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Hearing Impairment - What is a Hearing Impairment?


Updated May 15, 2014

A Teenager Uses Sign Language

A Teenager Uses Sign Language

Teen Signing Photo by Getty Images
Definition: Hearing Impairment - Under the IDEA, a hearing impairment is a permanent hearing loss or a decrease in hearing that is so significant it negatively affects a child's performance in school or ability to learn.

Deafness is not included under the hearing impairment category under the IDEA.

A complete inability to hear, is categorized as deafness. The National Association of the Deaf generally uses hard of hearing rather than hearing impairment.

Hard of hearing is defined having some hearing, the ability to use it for communication purposes, and ability to comfortably communicate with this level of hearing. A hard of hearing person may have a mild to moderate hearing loss.

Hearing impairments can be caused by:

  • heredity - Genetic links have been found in the Human Genome Mapping Project;
  • severe illness in childhood such as rubella (German measles) or spinal meningitis;
  • prenatal maternal illnesses;
  • Exposure to long-term loud noise or exposure to sudden extreme noise;
  • preventable prenatal substance abuse;
  • physical injury or damage to the brain, the head, or the ear;
  • age-related hearing loss.

Learn about the various degrees of hearing impairment and what they involve.

Also Known As: Hearing impairment is also called hardness of hearing, or hearing loss.
Students with hearing impairments may need interventions such as hearing aids or FM system auditory trainers.

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