Hearing Loss

Approximately 30 million people in the United States have a diagnosed hearing loss. Children represent a fraction of this number. Many children with hearing loss are identified through newborn screenings and hearing screenings at school. Early intervention through services and amplification are imperative as soon as the child’s hearing loss is identified.

Deaf and hard of hearing are the terms associated with hearing loss. Hearing loss may be in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). The severity of the loss defines the designation of hearing loss in terms of deaf or hard of hearing. Deaf is defined as a hearing loss of 70 to 90 decibels (dB) or greater even with amplification (hearing aid). Hard of hearing is diagnosed when the hearing loss is between 20 to 70dB.

Children with a diagnosis of hard of hearing primarily communicate through speaking. Children that use oral language as the primary means of communication may have difficulty modulating the volume of their speech. Children with a diagnosis of deaf do not use hearing as a primary method of developing oral language skills. Some individuals may relay upon sign language to communicate. The most common is American Sign Language (ALS). Services that may benefit children with a hearing loss include the following:

  • Speech Therapist
  • Audiologist
  • Services from a translator for those who use sign language or manual communication.
  • Preferential seating for speech reading
  • Captioned videos
  • Assistance from a note-taker
  • Instruction from teachers in alternative communication methods.

The following strategies are helpful when working with a child with a hearing loss:

  • Get the child attention before speaking to him.
  • Position yourself close enough to the child for him to see your mouth as you speak.
  • Speak naturally with a normal volume—Do not yell.
  • Be sure that the child understands you- (comprehension)
  • Engage is shared reading with young children
  • Integrate vocabulary development
  • Create opportunities for self-expression
  • Provide opportunities for children to meet adults with hearing loss.
  • Connect with organizations that support families.

There are four types of hearing loss that are important to understand.

Sensorineural hearing loss: results from damage to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear or the nerves that supply it. Individuals with this type of loss use amplification, but often still hear distorted sounds.

Conductive hearing loss: results from obstructions or diseases in the outer or middle ear.
Conductive hearing loss affects all frequencies of sound. A hearing aid or other medical intervention works well with this type of loss.

Mixed hearing loss: results from a combination of sensorineural and conductive loss and involves the inner, outer, and middle ear.

Central hearing loss: results from damage to the nerves of the central nervous system. This damage can occur in the neural pathways to the brain or to the brain.

Appropriate educational placements and services for children are essential for academic success. There are a variety of options available and the choice is best made by a team of professionals knowledgeable about hearing loss, support services, and educational placement options. Parents ultimately make the final decision about the child’s educational placement and services through the IEP process.




Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R. &Wehmeyer, M. (2007). Exceptional lives: Special Education in today’s schools. Upper Saddle River, N. J: Pearson Education.