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Hearing Impairments

The causes and degrees of hearing loss vary across the deaf and hard of hearing community, as do methods of communication and attitudes toward deafness. In general, there are three types of hearing loss:

Conductive loss

Affects the sound-conducting paths of the outer and middle ear. The degree of loss can be decreased through the use of a hearing aid or by surgery. People with conductive loss might speak softly, hear better in noisy surroundings than people with normal hearing, and might experience ringing in their ears.

Sensorineural loss

Affects the inner ear and the auditory nerve and can range from mild to profound. People with sensorineural loss might speak loudly, experience greater high-frequency loss, have difficulty distinguishing consonant sounds, and not hear well in noisy environments.

Mixed loss

Results from both a conductive and sensorineural loss.

Central hearing loss

Results from damage or impairment to the nerves or nuclei of the central nervous system, either in the pathways to the brain or in the brain itself.

Given the close relationship between oral language and hearing, students with hearing loss might also have speech impairments. One’s age at the time of the loss determines whether one is pre-lingually deaf (hearing loss before oral language acquisition) or adventitiously deaf (normal hearing during language acquisition). Those born deaf or who become deaf as very young children might have more limited speech development.


  • The inability to hear does not affect an individuals native intelligence or the physical ability to produce sounds.
  • Not all students that may be Deaf or hard-of-hearing are fluent users of all of the communication modes used in the Deaf community, just as users of spoken language are not fluent in all oral languages. For example, not all students that are Deaf or hard-of-hearing lipread; many individuals that are Deaf use sign language but there are several types of sign language systems.

Office of Academic Success
240 Briggs Library
600 East 4th Street
Morris, MN 56267

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Fax: 320-589-6473
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