Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing

A picture of the international symbol for access for hearing loss, a stylized outline of an ear in white on a blue background, with a wide white diagonal line running from the upper right corner to the lower left corner.

Learning Objectives

This module will help you to:

  1. Explain the effects of deafness and hardness-of-hearing on learning in the classroom.
  2. Understand the types of accommodations or other support that can help meet the educational needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
  3. Know how to support deaf and hard-of-hearing students.


The term deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) is defined as an inability to hear normally. People with normal hearing can hear sounds of low intensity. Hearing loss can affect the entire sound spectrum or only certain parts. The term “deaf” is used for people with profound hearing loss (loss of 91 + decibels). The term “hard-of-hearing” indicates moderate (loss of 41 – 70 dB) to severe hearing loss (71 – 90 dB), which is the most common form found in the classroom.1

According to the World Health Organization (2015), deafness and hearing loss can be caused by hereditary and non-hereditary genetic factors, or by complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Additionally, infectious diseases such as meningitis, measles, mumps, and chronic ontological infections can cause hearing loss, particularly during childhood, but also later. The use of ototoxic medication, including antibiotics and antimalarial medications, can damage the inner ear at any age, including during pregnancy. A head trauma or an ear injury can also cause hearing loss.

Noise related trauma, such as the occupational use of noisy machinery, exposure to loud music or other noises such as gunshots or explosions can damage the inner ear and lead to hearing impairment. As people grow older, cumulative exposure to noise and other factors can cause deafness or hearing impairment.

  • 1. Canadian Academy of Audiology (2015).