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What is Hearing Impairment & Deafness?

Hearing impairment is "an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Deafness is a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification” (IDEA, 2020). 

There are four types hearing loss:

  • Sensorineural:

    • Caused by issues with the inner ear and auditory nerve.​

  • Conductive:

    • Caused by an issue with the outer or middle ear, usually some type of blockage.

  • Mixed:

    • Describes a mixture of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.​

  • Central:

    • Caused by a disorder of the nervous system and the brain.​

  • Reluctance to interact with their peers because of communication issues related to hearing impairment.

  • There may be a deficit in maturity and social acuity because of reduced social interaction opportunities.

  • Difficulty with language acquisition.

  • Difficulty or inability to receive information through verbal speech, depending on severity level of impairment.

  • Academic achievement is typically below hearing peers.

  • Higher academic achievement in mainstream vs. self-contained classrooms. 

  • Impairment of the outer, middle or inner ear. 

  • May wear hearing aids or have a cochlear implant.

  • May become easily frustrated.

  • May be reluctant to lead in social situations.

  • Can be embarrassed by the need for hearing aids or other supports.

  • A difference in cognitive functioning is not associated with hearing impairment.

  • Intellectual development can be negatively impacted by any difficulties  associated with language acquisition.

Levels of Severity
  • Hearing impairment ranges from  mild, moderate, severe, or profound.

  • The severity level depends upon how well a person can hear the intensities or frequencies associated with speech.

  • Impairments in hearing can occur in either or both areas, and may exist in only one ear or in both ears.

  • Deafness describes a hearing loss is greater than 90 decibels (dB).

  • Adaptable

  • Detail oriented

  • Very visual

  • Excels at reading              non-verbal cues


  • It is estimated that 12,000 babies are born each year with a hearing impairment.

  • Around 40% of students with a hearing impairment are in a mainstreamed classroom.

  • Students with hearing impairment may have issues hearing in a noisy setting.

  • Assistive technologies, like hearing aids and amplification devices, need to be utilized to optimize learning.

  • Teachers should always face hearing impaired and deaf students while speaking, because lip reading and body language cues augment their spoken language comprehension.

Student Questions
  • Grades K-4:

    • Do you want me to show you my name in sign language?

    • What are the rules in class?

    • What should I do if I feel bullied? 

  • Grades 5-8:   

    • Can you face me when you talk?

    • What do I do if things are distracting me in the classroom?

    • Do you think everyone can see my hearing aids?

  • Grades 9-12:

    • Will all of my teachers have amplification devices in the classroom?

    •  What should I do if I can’t hear the teacher?

    •  Can I get written notes for my classes?

Parent Questions
  • Who do I talk to about getting an Individualized Education Plan for my child?

  • Are there transitional supports for after high school?

  • How do I get my child screened for hearing impairment?

  • Will there be an interpreter available for my child?

  • Does the school support signing?

  • Who do I go to if I have concerns about my child's interactions with their peers?

Teacher Questions
  • Where do I get additional training for working with students with hearing impairment and deafness?

  • What assistive technology do I have available to help me differentiate instruction for students with hearing impairment and deafness?

  • Are there specific safety concerns for my students with hearing impairment and deafness on school field trips?

  • What administrative and additional support do I have to help me support my students with hearing impairment and deafness?

  • How can I model tolerance and inclusion in my classroom?

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