Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment (also described as hearing loss or deafness) is measured in terms of the sound level (in decibels or dB) that someone can hear at a given frequency (pitch). Hearing impairment is tested across the range of speech frequencies, usually between 250 Hz and 8kHz. If a person has good hearing across all these frequencies they are considered to have normal hearing.

Levels of hearing impairment are often assessed as follows, through it is dangerous to assume that because a hearing impairment is labelled as 'mild' the consequences are barriers for the individual will be negligible.

Mild hearing impairment threshold 21-40 dBHL

Moderate hearing impairment threshold 41-70 dBHL

Severe hearing impairment threshold 71-95 dBHL

Profound hearing impairment threshold in excess of 95 dBHL

What this may mean in real life situations is illustrated in the following table:

Better ear average hearing level in decibels of hearing loss (db HL) Hearing in a quiet environment Hearing in a noisy environment
20-34 dbHL Does not have problems hearing what is said May have real difficulty in following/taking part in a conversation
35-49 dbHL May have difficulty hearing a normal voice Has difficulty hearing and taking part in conversation
50-64 dbHL Can hear loud speech Has great difficulty hearing and taking part in a conversation
65-79 dbHL Can hear loud speech directly in one's ear Has very great difficulty hearing and taking part in a conversation
80-94 dbHL Has great difficulty hearing Cannot hear any speech
Unilateral hearing loss: Up to 20 dbHL in the better ear; at least 35 dbHL in the worse ear Does not have problems unless sound is near the poorer hearing ear May have real difficulty following/taking part in a conversation

 Source:  NHS England Comissioning Guidance 2016

 Key Facts:

  • There are at least 46,404 deaf children in England - a reported increase of 7% over the past year.
  • 78% of school-aged deaf children attend mainstream schools (where there is no specialist provision).
  • 6% attend mainstream schools with resource provisions, 3% attend special schools for deaf children whilst 12% attend special schools not specifically for deaf children.
  • 22% of deaf children are recorded as having an additional special educational need.
  • 3,530 children have at least one cochlear implant; with 2,461 children have a bone conduction device. Children with cochlear implants make up around 71% of those children with profound hearing loss or 41% of severe and profound hearing loss
  • 9% of children with a severe or profound hearing loss use British Sign Language in
  • education (671) whilst 22% (1,731) use English together what can be described as Sign Supported English
  • 18% of deaf children identified by CRIDE have an Education, Health and Care plan
  • The most common post-school destination for deaf young people is further education, with 73% taking this option.

The 27,547 deaf children identified by the School Census amount to 59% of the 46,404 deaf children identified by local authorities through CRIDE. The School Census is compiled in a different way and therefore does not represent the full level of need for service planning purposes.

Sources: CRIDE (2019 Survey, DfE Schools Census)

Your local Sensory Service should be able to provide accurate numbers of CYP with sensory loss including level of need, level of loss and placement.