Hearing impairments can range from mild to profound. Some people will be able to hear certain frequencies and not others, so, amplification of sound may not assist. For many people with a hearing impairment, it is difficult to distinguish between different sound levels or work out where the sound is coming from.
Some people with a hearing impairment are able to hear reasonably well in a 'one to one' situation where there is no background noise, but have a great deal of difficulty in groups or where there is background sound - even if the background sound seems to be at a low level.
A person who is deaf or has a profound hearing loss may have no awareness of sound and will not be able to understand speech. Hearing aids may help to a degree, but would not assist to a level where speech can be understood.
Hearing loss can affect the development of language skills such as speech, reading and writing - particularly if the loss was acquired prelingually.
Deafness: While deafness is a hearing impairment, someone who is deaf is not usually described as having a hearing impairment. A person who has a total hearing loss is described as being deaf. The key difference in the common use of the terminology is that someone who has a hearing impairment, has a mild or moderate hearing loss, and a person who is deaf has either no hearing or has a severe hearing loss.
Deaf vs deaf: There is a difference between the terms 'Deaf' and 'deaf'. Being Deaf is not just about not being able to hear. Using the Uppercase 'D' refers to people who are culturally Deaf. The Deaf community has it own language (AUSLAN in Australia) and its own culture. The uppercase 'D' is used to recognise this. When the lowercase 'd' is used, it is only referring to the physical loss of hearing.
Common Hearing Impairments
Hearing loss: Older people are the largest group affected by hearing loss. The contributors range from excessive noise, drugs, toxins, and heredity. In children, the most common cause of hearing loss is otitis media, or ear infections. Diseases and disorders that contribute to hearing loss include tinnitus, presbycusis, and Usher's syndrome, among others.
Presbycusis: is a common disorder associated with aging. Estimates indicate that 30 percent of people 65 and over, and 50 percent of people 75 and older have some degree of hearing loss. Presbycusis usually occurs gradually, with some people not immediately aware of the change. It can be caused by changes within the inner ear, within the middle ear and along the nerve pathways to the brain.
Tinnitus: is the sound of ringing, roaring, buzzing, or clicking that occurs inside the head. The sounds:
- May come and go
- May be continuous
- Vary in pitch
- May occur in one or both ears
Deafness: The person is unable to hear and may use sign language (either signed English or AUSLAN).
The effects of the condition
- Loss of hearing
- Difficulty understanding lecturers and following classroom conversation
- Speech - feedback mechanisms are limited and therefore vocal control, volume and articulation may be affected
- Misunderstanding of conversations
- Interrupted or deficient educational opportunities
- Range of vocabulary may be limited which may in turn affect reading ability
- Deaf and hearing impaired students tend to be visual learners - and lends to difficulties in an environment where much essential information is delivered by word of mouth
- As a result of difficulties encountered when communicating in groups, people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment may feel isolated and confidence and self esteem can be affected
- Participation and interaction in tutorials may be limited