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Glossary of Terms

Terminology found on Clarke’s website and in other resources about hearing loss.


American Sign Language (ASL)

A visual/gestural language used by many deaf people in the United States and Canada. Its grammar and syntax are not the same as English.

Auditory/Oral Education

An approach based on the principle that most deaf and hard of hearing children can be taught to listen and speak with early intervention and consistent training to develop their hearing potential. The focus of this educational approach is to use the auditory channel (or hearing) to acquire speech and oral language. The goal is for these children to grow up to become independent, participating citizens in mainstream society. Also known as Oral Deaf Education.

Assistive Listening Device (ALD)

Devices, other than hearing aids, that improve listening for individuals with hearing loss. Some systems improve hearing in noisy situations by positioning the microphone closer to the sound source, or improve the quality of amplified speech or music. Includes FM systems, infrared systems, and induction loop systems.


A graphic representation of hearing loss, showing the amount of hearing loss (in decibels or dB ) at different frequencies (250 - 8000 Hertz or Hz).


A health care professional who is trained to evaluate hearing loss and related disorders, including balance (vestibular) disorders and tinnitus, and to rehabilitate individuals with hearing loss and related disorders. An audiologist uses a variety of tests and procedures to assess hearing and balance function and to fit and dispense hearing aids and other assistive devices. All audiologist must hold a Master’s degree at minimum. State licensure is required to practice audiology in most states.


Bilateral Hearing Loss

A hearing loss in both ears.



A text display of spoken words, presented on a television, movie screen or online video that allows a deaf or hard of hearing viewer to follow the dialogue and the action of a program simultaneously.


Also called the "inner ear." A snail-shaped structure that contains the sensory organ of hearing and changes sound vibrations to nerve impulses that are carried to the brain along the auditory nerve.

Cochlear Implant

A medical device that is surgically implanted and bypasses damaged inner ear structures and directly stimulates the auditory nerve, helping individuals who have severe to profound hearing loss to interpret sounds and speech.

Conductive Hearing Loss

A loss of sensitivity to sound, resulting from an abnormality or blockage of the outer ear or the middle ear. The most common cause of conductive hearing loss is middle ear fluid or infection. Other causes include wax buildup in the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, or damage to the tiny bones of the middle ear.

Congenital Hearing Loss

A hearing loss that is present from birth and which may or may not be hereditary.



A term used to describe persons who have a hearing loss greater than 90 dB HL. It also may be used to refer to those who consider themselves part of the Deaf community or culture and choose to communicate using American Sign Language instead of spoken communication.

Decibel (dB)

The unit that measures the intensity of sound.



A custom-made mold, used with a behind-the-ear hearing aid, which delivers amplified sounds into the ear.

Educational Audiologist

An audiologist with special training and experience to provide auditory rehabilitation services to children in school settings.


FM System

An assistive listening device that improves listening in noise. Signals are transmitted from a talker to the listener by FM radio waves.


Hair Cells

The hair-like structures in the inner ear that transform the mechanical energy of sound waves into nerve impulses.

Hard of Hearing

The term to describe those with mild to severe hearing loss.

Hearing Aid

An electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear. A hearing aid usually consists of a microphone, amplifier, and receiver.


Oral Transliterator

Aprofessional who provides communication access to a person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing by inaudibly repeating everything that is heard by others in the room. The message is repeating verbatim at a normal rate of speed using clear and visible speech. A skilled Oral Transliterator may paraphrase or add a word to give greater visibility, while faithfully conveying the content and tone of the original message. Natural body language, gestures, and facial expressions are used to support the meaning of the message. An Oral Transliterator also voices the message of the person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing for the benefit of hearing consumers


A physician/surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck.


A physician/surgeon who specializes in the treatment of ear problems.


Residual Hearing

The amount of measurable, usable hearing.


Sensorineural Hearing Loss

A hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea) and/or the hearing nerve.

Speech-Language Pathologist

A professional who evaluates and provides treatment for speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing problems of children and adults. Speech and language delays are frequently seen in children with hearing impairments. Minimum academic degree is a Master's degree. State licensure is required to practice speech-language pathology in many states.


Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

An educator who holds a degree in deaf education and is specially trained to work with deaf and hard of hearing students in the classroom.


A device which allows persons with severe or profound hearing loss to send or receive written messages transmitted via telephone lines.

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