Hearing Impairment, Including Deafness
Hearing loss is generally described as slight, mild, moderate, severe, or profound, depending upon how well a person can hear the intensities or frequencies most strongly associated with speech. Impairments in hearing can occur in either or both areas, and may exist in only one ear or in both ears. Generally, only children whose hearing loss is greater than 90 decibels (dB) are considered deaf.
Definition in IDEA
It’s helpful to know that, while the terms “hearing impairment” and “hearing loss” are often used to describe a wide range of hearing losses, including deafness, IDEA actually defines the two terms separately, as follows:
Hearing impairment is defined by IDEA 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 is viewed as a condition that prevents an individual from receiving sound in all or most of its forms. In contrast, a child with a hearing loss can generally respond to auditory stimuli, including speech.
Signs of a Hearing Loss or Deafness
There will be signs that a child may not be hearing normally. Parents may notice that their child:
- does not respond consistently to sounds or to his or her own name;
- asks for things to be repeated or often says “huh?”
- is delayed in developing speech or has unclear speech;
- turns the volume up loud on the TV and other electronic devices. (CDC, 2012)
Is There Help Available?
Yes, there’s a lot of help available, beginning with the free evaluation of the child. The nation’s special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires that all children suspected of having a disability be evaluated without cost to their parents to determine if they do have a disability and, because of the disability, need special services under IDEA. Those special services are:
- Early intervention | A system of services to support infants and toddlers with disabilities (before their 3rd birthday) and their families.
- Special education and related services | Services available through the public school system for school-aged children, including preschoolers (ages 3-21).
Causes of Hearing Loss and Deafness
Hearing loss and deafness can be either:
- acquired, meaning that the loss occurred after birth, due to illness or injury; or
- congenital, meaning that the hearing loss or deafness was present at birth.
The most common cause of acquired hearing loss is exposure to noise (Merck Manual’s Online Medical Library, 2012). Other causes can include:
- build up of fluid behind the eardrum;
- ear infections (known as otitis media);
- childhood diseases, such as mumps, measles, or chicken pox; and
- head trauma.
Congenital causes of hearing loss and deafness include:
- a family history of hearing loss or deafness;
- infections during pregnancy (such as rubella);
- complications during pregnancy (such as the Rh factor, maternal diabetes, or toxicity).
A child’s hearing loss or deafness may also be a characteristic of another disability such as Down syndrome, Usher syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, Crouzon syndrome, and Alport syndrome (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, n.d.).
In all cases, early detection and treatment are very important to the child’s development.
(Adapted from Center for Parent Information and Resources)
Learn About Hearing Loss and Deafness
Local resources for families:
The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention website is a comprehensive look into newborn screening, why follow up appointments with your audiologist are important, and how to care for your deaf or hard of hearing child. Resources are offered and questions answered for parents with a new diagnosis for their child.
Utah EHDI Family Support and Information. This Facebook page is a great local resource designed specifically for parents. The page offers parent to parent support, resources for families, and information on local activities. The page is run by the Parent to Parent consultants from the EHDI team, who also host a monthly webinar.
Their mission is to provide high quality direct and indirect education services to children with sensory impairments birth through 21 years of age and their families in Utah. They offer a range of supports for families. They also provide early intervention services through their Parent Infant Program (PIP) and Deaf Mentor services.
The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is a non-profit whose major goal is advancing Listening and Spoken Language for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing! Through advocacy, education, research and financial aid, AG Bell helps to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to listen, talk and thrive in mainstream society.
The division of services for the deaf and hard of hearing provides opportunities and programs to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing which enhance or maintain the skills necessary to fully participate in their employment, family and community.
Learn about Communication Options:
If you live in the state of Utah and have a deaf or hard of hearing child that is 3 or younger you can receive this American Sign Language curriculum for free through the Utah EHDI website (see above)
The national AG Bell association works globally to ensure that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can hear and talk.