Understanding Hearing Loss

Types of Hearing Loss


  • Blockage in outer or middle ear
  • Middle Ear infections, wax in ear canal, malformations of the canal or middle ear bones
  • Medically or surgically treatable


  • Inner ear or hearing nerve
  • Damage/dysfunction of hair cells (genetics, complications or infections at or after birth)
  • Not medically treatable

Degree of Hearing Loss

  • Mild - will have trouble hearing soft or distant speech
  • Moderate - will have trouble hearing speech at normal conversation level
  • Severe - will have trouble hearing loud speech
  • Profound - will have trouble hearing environmental sounds

Important: even mild hearing loss can impact speech and language skills

Hearing Test that Audiologists Use

  • Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
  • Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
  • Tympanometry
  • Acoustic reflex testing
  • Behavioral testing
    • Behavioral observation audiometry (BOA)
    • Visual Reinforcement audiometry (VRA)
    • Conditioned play audiometry (CPA)
    • Conventional audiometry

Understanding the Audiogram


Normal Hearing


Conductive Hearing Loss


Sensorineural Hearing Loss


Mixed Hearing Loss

We're here to help. For more information contact:
Speech-Language Hearing Association
2200 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850