What sensorineural hearing loss is, how it can affect a child, what you can do to support a pupil with sensorineural hearing loss.

What sensorineural hearing loss is

Hearing loss and deafness are the result of sound signals not reaching the brain due to a problem in the hearing system. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of damage to:

  • the hair cells inside the inner ear
  • the hearing nerve
  • both the hair cells inside the inner ear and the hearing nerve 

Sensorineural hearing loss: 

  • changes your ability to hear quiet sounds
  • reduces the quality of the sound that is heard
  • is permanent

Sensorineural hearing loss can be:

  • mild
  • moderate
  • severe
  • profound

How sensorineural moderate hearing loss can affect a child

If a child is diagnosed with a sensorineural moderate hearing loss, it means they can’t hear all speech sounds. 

Most children with a mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss will be prescribed hearing aids so that they can hear speech. With their hearing aids they might hear one-to-one conversation held in quiet surroundings. Hearing well in a busy classroom will be difficult. 

In order for the child to access speech, families of children with a profound hearing loss may choose to:

  • have surgery for a cochlear implant
  • use British Sign Language

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. They may need to be taught these language skills directly at school.

Tiredness and concentration fatigue

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

Small adjustments to your environment and how you communicate can make listening much easier.

How to support pupils with sensorineural hearing loss

Ways to support pupils with sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • seating the child near the person speaking
  • reducing background noise as far as possible 
  • giving more time for the child to process or respond to information
  • checking discreetly that the child has heard and understood what’s been said
  • making 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
  • indicating who’s talking, repeat back contributions from other class members
  • providing visual support for all teaching

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