Types of Hearing Loss
are one of the most prevalent, chronic physical disabilities in the United
States (Higgins & Nash, 12) and until recently, most hospitals were not
required to screen the hearing of newborn infants (“Types of”, 2005). Since
children with hearing difficulties find the acquisition of vocabulary,
grammar, word order and other verbal aspects of language difficult, an early
diagnosis of the type and degree of a child’s hearing loss is essential to
effective early intervention.
Hearing can be
defined as the act or process of perceiving sounds (Webster, 645). Hearing
loss is defined as the difference between the level of sound that can be
heard by an individual with impaired hearing and a standard level that has
been determined by averaging measurements from a group of young hearing
people (Webster, 645). Hearing losses range from mild to severe-profound and
being hearing impaired or having a hearing loss does not mean someone is
deaf. The different types of hearing loss are labeled according to which
part of the hearing pathway is affected. When describing hearing loss there
are basically three types: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed (Martin, 3).
hearing loss is the term given when hearing has been negatively affected by
sound sensitivity produced by abnormalities of the outer ear and/or middle
ear (Martin p.11). In conductive hearing loss, sound waves are not
effectively transmitted to the inner ear because of some interference in the
external ear canal, the mobility of the eardrum, the three tiny bones of the
middle ear, the middle ear cavity, openings into the inner ear or the
eustachian tube (Sattler, p. 639). This hearing loss usually involves a
reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. People who
experience conductive hearing loss can often benefit from modern medical
and/or surgical techniques that vastly improve their hearing and they may
also benefit greatly from amplification.
hearing loss, sometimes referred to perceptive loss or nerve loss, is
defined as the loss of hearing caused by damage or alteration of the sensory
mechanism of the cochlea or the neural structures that lay beyond (Martin p.
319). This type of hearing loss is one of the most challenging areas of
modern medicine. The sensory part of a sensorineural loss applies to damage
to the cochlea or inner ear while neural loss denotes loss of hearing caused
by damage to the acoustic nerve occurring anywhere between the fibers at the
base of the hair cells and the relay stations in the brain. This type of
hearing loss involves a reduction in sound level, or ability to hear faint
sounds, and also affects the ability to understand speech and to hear
clearly. Sensorineural loss can be caused by disease, birth injury, drugs,
genetic syndromes, exposure to noise, viruses, head trauma, aging and tumors
((Types of, 2005). The chances of restoring a sensorineural hearing loss are
slim but in some cases dramatic improvements can be made. With this type of
hearing loss, people’s hearing can be described as “listening to a symphony
orchestra playing instruments which has every third note removed-the results
would be noise, no matter how loud it was” (Yount, 34).
Frequently, people experience both a conductive and sensorineural hearing
loss. A mixed hearing loss is the sum of the losses produced by
abnormalities in both the conductive and sensorineural mechanisms of hearing
(Martin p.11). With losses of this type, amplification may help, but
problems often remain (Sattler p. 639).
Hearing-impaired persons are born with the same God given abilities as the
hearing person---with hearing being the only exception. With the advances
in medical science and with early identification and intervention, this
barrier can be minimalized and hearing impaired people may be able to fully
enjoy social interaction, education, life style and personality development.
Effects of Hearing Loss: American Speech-Language
Hearing Association. Retrieved 04/29/05 from http://www.
Higgins, Paul, C. and Nash, Jeffrey, Phd. (1987).
Understanding Deafness Socially. Charles C. Thomas,
Springfield, Illinois, 12.
Martin, Frederick N.
(1991). Introduction to Audiology (4th ed.). 3, 11, 318-319. Prentice
Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Sattler, Jerome M.
(1992). Assessment of Children, Revised and Updated Third Edition. Jerome M.
Sattler, Publisher, Inc. San Diego, California, 630.
Webster’s New World
College Edition, New World Dictionary of the American Language (2nd ed.). (1980). New
York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 645.
Yount, William R.
(1976). An Introduction to Ministry with the Deaf, Be Opened! Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 34.