What is Hearing Loss?
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Hearing loss is the total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both ears.
The terms ‘hearing loss,’ ‘hearing impairment,’ ‘hard of hearing,’ and ‘deafness’ are all used to describe a limited ability to hear all sounds in our spoken language. Limitations in hearing directly affect the ability to understand and imitate speech, and develop natural speech patterns.
Definitions provided by the federal government are more specific. For example, ‘hearing impairment’ is defined by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) as ‘an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.’ Deafness is defined as ‘a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.’
Thus, deafness may be viewed as a medical condition which prevents a child from receiving sound in all or most of its forms. In contrast, a child with a ‘hearing loss’ or ‘hearing impairment’ can often respond to sounds, including spoken language, although the information they receive may not be completely understandable.
In babies, hearing loss occurs more often than any other medical condition. For this reason, a newborn hearing screening is available and required. In older people, hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition, after hypertension and arthritis.
Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. It can be hereditary or have environmental causes. It can affect both ears (bilateral), or just one (unilateral). Hearing loss can range from mild, moderate, or severe to profound.
Refer to our Pediatric Resource Guide to Infant & Childhood Hearing Loss for facts on the prevalence of hearing loss; its effect on language and communication; legislative mandates for EHDI (Early Hearing Detection and Intervention); and the benefits of early identification and treatment.
Checklist for Hearing Development
No baby is too young to have a hearing test; in fact hearing can be tested during the first few hours of life. Nearly 1 out of 350 babies is born with a significant hearing loss while others may become deaf from childhood illnesses or injuries. Review the resources below and learn more about hearing screening and diagnostic services provided by CEID’s Community Audiology Clinic.
Hearing Loss Links
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Newborn and Infant Hearing Loss: Detection and Intervention
- Center for Hearing Loss in Children: Boystown Research Hospital
- Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center
- National Center for Hearing Assessment & Management
- League for the Hard of Hearing
- Natus Medical (provides medical devices and support for newborn children with disorders)
- Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI)
- California Newborn Hearing Screening