Glossary of Terms (EHDI)

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Acoustics: Pertaining to sound, the sense of hearing or the science of sound. Often used to refer to the quality of the sound environment.

Acquired hearing loss: Hearing loss that is not present at birth. Sometimes referred to as adventitious loss.

Advocacy: This term refers to the role parents or guardians play in developing and monitoring their child’s educational program. Advocating for your child means knowing what rights the law assures you and actively participating in the decision-making process to ensure that the services are in line with your goals for your child’s development and education.

Ambient noise: Background noise that competes with the main speech signal.

American Sign Language (ASL): American Sign Language is a separate language from English. It doesn’t follow the same sentence structure as English. ASL uses the body, face and hands to communicate language.

Amplification: The use of hearing aids and other electronic devices to increase the loudness of a sound so that it may be more easily received and understood.

Assistive communication devices: Devices and systems that are available to help deaf and hard of hearing people improve communication, adapt to their environment, and function in society more effectively.

Audiogram: A graph that reads a person’s ability to hear different pitches (frequencies) at different volumes (intensities) of sound.

Audiologist: A professional who treats and supports people with hearing loss or balance disorders. New graduates must get their Doctorate in Audiology. Audiologists may be certified by ASHA, AAA or ABA.

Audism: Discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR): A non-invasive test that measures responses in the brain waves to auditory stimulus. This test can indicate if sound is being detected, even in an infant. This test may also be called BAER, BSEP and BSER.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD): A hearing disorder where sound enters the inner ear normally but the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain is impaired.

Auditory steady state responses (ASSR): Like the ABR, the ASSR measures the brainstem’s responses to particular auditory stimuli. This non-invasive, painless test is done while the child is sleeping. ASSR technology gives the audiologist another way to determine your child’s hearing across different frequencies. The equipment has higher upper limits than ABR equipment, allowing the audiologist to more accurately differentiate between severe and profound hearing loss in infants.

Auditory-verbal therapy (AVT): A method for teaching children who are deaf or hard of hearing to listen and speak using their residual hearing and the use of amplification devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM devices. AVT emphasizes speech and listening.

Auditory-verbal education: A certified Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS ) educator teaches children who are deaf or hard of hearing to listen and talk exclusively through listening and spoken language.

Bilingual/bicultural: Belonging to both a hearing/English language culture and Deaf Community/ASL culture.

Bone anchored hearing aid  (BAHA): A type of hearing aid that conducts sound to the inner ear through the mastoid bone (the large bony mass just behind the ear) instead of by directing amplified sound at the ear drum. Since a BAHA bypasses the middle ear, people who have a conductive hearing loss may find a BAHA an effective way to hear.

Bone conduction: Sound received through the bones of the skull.

Cochlear implant (CI): A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted in the cochlea of the inner ear. It transmits auditory information directly to the brain, bypassing damaged or absent auditory nerves. Technically, it synthesizes hearing of all sounds, but the wearer needs training to attach meaning to the sounds. This is called auditory habilitation. Typically, cochlear implant users have severe to profound hearing losses and do not get much benefit from hearing aids. Successful CI users gain useful hearing and improved communication abilities.

Conditioned play audiometry (CPA): In play audiometry, the audiologist helps the child understand the rules for playing a game. For example, the child learns to drop a block into a container to show that she heard a sound. Play audiometry is generally used when the child is at least 18 months old.

Conductive hearing loss: Sound waves do not reach the inner ear through the normal air conduction channels of the outer and middle ear. This is often caused by middle ear infections. In children, conductive loss is typically medically correctable.

Congenital hearing loss: Hearing loss present at birth, associated with the birth process, or that develops in the first few days of life.

Deaf: Medically, this means a severe hearing loss that prevents the child from hearing spoken language. Socially, “Deaf ” with a capital letter “D” refers to the cultural heritage and community of deaf individuals, such as the Deaf culture or Deaf community. In this context, it applies to people who mostly use visual communication.

Deaf blindness:  A combined loss of vision and hearing that affects educational needs.

Decibel (dB): The unit of measurement for the loudness of a sound. The higher the dB, the louder the sound.

Ear mold: A custom made plastic or vinyl piece that fits into the outer ear to connect with a hearing aid.

Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT): A medical doctor, who specializes in the ears, nose and throat. Sometimes referred to as an otolaryngologist or otologist.

Finger spelling: Finger spelling uses a standardized series of handshapes to form words. Each letter has its own particular shape. Usually it is used when there is no sign for a certain word.

FM system: An assistive listening device worn by the speaker to amplify her voice and transmit it directly to the listener’s ears via an electronic receiver and special earphones or the listener’s own hearing aids or cochlear implants. The device reduces background noise interference and the problem of distance between speaker and listener.

Frequency:  The number of vibrations per second of a sound. Frequency, expressed in Hertz (Hz), determines the pitch of the sound.

Gain: Describes how much the amplification helps. For example, a child with unaided hearing at 70 dB who hears at 30dB when amplified has a gain of 40 dB.

Hard of hearing:  A hearing loss, whether permanent or fluctuating, that makes it harder to detect and decipher some sounds.
The term preferred by the Deaf and hard of hearing community to refer to individuals who have hearing loss, but also have and use residual hearing.

Hearing screening: Tests the ability to hear selected frequencies at intensities above normal hearing. Aims to identify people with hearing loss quickly and to refer them for further testing.

Hearing aid: An electronic device that conducts and amplifies sound to the ear.

Huggies:  The brand name of a plastic-ringed device designed to “hug” the hearing aid to the ear. Popular for infants and toddlers whose ears may be too small to hold the hearing aid snugly in place.

Individual Family Service Plan  (IFSP):  The IFSP is a plan that parents or guardians write with input from a multi- disciplinary team (see “Part C”). The IFSP: Describes the family’s strengths, needs, concerns and priorities; Identifies support services available to meet those needs; Empowers the family to meet the developmental needs of their infant or toddler with a disability.

Individualized Education Program  (IEP):  A team-developed, written program to identify therapeutic and educational goals and objectives for a school-aged student with a disability. An IEP for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing must include that child’s Communication Plan. 

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA): The IDEA is a federal law (108– 446) that outlines standards that states need to follow for providing early intervention services to families with children who have disabilities, including children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Part C provides services to children birth to three years of age with disabilities. Part B covers educational mandates for students age three through high school graduation or age-out of the system.

Intensity: The loudness of a sound, measured in decibels (dB).

Interpreter: A person who facilitates communication between hearing and deaf or hard of hearing persons by interpreting spoken language into a signed language, or transliteration of a language into a visual and/or phonemic code. For example, oral interpreter, signed language interpreters and cued speech interpreters.

Intonation: The aspect of speech made up of changes in stress and pitch in the voice.

Listening and Spoken Language: An approach that emphasizes speech and listening to teach children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS): LSLS are licensed speech-language pathologists, audiologists or educators of the deaf who have become specialists in supporting children who are deaf or hard of hearing develop spoken language and literacy primarily through listening.

Mapping: The term for programming a cochlear implant to optimize the cochlear implant user’s access to sound.

Oral: An unspecific term that is sometimes used when referring to people with hearing loss and deafness who talk but don’t necessarily use sign language. They use residual hearing, assistive technology, lip reading and contextual cues to communicate using spoken language.

Otitis media: A middle ear infection. Children with recurring episodes may experience fluctuating hearing loss and may be at risk for speech/ language delays. Fluid can be present with or without infection and may cause temporary hearing loss, which can evolve into permanent loss.

Oto-Acoustic Emissions (OAE): A test that verifies cochlear activity, often used to check a baby’s hearing in the first day or two after birth. This test uses a probe placed in the ear canal releases quiet sounds and measures the response from the cochlea.

Otologist: A physician who specializes in medical problems of the ear.

Output: The amount of amplification (loudness) that a hearing aid produces. Measured in decibels.

Part B:  The section of IDEA about special education and support services available to eligible children from three to 21 years of age.

Part C: The section of IDEA about diagnostic and early intervention services available to eligible children from birth through two years of age and their families.

Real-ear measurement: A test to measure the hearing aid output by using a “probe microphone” in the ear canal. It assesses how effectively the hearing aid amplifiers sound in the ear. Every ear canal is shaped differently so it is important to test actual hearing aid function in each person.

Residual hearing: The amount of usable hearing that a person with hearing loss has.

Signed Exact English (SEE): Signing Exact English is different from American Sign Language (ASL). SEE follows spoken English exactly and is designed to be used together with speech to help your child understand and use language.

Sensorineural: A type of hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea) and/or nerve of hearing. Sensorineural damage is usually irreversible.

Sign language: The use of sign patterns made with the hands, face and body to express the speaker’s thoughts. There are different ways to use sign language—see American Sign Language (ASL), finger spelling, Signed Exact English (SEE).

Simultaneous communication: An approach for educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing that consists of the simultaneous use of both a spoken language and a manual (signed) form of that language (such as English and Signed Exact English).

Sound field system: An assistive listening device that can be helpful in classrooms. The teacher wears a microphone to transmit and amplify sound through strategically placed speakers.

Speech Reception Threshold (SRT): The faintest level at which a person can identify 50 percent of the simple spoken words presented and repeat them correctly.

Speech Language Pathologist (SLP): A professional who works with people who have specific speech and language needs.

Speech Awareness Threshold (SAT): The faintest level at which a person can identify 50 percent of the spoken words presented and point to pictures or repeat them correctly.

Speech banana (speech zone): The area on an audiogram (graph) that shows the range of decibels and frequencies where most of the sounds of speech occur. It’s called the “speech banana” because of the shape of the area on the graph. The purpose of wearing hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive technology is to amplify sound into this zone.

Speechreading: A way to interpret and understand speech that relies on visual cues, sometimes called “lip reading.” The speechreader watches lip and mouth movements, facial expressions and gestures, and considers structural characteristics of language and contextual clues.

Total communication: The philosophy of educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing that makes use of a number of modes of communication: formal signs, natural gestures, fingerspelling, body language, listening, lip-reading and speech. Children in these programs typically wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Tympanogram: A pressure or “impedance” test that tells how the ear canal, eardrum, eustachian tube and middle ear bones are working. It is not a hearing test.

Visual Reinforcement Audiometry  (VRA): A method used to test hearing in young children. For example, the child learns to look at a toy that lights each time she hears a sound.

Page last updated:  11/27/2019