What permanent conductive hearing loss is, how it can affect a child, how to support a pupil with permanent conductive hearing loss.

What permanent conductive hearing loss is

Conductive hearing loss is when sound cannot pass efficiently through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear (cochlear and auditory nerve). This is due to something blocking the hearing pathway. 

Permanent conductive hearing loss is when this remains long term. 

Causes of permanent conductive hearing loss

The main causes for permanent conductive hearing loss are:

  • persistent glue ear: when presence of fluid in the middle ear becomes long term 
  • damage to the three bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus, stapes)
  • microtia: under-development of the outer ear (pinna)
  • atresia: the absence of the ear canal

How conductive hearing loss can affect a child

When someone can hear well, their brain is able to: 

  • filter out unwanted background noise
  • concentrate on what they want to listen to

This is much harder for a child with a hearing loss. Small adjustments to your environment and how you communicate can make listening much easier. Sometimes the child will wear a hearing aid.

Permanent conductive hearing loss can affect a child in different ways. 

Incidental learning 

Incidental learning is learning that takes place in everyday settings, at home or out and about, and is not taught at school.

Incidental learning: 

  • helps children build vocabulary
  • gives children grammar and general knowledge

Children with hearing loss may not always hear what’s going on around them, especially when there’s background noise. They may need to be taught these language skills directly at school.

Tiredness and concentration fatigue

Children with hearing loss may have to spend more energy concentrating on listening. As a result, they may experience tiredness and frustration that affects their behaviour. 

How to support pupils with permanent conductive hearing loss

Ways to support pupils with permanent conductive hearing loss include:

  • seating the child near the person speaking
  • reducing background noise as far as possible 
  • give more time for the child to process or respond to information
  • check discreetly that the child has heard and understood what’s been said
  • make sure keywords are explained at the start of every lesson: the child may not have the vocabulary you’d expect of a child of that age
  • indicate who’s talking, repeat back contributions from other class members

See also the National Deaf Children’s Society information for professionals.

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