Deafness

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Hearing loss, also known as hearing impairment, is a partial or total inability to hear.A deaf person has little to no hearing. Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears.

Hearing loss may be caused by a number of factors, including: genetics, ageing, exposure to noise, some infections, birth complications, trauma to the ear, and certain medications or toxins.

A common condition that results in hearing loss is chronic ear infections. Certain infections during pregnancy may also cause hearing loss in the child.

Hearing loss is diagnosed when hearing testing finds that a person is unable to hear 25 decibels in at least one ear. Testing for poor hearing is recommended for all newborns. Hearing loss can be categorised as mild, moderate, moderate-severe, severe, or profound.

There are three main types of hearing loss:

  • conductive hearing loss
  • sensorineural hearing loss
  • mixed hearing loss

Half of hearing loss is preventable. This includes by immunization, proper care around pregnancy, avoiding loud noise, and avoiding certain medications. The World Health Organization recommends that young people limit the use of personal audio players to an hour a day in an effort to limit exposure to noise.

Early identification and support are particularly important in children. For many hearing aids, sign language, cochlear implants and subtitles are useful. Lip reading is another useful skill some develop.

As of 2013 hearing loss affects about 1.1 billion people to some degree. It causes disability in 5% (360 to 538 million) and moderate to severe disability in 124 million people. Of those with moderate to severe disability 108 million live in low and middle income countries. Of those with hearing loss it began in 65 million during childhood.

Those who use sign language and are members of Deaf culture see themselves as having a difference rather than an illness. Most members of Deaf culture oppose attempts to cure deafness and some within this community view cochlear implants with concern as they have the potential to eliminate their culture. The term hearing impairment is often viewed negatively as it emphasises what people cannot do.

For a classroom setting, children with hearing loss often benefit from direct instruction and communication. One option for students is to attend a school for the Deaf, where they will have access to the language, communication, and education. Another option is to have the child attend a mainstream program, with special accommodation such as providing favorable seating for the child.

Having the student sit as close to the teacher as possible improves the student's ability to hear the teacher's voice and to more easily read the teacher's lips. When lecturing, teachers can help the student by facing them and by limiting unnecessary noise in the classroom. In particular, the teacher can avoid talking when their back is turned to the classroom, such as while writing on a whiteboard.

Some other approaches for classroom accommodations include pairing deaf or hard of hearing students with hearing students. This allows the deaf or hard of hearing student to ask the hearing student questions about concepts that they have not understood. The use of CART (Communication Access Real Time) systems, where an individual [or automated speech recognition system] types a captioning of what the teacher is saying, is also beneficial.