Hearing impairment, deafness, and hard of hearing: what these terms mean
If your child is hard of hearing or deaf, it means that your child’s
ears can’t do all or any of the things they should be able to do. Your child might
have muffled hearing, or they might not be able to hear sounds coming from some
directions, or they might have trouble hearing certain frequencies or sounds.
Types of deafness or
Deafness or hearing impairment can:
- From at birth – this is congenital deafness or hearing
- If it starts after birth – this is acquired or
progressive deafness or hearing impairment.
two main types of deafness or hearing impairment – conductive and
- Conductive hearing
impairment is when sounds from outside your child’s ear
have trouble getting to or going through the different parts inside the ear.
Conductive hearing impairment is usually caused by middle ear fluid from middle
ear infections, and is usually temporary.
hearing impairment is when the nerves that are in charge of
receiving sound and sorting out what it means don’t work properly.
Sensorineural hearing impairment can be mild, moderate, severe or profound.
Sensorineural hearing impairment usually lasts for life and can get worse over
- Mixed hearing loss is when a child has both conductive and sensorineural hearing
Typical signs of deafness or
All typically developing babies and young children have the same
developmental milestones. Babies develop at different rates, but should reach
the milestones in the same order.
If your baby is deaf or hard of hearing, they won’t hear people
speaking, which means they might not respond to your voice and other
noises in the way you’d expect. As they get older, you might notice that their
speech and language aren’t developing like other children’s.
As a guide, here’s what you’d expect in a typically developing baby.
If your child isn’t doing these things, it might be a good idea to talk to
your GP or child and family health nurse.
- At 0-4 months,
your baby should startle at a loud noise, turn their head or move her eyes to
locate the source of the sound. If she’s upset, she should calm down when she
hears your voice.
- At 4-8 months,
your baby should notice sounds around him, smile when spoken to, babble and
understand simple words like ‘bye-bye’.
- At 8-14 months,
your baby should respond to her name, say simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’,
copy simple sounds and use her voice to get attention from people nearby.
- At 14-24 months,
your child will start to develop vocabulary, understand and follow simple
instructions, and put two words together.
Sen4help: Resources Directory
Action on Hearing Loss
A hearing impairment charity
Deafness Research UK
promoting research into hearing impairment
National Deaf Children’s Society
A charity to
help deaf children and young people.