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What is hearing loss?

What is hearing loss?

There're lots of young people and adults in Scouting who experience a loss of hearing. The term ‘hearing loss’ describes a range of conditions, from deafness to slight hearing impairments.

Therefore, we've put together some more information about hearing loss and how we can all support Scouts with hearing loss.

Hearing loss may vary from flight or fluctuating hearing loss to total loss of hearing (deafness). There're two major types of hearing loss, although sometimes both types occur together. 

The most common type of hearing loss is conductive hearing loss, which may occur due to a blockage of the ear canal, damage to the eardrum, or blockage or damage to the middle ear. The condition is often intermittent and varies in severity. It usually responds well to treatment. 

Conductive hearing loss is common in young children. You may have heard of ‘glue ear’, which is a temporary loss of some elements of hearing. However, any hearing loss, even if it’s temporary or mild, can have a big impact, particularly in the younger years when young people are developing their speech and language skills.

The other type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. This may arise though damage to the cochlea (inner ear), auditory nerve or to parts of the brain involved in interpreting sound. It has a number of causes, such as damage before or at birth, caused by a condition such as Cerebral Palsy, or it may be inherited.

Some people with hearing impairment wear a hearing aid.  For some it may be an uncomfortable experience and sounds heard can be distorted and unpleasant to listen to. Hearing aids do not discriminate, but amplify all the sounds in the area. They don't solely amplify the sound that the listener wishes to hear.

Some people have cochlear implants – they may help hearing, but the sound through an implant isn't as good as the quality of sound processed by a natural cochlea. Therefore, cochlear implants will not restore hearing to normal levels.

Hearing loss can lead to:

  • Difficulties in hearing speech on one side and locating the source of sound
  • Missing key information
  • Tiredness, concentration fatigue, frustration and a shorter attention span
  • Difficulties participating in group discussions and activities
  • Social interaction difficulties
  • Speech, language and literacy difficulties, such as unclear speech or difficulties understanding. 

Young people with a mild hearing loss, unlike adults, may not be able to filter out background noise. They may also lack the knowledge, vocabulary and context to be able to work out what has been said if they mishear.

There's no reason why young people and adults who have hearing loss can't participate in all parts of the Scouts programme, though some reasonable adjustments and support may be needed.