Hearing impairment Causes, Prevention & characteristics

Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment, deafness, or hearing loss refers to the total or partial inability to hear sounds.

Hearing impairment is of two types:

Deaf and hard of hearing

Deafness is defined as a degree of loss that a person is unable to understand speech even in the presence of amplification. On the other hand, people who are hard of hearing can process information from sounds and they can be benefited by hearing aids


According to Individuals with disabilities education act,

An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance is called hearing impairment.

According to moors, Deafness means a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing with or without amplification that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Degree of hearing impairment

Mildly Retarded (26-54 db loss): These children have difficulty in hearing distant sounds and require hearing aids.

Moderately Retarded (55-69 db loss): These children have difficulty in hearing  distant sounds  as well near sounds of low frequency and pitch. They require special training and hearing aids both.

Severely Retarded (70-89 db): Their hearing impairment is so profound that they cannot be benefitted by integrated classes in any way. They need special classes.

Types of Hearing Impairment:

Aurally handicapped children are also categorized to whether the hearing loss is conductive or neural.

Conductive hearing loss is caused due to blockage or damage in the outer or middle section of ear.

Neural loss occurs when there is a damage to the inner ear or auditory nerves.

If its conductive it can be treated by sound amplification and if it is neural it cannot be treated at all.

Age of Aurally Handicapped at the time of Onset:

The description proposed by the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection categorized them in the following manner.

Born Defectives: These children are born with sufficient hearing loss to prevent the spontaneous acquisition of speech.

Prelingual Deafness: Those children who are not hearing impaired by birth but lose hearing ability before the development of language and speech.

Postlingual Deafness: These children people become deaf after development of language and speech.

Causes of Hearing Impairment:

In 48% hearing impaired cases, no defined cause of impairment can be ascertained. Some of the possible causes of hearing impairment are given below.

A) Hereditary or Genetic causes:

About 35% deafness found in this society is of congenital origin. More than five genetic syndromes have been identified so far due to which hearing may occur

Three of them are given below-

  • Pendred’s Syndrome
  • Usher’s Syndrome
  • Jervell’s Syndrome

Preventive Measures

Constant medical check-up during pregnancy

Parents should consult the etiologists to avoid such defective children in future

B) Exogenous Causes:

  • Prenatal causes:

Prenatal assault to the foetus due to viral infections may result into deafness. German measles in early pregnancy, influenza, mumps etc. are some important viral infections that can cause deafness. These are basically congenital causes. Some of the causes are given below-

Maternal Rubella: It is the most common cause of deafness. Due to this disease in mothers, children may be born deaf. Toxoplasmosis: It is caused by a virus, affects the foetus and causes sensory neural hearing loss

Intoxication : Intoxication during pregnancy may also damage auditory senses of the baby.

  • Perinatal causes:

Important such causes are

Birth injury

Anoxia at the time of delivery

Adoption of birth control measures

  • Post natal causes:

Meningitis : It is a disease of central nervous system that causes sensory neural hearing loss. The disease is the common cause of deafness or hearing loss.

Otitis Media: It is the infection of middle ear and the accumulation of fluid behind the ear drum.

Other causes: Tuberculosis, mumps, measles, throat infection, influenza, whooping cough etc. are some other causes.

Preventive Measures:

Prevention of possible diseases

Avoidance of drugs and alcohols.

Immunization of mother during pregnancy

Proper and balanced diet during pregnancy

Regular checkup of mother during pregnancy

Early diagnosis of infectious diseases and their proper treatment.

Early identification of deafness and providing proper medical and educational advise so that the situation may not be worsened.

Characteristics of Hearing Impairment

Intellectual Abilities: 50% of intellectual development depends upon what we listen in the environment and use it in our life. As a result, their intellectual functioning is obviously limited almost less than average. Low level

Printer and Peterson: on the basis of their studies found that 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 twelve studies. They are not intellectually low as compared to the normal children.

Social development and adjustment: They take shelter in isolation due to poor communication ability and frustration. As a result, their social development is adversely affected.

They show a high degree of emotional instability causing maladjustment. It is not apparently visible. ¢Educational Achievement:

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 of age.

Children and adults who have mild hearing loss generally achieve more in academic subjects than those whose hearing losses are severe. ¢They perform well in performing arts or fine arts.

Communication abilities: Normal people also neglect hard of hearing people because later require sounds of high frequency.

¢Language development is delayed if hearing is of mild or moderate type and these people have less vocabulary power  than normals.

Behavioral Characteristics: People with hearing impairment are deviant from the normals and traditions of the society.

People who are deaf teach other how to function in the society.

Deaf people mostly prefer to have the company of hearing impaired people.

Physical Capacities: People who are deaf or hard of hearing are no 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. Functional hearing refers to a person’s abilities to understand information presented orally and it is related to how person might be taught.

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