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Did You Know? Auditory Disabilities

Posted January 01, 2019


Posted January 01, 2019

An ear with sound waves in the background
An ear with sound waves in the background

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Auditory disabilities is a broad range for disabilities that affect a person’s hearing. Auditory disabilities are hearing impairments, such as hearing loss and deafness. 

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss and deafness have varying degrees based on the decibels that are able to be heard. 

There are different types of hearing loss, including: 

  • Conductive Hearing Loss, 
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss,
  • Mixed Hearing Loss, and 
  • Neural Hearing Loss. 

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the functions of the ear have a problem conducting sound waves throughout the eardrum, middle ear, or outer ear. When there is a problem with one of the functions of the ear to pass sound waves, there is a chance that it will cause hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the hair cells (sensory cells) of the cochlea are missing and/or damaged. The hairs produce electrical signals to the brain so that it may interpret sound. When they are damaged, the brain is unable to interpret the sound. Mixed hearing loss occurs when an individual experiences both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

When there is damage to the auditory nerve, it can result in hearing loss because the auditory nerve is responsible for carrying the sound information from the ear to the brain. When the auditory nerve is damaged, the brain is unable to process the sound heard. This is classified as neural hearing loss. 

These different types of hearing loss lead to different levels of hearing loss (mild, moderate, severe, and profound). 

Causes of hearing loss can be a result of:

  • Wax buildup, 
  • Infection, 
  • Eardrum perforation, 
  • Glue ear, 
  • Problems with the small bones in the ear, 
  • Trauma, 
  • Surgery complications, or 
  • Inherited hearing loss. 


Hearing loss and deafness is measured in decibels. Decibels are a unit that are used to measurement the intensity of sound. In relation to hearing, decibels are used to describe a person’s hearing threshold. The higher the decibel, the higher the hearing loss. Without hearing loss, a person has a hearing threshold of 0-25 decibels. At 70 decibels people are experiencing profound hearing loss and probably use hearing aids. Even with hearing aids they may need to lip-read and use sign language. Profound hearing loss occurs at 95 decibels. According to the World Health Organization, people have deafness when they have a hearing loss threshold of 81 decibels. 

Visual Means of Communication & Accessibility

People who are hard of hearing or are deaf, rely on visual means of communication to navigate daily life. These means of communication are: lip reading, sign language, and speech-reading. When navigating the web, people with hearing impairments, do not have trouble reading and filling out content. They run into barriers on the web in the form of audio formats. 

As technology changes and progresses, content is being demonstrated through audio, video, and multimedia platforms. To access audio information, people with hearing impairments rely on transcriptions and/or captioning of the audio including: dialogue, narration, music, applause, and other identifiable sounds. 

Source Materials:

WHO: Facts about deafness

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