Deaf should be used as an adjective, not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss.

Many people do not consider being deaf or having hearing loss as a disability. Instead, deafness is often considered a culture. Some people with mild or moderate hearing loss may affiliate themselves with the deaf community and prefer to be referred to as deaf instead of hard of hearing. Alternatively, some who are profoundly deaf may prefer the term hard of hearing.

When quoting or paraphrasing a person who has signed their responses, it’s appropriate on first reference to indicate that the responses were signed. It’s acceptable to use the word said in subsequent references.

(Source: Disability Language Style Guide, National Center on Disability and Journalism)