Understanding Hearing Loss



BATOD Foundation

Abstract / Introduction

Listening starts in the womb. At 24 weeks gestation the bones of the middle ear are fully formed. At 30 weeks a baby hears the rhythm and intonation of speech, can access some vowel sounds in the womb and recognises their mother’s voice (Crystal, 2010).

Hearing loss can now be diagnosed at birth and studies have shown that early diagnosis, combined with early fitting of amplification and early support, results in language skills in line with peers (Yoshinaga-Itano, 2006).

This MESHGuide has been designed to provide clear information about the nature and degree of hearing loss and the impact that a hearing loss has on speech access. It provides an overview of different types of amplification and communcation needs. Practical advice for minimising the impact of a hearing loss and improving the listening environment are included. Links to many publications from the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) have been collated in an easily accessible way and links to important documents on the English Government website for applying for Disability Living Allowance have been brought together for ease of access.

Strength of Evidence

Research has shown that there is a critical period for the newborn’s brain to develop. Neural pathways are developed by experiences that lead to stimulation. This neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change as a result of different experiences (Begley, 2007). Sharma et al. (2009: 277) observed the cortical auditory evoked potentials of deaf children and found the critical development period for the central auditory pathways to be under the age of 3½ years ‘when the central pathways show maximal plasticity.’ Early diagnosis, combined with early fitting of appropriate amplification, needs to be combined with early support for outcomes to be age appropriate (Yoshinaga-Itano, 2006).

Promoting an understanding of hearing loss is an important first step in early support.

Further information about early childhood development can be found at the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University’s website.

Evidence has been provided for the information collated in this guide with a full reference list including research published in peer reviewed journals.


Begley, S. (2007) Train your mind change your brain. New York: Ballantine Books.

Sharma, A., Nash, A. & Dorman, M. (2009) ‘Cortical development, plasticity and re-organization in children with cochlear implants’. Journal of Communication Disorders. Volume 42, Issue 4, July-August 2009 pp. 272 – 279.

Transferability across countries and settings

The information collated is intended to inform parents/carers, early years practitioners and teachers about the implications of a hearing loss and ways to promote access, to enable and empower them to have high expectations and to celebrate their child’s achievements.

Whilst some links are specific to the UK, information about the nature and degree of hearing loss is globally relevant. Information about different types of amplification and basic day to day maintenance of post-aural hearing aids is relevant internationally.

Date of publication
22 Mar 2021
Date of revision
21 Mar 2022
Online community link

There are various online forums for Auditory Verbal therapists on platforms such as Facebook. The governing body of Auditory Verbal therapists is AG Bell.

There are various online forums for Teachers of the Deaf and parents of deaf children, in the UK and other parts of the world.  BATOD manages an email forum

To keep in touch with other developments, please register to join the MESHConnect general online community. https://khub.net/group/connect-ed