What conductive hearing loss is, what to look out for, how to support pupils with conductive hearing loss.

What conductive hearing loss is

Conductive hearing loss:

  • affects the passage of sound between the ear canal, ear drum and the inner ear
  • is common in young children
  • ranges from a mild loss to a moderate loss 
  • might be treated surgically with grommets or with temporary use of hearing aids, when persistent

Causes of conductive hearing loss

The most common cause of conductive hearing loss is glue ear, a build-up of fluid in the middle ear causing temporary deafness. This can be one episode or repeated episodes, short or long term.

Hearing levels can fluctuate for children with glue ear. This can impact on a young child's ability to: 

  • access what is said 
  • be included in the routines of the setting

When hearing returns to normal range in children with longer term conductive hearing loss, it may take time for the brain to re-adjust to hearing sounds in speech and the environment. Children may need help to learn to listen.

Possible indications of conductive hearing loss

A pupil with conductive hearing loss might:

  • show changes in behaviour, tire easily, have trouble concentrating, get frustrated
  • have delayed or unclear speech and language
  • ask for constant repetition of what's been said
  • be reluctant to join in with social situations or play
  • have difficulty understanding speech in background noise

What you can do to help

To support a pupil with conductive hearing loss:

  • be confident in using hearing technology, if hearing aids have been fitted  
  • make sure you have the child's attention before talking to them
  • get close (within 1 metre) and down to their level 
  • sit the child close at group time, or for whole class teaching, where they can see your face but also see other children talking: in a circle this would be at quarter to or quarter past the clock in position
  • speak clearly and at normal pace
  • manage background noise: in early years settings, have quiet times and quiet zones
  • reduce clatter and background noise by using soft furnishings, cloth or carpet under hard toys, pencil pots lined with felt 
  • use routine and repetition
  • support stories, songs and rhymes with pictures and props, in early years settings
  • check understanding, you may need to re-phrase 
  • make sure all staff are aware of the child's hearing needs

The National Deaf Children's Society offers training on Supporting the achievement of hearing impaired children in early years settings.

Contact us
Sensory Support Service
Elmfield House
Greystoke Avenue
Westbury-on-Trym
BS10 6AY

Phone: 0117 903 8442
Text: 07810 506 669
Email: sensorysupportservice@bristol.gov.uk