ABLE for the Deaf Adult Learner

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ABLE for the Deaf Adult Learner


First of all, there are three basic types of hearing losses that deaf and hard of hearing individuals have.

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by some form of damage to the outer and middle part of the ear; it usually can be treated. For example, ear infections. However, if the damage is too great to be treated, hearing aids are usually used to provide sound that is clear.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage that is done to the inner ear, when some or most of hair cells in the cochlea die (depending upon the level of hearing loss); it is a permanent hearing loss. If a person has a sensorineural hearing loss, their hearing is distorted because the hair cells are not transmitting the sounds to the brain. Hence some of the message is gone. Hearing aids can only amplify sounds they can hear.
  • Mixed hearing loss is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. It can be a conductive hearing loss in one ear and a sensorineural hearing loss in the other ear or both losses in one or both ears.
    • Reference: Flexer, C. (1999). Facilitating hearing and listening in young children. Singular Publishing Group: San Diego, CA.
There are also degrees of hearing loss, that depends upon the intensity of the sound.
  • Mild hearing loss (35 to 54 dB) may mean missing at least 50% of classroom conversations, and exhibiting limited vocabulary and speech difficulties.
  • Moderate hearing loss (55 to 69 dB) may only hear loud conversations, may have poorer speech, and language difficulties.
  • Severe hearing loss (70 to 89 dB) may only hear environmental sounds, and have difficulty understanding consonant sounds.
  • Profound hearing loss (90 dB and beyond) may sense but is not able to understand sounds and tones.
    • Reference: Moores, D. F. (1996). Educating the deaf: Psychology, principles and practices. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, MA. and The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1995.
To understand what these hearing losses mean, here are examples of typical sound intensities:
Intensity in Decibels (dB)
Jet plane taking off about 100 feet away
Rock and roll concert
Lawnmower or Chain saw
Car horn honking
Telephone ringing
Dog barking
Vacuum cleaner
Quiet radio
Watch ticking
Leaves moving

Reference: Simko, C. B. (1986). Wired for sounds. Gallaudet University Press: Washington, D.C. and The Center for Applied Research in Education, 1995.

What does deaf and hard of hearing mean? There are two definitions of being deaf: pathology and culture. According to the Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf (CEASD), the pathological definitions which were adopted are:

  • "A deaf person is one whose hearing is disabled to an extent (usually 70 dB or greater) that precludes the understanding of speech through the ear alone, with or without the use of a hearing aid."
  • "A hard of hearing person is one whose hearing is disabled to an extent (usually 35 to 69 dB) that makes difficult, but does not preclude, the understanding of speech through the ear alone, with or without a hearing aid."
    • Reference: Moores, D. F. (1996). Educating the deaf: Psychology, principles, and practices. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, MA.
The cultural definition of Deaf refers to:
  • "a particular group of deaf people who share a language - American Sign Language (ASL) - and a culture. The members of this group reside in the United States and Canada, have inherited their sign language, use it as a primary means of communication among themselves, and hold a set of beliefs about themselves and their connection to the larger society. We distinguish them from, for example, those who find themselves losing their hearing because of illness, trauma or age; although these people share the condition of not hearing, they do not have access to the knowledge, beliefs, and practices that make up the culture of Deaf people."
    • Reference: Padden, C. and Humphries, T. (1988). Deaf in America: Voices from a culture. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.
There is a difference between the lowercase deaf and uppercase Deaf. The lowercase deaf refers to the pathological definition while uppercase Deaf is for the people who are involved in the Deaf culture.

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