Hearing impairment

What is it?

When a child’s ears are not working effectively, this can lead to hearing impairment, also known as hearing loss or deafness. The impact of a child’s hearing loss will depend on which part of the ear is affected and to what extent.

How does it affect children?

There are two main types of hearing impairment:

Sensorineural deafness

Sensorineural deafness (also known as nerve deafness) is where the cochlea in the inner ear is damaged or the nerves which transport information to the brain. This type of loss is permanent.

Conductive deafness

Conductive deafness is when sound cannot reach the inner ear as effectively normal. This could be for a range of reasons such as wax in the outer ear or fluid in the middle ear (also known as glue ear). This is common in young children and is usually temporary.

Some children may have a combination of both types of hearing loss or have difficulties only in one ear. Most children with hearing difficulties can hear some sounds and with hearing aids or cochlear implants they are able to increase the amount they can hear.

What support is available?

All Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) are specialists in children’s language and communication development, the difficulties that arise and how to help.

In Oxfordshire, we also have an outreach team of Specialist Speech and Language Therapists who have specific skills and experience working with deaf and hearing-impaired children.

We also have strong links with the Oxford Cochlear Implant Team at the John Radcliffe Hospital including their Speech and Language Therapy service for children with Cochlear Implants.

Specialist SLTs in deafness generally work with children who have severe/profound hearing losses. They may also support your local SLT if your child has a moderate or mild hearing loss.


They currently visit children at the following locations:

  • Home
  • Pre-school / nursery
  • Mainstream schools
  • Specialist Hearing Impaired Resource Bases
  • Over video call from child’s home or school/ nursery

Getting support

If you think your child needs to see a Speech and Language Therapist, you can talk to your Teacher of the Deaf, Audiologist, GP, Paediatrician o​r school. They can make a referral for you.

If your child has a cochlear implant, you will see a Speech and Language Therapist from the Cochlear Implant Programme. They can offer regular appointments at the John Radcliffe during the first-year post implant. They will also talk to you about referral to our service.

Page last reviewed: 24 September, 2021