groups fighting these -isms have helped me to understand audism.  When I am confronted with my male-chauvinism, I gain some insight into audism.  As I understand what I have done that oppresses blacks, I understand what has been done to oppress me as a deaf person.  That is why I have been able to change and get from there to here.”


Ballenger, S. (2013). Strategies to Avoid Audism in Adult Educational Settings. Adult Learning, 24(3), 121-127. doi:10.1177/1045159513489115

Bauman, H-D. L. (2004). Audism: Exploring the Metaphysics of Oppression. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 9(2), 239-246. doi:10.1093/deafed/enh025.

Gertz, G. (2016). Dysconscious Audism. Audism. In G. Gertz & P. Boudreault (Eds.) The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia. doi:10.4135/9781483346489.n106

Gertz, G. & Bauman, H-D.L. (2016). Audism. In G. Gertz & P. Boudreault (Eds.) The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia. doi:10.4135/9781483346489.n22

Eckert, R. C., & Rowley, A. J. (2013). Audism: A Theory and Practice of Audiocentric Privilege. Humanity & Society, 37(2), 101-130. doi:10.1177/0160597613481731

Hauser, P. C., O’Hearn, A., Mckee, M., Steider, A., & Thew, D. (2010). Deaf Epistemology: Deafhood and Deafness. American Annals of the Deaf, 154(5), 486-492. doi:10.1353/aad.0.0120

Ladd, P., & Lane, H. (2013). Deaf Ethnicity, Deafhood, and Their Relationship. Sign Language Studies, 13(4), 565-579. doi:10.1353/sls.2013.0012

Mccaskill, A., & O’Brien, C. (2016). Outsiders in a Hearing World: A Book Still Relevant Today. American Annals of the Deaf, 160(5), 510-513. doi:10.1353/aad.2016.0004

Mcdermid, C. (2009). Two cultures, one programme: Deaf Professors as subaltern? Deafness & Education International. doi:10.1002/dei.269

Noodin, Margaret, Christi Craig, e Osawamick-SagassigeMiigwaans. (2019). «Deaf-Centric and Sovereign: Translation As a Tool for Changing Audism and English Dominance». Altre Modernità, n. 22 (novembre), 28-42.

Reagan, T. (2020). Social Justice, Audism, and the d/Deaf: Rethinking Linguistic and Cultural Differences. Handbook on Promoting Social Justice in Education, 1479-1510. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-14625-2_108

Stapleton, L. D. (2016). Audism and racism: The hidden curriculum 

impacting black d/Deaf college students in the classroom. Negro 

Educational Review, 67(1-4), 149-169.

Wilson, J. A., & Atcherson, S. R. (2017). Audism and Its Implications for Audiology. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 2(8), 18-28. doi:10.1044/persp2.sig8.18


Jonsson, D. (2015). You are deaf, congratulations! : my childhood journey and understanding audism. []

Lane, H. L. (1999). The mask of benevolence: Disabling the deaf community. DawnSignPress. []


Dunn, L. (2008). The burden of racism and audism. In H-Dirksen Bauman (Ed.) Open your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking. (pp. 235-250). University of Minnesota Press. []

Gertz, G. (2008). Dysconscious Audism. In H-Dirksen Bauman (Ed.) Open your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking. (pp. 219-234). University of Minnesota Press. []

Wisdom Mprah, W. (2015). Phonocentrism & audism: conceptualizing notions of d/Deaf identity and oppression in Ghana. In B. Eldredge, D. Stringham, F. Fleischer, & K. Morton. Deaf studies today! : montage : 2008 conference proceedings. Utah Valley state College.


Adams, F. (2020). Does the Crab Theory Hold Water? Investigating Intragroup Discriminatory Attitudes within the Deaf Community (Publication No. 27739460). [Doctoral dissertation, Gallaudet University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Eckert, R. (2005). Deafnicty: A study of strategic and adaptive responses to audism by members of the Deaf American community of culture (Publication No. 3163790). [Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Gertz, E. (2003). Dysconscious audism and critical deaf studies: Deaf Crit’s analysis of unconscious internalization of hegemony within the deaf community (Publication No. 3100674). [Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Glenn-Smith, S. (2017). The Use of Social Media as a Conduit To Promote Social Justice in the Deaf Community, as a Cultural and Linguistic Minority, Through the Visual Language of American Sign Language: A Movement Against Audism (Publication no. 10686524). [Doctoral dissertation, Nova Southeastern University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Moore, E. (2011). Black Deaf administrators: Leadership issues and perceived challenges to organizational advancement (Publication No.,3467389). [Doctoral dissertation, Gallaudet University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Rensch, S. (2019). A Qualitative Inquiry into the Actions of Deaf Higher Education Faculty and Administrators in Addressing Audism (Publication No. 13810133).[Doctoral dissertation, Capella University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Shulenberger, S. (2012). Reading, Writing, and Social Justice: A Middle School Investigation of Audism (Publication No. 1508898). [Master Thesis, University of California, San Diego]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.


Bahan, B. J., Bauman, H. D., & Montenegro, F. (2008). Audism unveiled [DVD]. Dawn 

Sign Press. [available here]

Lapiak, J. (2003). Crack the audism (Video). YouTube [Handspeak]

Lapiak, J. (2014, September, 4). In the eye of phonocentrism (Video) YouTube.


Simms, L. (2016, September 4). My Wrap Up: More than just Audism: Toward 

Oppression-Free classroom [Video].  YouTube









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