What Is Hearing Impairment ?: Meaning, Definition, Causes, Types and Characteristics

What Is Hearing Impairment ?: Meaning, Definition, Causes, Types and Characteristics


What Is Hearing Impairment?

Meaning of Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment is the inability of an individual to hear sounds adequately. This may be due to improper development, damage or disease to any part of the hearing mechanism.

Hearing is a prerequisite for the development of normal speech & language. A child learns to speak by hearing the speech of others in the family and surroundings.

Types Of Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment is of two types:

  1. Deaf
  2. Hard Of Hearing

Deafness is a severe disability. Those people who are deaf have a hearing loss to the extent that it prevents understanding speech through the ear. 

On the other hand, people who are hard of hearing can process information from sounds and they can be benefited from hearing aids.

Hearing Impairment Definition

Individual with Disabilities Education Act 1990 (USA):  Deafness can be characterized as a conference debilitation that is serious in that the youngster is weakened in handling semantic data through hearing with or without intensification that unfavorably influences an individual's instructive exhibition. 

Mores (1987): An almost deaf individual is one whose meeting is impaired to a degree (generally 35-70 DB) that makes it troublesome yet doesn't block the comprehension of discourse through the ear. It can either be with portable amplifiers or without a listening device.

Hearing Impairment Characteristics

They have some characteristics and features common with visually impaired children but some unique, characteristics are also seen in them. Some important characteristics to these children are.

1. Intellectual Abilities To Hear Impaired Children

  • The environment of hearing-impaired people is qualitatively different from that of normal people. 
  • Since about one-third of intellectual development depends upon what we listen to in the environment and use it in our life. As a result, their intellectual functioning is obviously limited almost less than average. 
  • This low level of intellectual ability is not due to any deficiency in their cognition but due to inadequate development of a conventional language system.

Partner and Paterson on the basis of their studies found that the severely hearing impaired have a mean IQ of 63 and medium IQ of 91 and they found no significant difference between the deaf and the normal in 12 studies. This shows that they are not intellectually low as compared to normal children.

2. Educational Achievement Of Hearing Impaired Children

  1. Children and adults who have mild hearing loss generally achieve more in academic subjects than those whose hearing losses are severe.
  2. Those who are deaf by birth tend to have more difficulty in acquiring academic skills than those who become deaf after 8 or 10 years from life.
  3. Those hearing-impaired children who belong to high socio-economic status experience fewer academic difficulties than those who belong to poor families.
  4. They do not perform well like normal on reading and writing tests but their ability to performing arts or fine arts is no less than normals in any way.
  5. The absolute amount of educational retardation in these people increases with age. It is more retarded in pre-academic skills such as mathematics, natural science, and writing than in the more intellectual areas such as paragraph understanding, language, communication, and the like.

3. Social Development and Adjustment of Hearing Impaired Child

  • They show a very high emotional instability causing maladjustment. But it is not apparently visible.
  • They take shelter in isolation due to poor communication ability and frustration. As a result, their social development is adversely affected.

4. Behavioral Characteristics Of Hearing Impaired Children

  1. People with hearing impairment are deviant from the norms and traditions of society.
  2. Some deaf people cope with the reality of deafness as a lifelong condition and they lead normal productive lives. Thus, deafness has no negative impact on the development of a mentally healthy person. Thus, we see that findings are contradictory regarding this aspect of hearing impairment.
  3. Deaf people mostly prefer to have the company of the hearing impaired people and in this way groups of hearing-impaired people are formed. Deaf culture is developed due to this clustering of deaf or hard-of-hearing people.
  4. People who are deaf teach each other how to function in society and how to get along with others.

5. Physical Capacities Of Hearing Impaired Children

  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing are to more or less than normal people in other sensory abilities like sight, smell, taste, and touch.
  • They basically differ in functional hearing from their peers or other normal people.

Functional hearing refers to a person's ability to understand the information presented orally and it is related to how a person might be taught. For example, a person with a moderate functional hearing loss may not be able to profit from a normal classroom presentation and would require some instructional adaptation to be successful.

Functional hearing loss is categorized in decibel grouping in the following way.

Less Than 25-Decibel Loss ( Normal)

No Difficulty Faces In Speech

26-40 Decibel Loss

Faces Difficulty Only In Faint Sound. I.e. Sound Spoke At Low Pitch.

41-55 Decibel Loss

Understands Face-To-Face Speech And Conversation

56-70 Decibel Loss (Moderate Level Of Impairment)

Frequent Difficulty In Special Conversation And Speech

70-90 Decibel Loss (Severe Handicap In Hearing)

Understands Only Shouted Speech And Speech Used Through Amplification Devices

More Than 91-Decibel Loss (Profoundly Retarded)

They Face Difficulty In Hearing Even If Amplification Sound Or Hearing Aids Are Used. Thus, We See That Unique Physical Characteristics Are Seen In These Children

6. Communication Abilities To Hear Impaired Children

  1. Language development is delayed if hearing loss is of moderate type and these people have less vocabulary power than the normals. However, if the hearing impairment is severe in nature verbal communication ability may be almost zero.
  2. Language and communication abilities depend upon the interaction between people individually and collectively. Since hearing impaired people avoid interacting with others.
  3. Normal people also neglect hard-of-hearing people because later require sounds of high frequency and pitch and normal people do not like to talk in such a loud voice. The result is that deaf and hard of hearing people have less chance of interaction with others. 

Educational Adaptation Of Hearing Impaired Children

A separate intervention program is needed for those who one deaf and for those who are hard of hearing. The programs are given below.

1. Oral Communication 

  • Oral communication methods emphasize the development and use of skills in the areas of speech, speech reading, and residual hearing. 
  • This approach is essentially important because these children have very special speech and communication defects. Whatever hearing acuity the child has is fully utilized here. 
  • If it is zero, then the child is trained in lip reading i.e. the message is understood by seeing the movement of lips. Thus, vision is used here for making the child trained in speech. The child is also trained to study the body gesture and read the message thereof. 
  • If a child has any amount of hearing acuity he will listen to the oral communications in the environment and utter them on the basis of his own reactions.

2. American Sign Language

In this method, people with severe hearing loss express their ideas by using manual and non-manual body movements instead of speech. 

Manual forms of communication are displayed by shaping, moving, and positioning hands. 

Non-manual form of communication is displayed by using other parts of the body like moving or positioning of legs, blinking of eyes, moving lips, or thumping checks.

3. Finger Spelling 

It is a special form of sign system in which each letter of the alphabet has a finger sign. By using these signs with the help of fingers, spelling of words are spoken or written and thus, the process of conversation goes further. 

The whole lesson can be taught by this method. In the fingerspelling method, all five fingers are arranged in such a way that the spelling of words is formed and the word is understood.

4. Total Communication Method 

 In this approach, all modes of communication are used, i.e. oral system, sign language, and fingerspelling all are used simultaneously.

By doing this the communication becomes very effective. It is also called the Rochester approach of communication.

5. Cued Speech

  • It is also a method that involves oral communication and sign language both. 
  • In cued speech right-hand shapes are used in four positions on or near the face to accompany speech. 
  • Each hard shape represents a group of consonants and each facial position represents a group of vowel sounds that are used as cues to assist listeners who are doing speech reading.

What Are The Causes Of Hearing Impairment?

Injury And Aggravation 

  • The outside ear (pinna or auricle) can be harmed by injury or aggravation or there can be an inborn anomaly, for example, present upon entering the world. 
  • Perceptible hearing misfortune will possibly emerge if the passage to the ear waterway is discouraged or shut everything down solid section. 


The ear channel passes on strong to the eardrum. In this way, any blockage in the ear channel forestalls sound transmission. Extreme wax is the most well-known reason for hearing misfortune. 

Otitis Externa 

  • Any expanding in the ear channel because of hypersensitivity, skin disease or aggravation (called otitis externa) can influence hearing. 
  • The eardrum is a sensitive layer that separates the external from the center ear, so it's actually important for both. The eardrum, as a component of the external ear, can undoubtedly be influenced by disease or irritation of the ear channel (otitis externa).

Unfamiliar Body 

Normally, unfamiliar bodies in the ear trench can hinder the entry of sound. 


  • Albeit not for the most part adequately huge to cause hearing misfortune, hard developments can create in the ear called osteoma.
  • On the off chance that at least one of these develops to adequate size, careful intercession might be important to try not to hear misfortune and different complexities.

Punctured Eardrum 

The eardrum is likewise defenseless against the hole and resulting disease in case anything is driven excessively far into the ear trench; consequently the justification every one of the alerts about utilizing cotton buds in the ear waterway!

Holes of the eardrum are as a rule because of center ear irritation/disease (otitis media) normally bringing about a release from the center ear into the ear trench just as hearing misfortune.

A hit to the side of the head, particularly against the pinna, can make the eardrum burst. 

Otitis Media

A sound center ear hole is loaded up with air and is ventilated by a thin cylinder (the Eustachian tube) between the centre ear and the rear of the nose.  

In this way, nasal blockage, generally with a head cold or from an assortment of bacterial or viral contaminations, can forestall the Eustachian tube from providing air to the center ear and depleting any liquid which supports the center ear irritation and disease (otitis media). 

This is a specific issue in little youngsters yet additionally influences grown-ups. Otitis media influences the wellbeing and capacity of the eardrum and the ossicular chain; it is the most well-known reason for center ear hearing misfortune. 


  • Albeit influencing the eardrum also, a conceivably risky condition, which can affect all constructions in the center ear and past, is cholesteatoma. 
  • It's a generous development that begins inside a withdrawn part of the eardrum coming about because of a supported, strange center ear pressure. 
  • It steadily augments, bringing about hearing misfortune as well as, whenever left untreated carefully, it very well may be dangerous from complexities like mastoiditis and meningitis.


  • Any unusual pressing factor in the center ear pit, because of deficient ventilation and seepage of the center ear cavity, can put the eardrum under such pressure that it punctures. 
  • Huge climatic pressing factor changes, like when flying or jumping, can cause agony and hearing misfortune here and there bringing about eardrum burst (called barotrauma). 
  • Flying or plunging with a head cold improves the probability of barotrauma and can bring about confusion, even perpetual hearing misfortune. 


  • The chain of three little bones in the center ear (ossicles or ossicular chain) communicates sound vibrations from the external ear to the cochlea in the inward ear. 
  • These little bones can experience the ill effects of head injury, for example, in a streetcar crash or in physical games like boxing or rugby. 


Aside from the impacts of center ear aggravation and contamination, the most well-known condition influencing the ossicular chain in grown-ups is otosclerosis. 

This is an inherited condition however, on the grounds that it doesn't show up in each age of an influenced family, the hereditary association is frequently not self-evident. The consultation misfortune becomes observable typically before the center long periods of adulthood yet is exceptionally factor in the beginning. 

Luckily, otosclerosis can be effectively treated carefully at the same time, for individuals who don't wish to have a medical procedure or where the medical procedure is just somewhat fruitful, amplifiers are normally extremely compelling. 

What Is The Difference Between Deafness And Hearing Impairment?

The distinction between being nearly deaf and being hard of hearing lies in the level of hearing misfortune. 

  • Individuals regularly use being almost deaf to portray gentle to serious hearing misfortune. In the meantime, deafness alludes to significant hearing misfortune. Hard-of-hearing individuals have very little, assuming any, hearing. 
  • There are a wide range of reasons for hearing misfortune, including maturing, openness to boisterous commotions, and diseases. A few sorts of hearing misfortune are preventable, while others can be available upon entering the world or grow normally with age. 
  • On the off chance that you have the hearing misfortune that meddles with your day-by-day life, see your PCP. They can assess your condition and may allude you to an expert for additional testing and treatment.

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