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MedEd Connections Resource Guide: Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH)

Common Causes of Deafness or Hearing Loss

There are two different types of deafness/hearing loss: conductive, and sensorineural. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot pass through the middle ear space. This can be due to malformations of the middle ear and/or fluid. Most often conductive hearing loss is temporary and can fluctuate, but at times, can also become permanent. Sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent hearing loss that affects the inner ear and beyond, and/or the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss can be congenital (born with) or acquired. Sensorineural means there are issues with the inner ear.

A person may have a bilateral hearing condition (both ears are affected), or a unilateral hearing condition (one ear is affected). Children who have unilateral hearing condition or loss may have challenges knowing which direction sounds or speakers are coming from. Children with unilateral hearing loss may benefit from additional cues using directional vocabulary to indicate the location of people talking or sounds. For example, saying, “the TV is over there,” will not be as effective as saying, “the sound is coming from TV in the right corner of the room”. Unilateral hearing loss may also provide some challenges when trying to locate people talking or speaking in a class discussion, or in the presence of competing background noises, such as other conversations.

Some educational accommodation options for unilateral and bilateral hearing loss may include:

  • Preferred seating where teacher is more easily heard or visible,
  • Use of Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT),
  • Use of a Frequency Modulation/Digital Modulation (FM/DM) system, or
  • Other directional microphone technology, such as loops.

These options are outlined later in this guide.

You can work with your child’s educational audiologist and classroom teacher to consider more educational accommodations. Lastly, unilateral or bilateral hearing conditions or loss could cause some balance issues which an audiologist and physical therapist can work together to address.