Mild Hearing Loss A child with mild hearing loss usually has normal speech, but will have trouble in the school setting because it will be difficult to hear speech from more than twelve feet away or when there is background noise. This is because much of the meaning in English is contained in the voiceless consonants which are high-pitched and soft. They are s, sh, t, p, k, ch, and th. A child with a mild loss in both ears will need some amplification in each ear to hear clearly at school, in groups, or at a distance. Some children with a mild loss are not suspected of poor hearing until they reach first grade. They are often thought to be "slow", because they cannot understand when the teacher speaks from a distance and, therefore, respond erratically. When these children receive hearing aids, they usually find that school is easier.
Moderate Loss Children with a moderate hearing loss can clearly hear speech only when the speaker is very close – less than two feet away. They need hearing aids to hear the softest sounds and to acquire understandable speech. If they receive hearing aids before four years of age, they usually progress rapidly in learning to talk. They can attend regular schools, but may need special help.
Severe Loss Children with a severe hearing loss do not perceive speech, no matter how close they are to the speaker. They will not learn to talk intelligibly without hearing aids and special help. Severely impaired children who receive hearing aids early have a far better chance of acquiring speech than children who remain unaided longer. This is not to say that a child with a severe loss who gets hearing aids at age three will never learn to speak, but it does mean the task will be harder. Many children who do not receive aids until after age six may never develop clear speech or the ability to easily understand spoken words. All children with severe hearing losses require special help because they receive only a portion of the clues usually available in speech sounds. With hearing aids, they can detect vowel sounds, pitch, some consonants, and stress clues from speech. With their eyes, they can learn to detect about 25% of the consonant sounds. With lipreading and listening together, they may receive about half of the clues that normal-hearing people use to understand speech.
Profound Loss Children with a profound hearing loss receive even less auditory information. The younger children are when fitted with hearing aids, the greater the likelihood they will eventually speak. Having suitable hearing aids at all times is a significant factor in determining whether the child will learn to speak. Children with a profound loss often depend greatly on their vision to perceive speech.