Mild and moderate hearing loss

Mild and moderate hearing loss can often be overlooked because of a perception that it is not a serious condition or that children are ‘coping’ at home and at school. No child should have to struggle because of these misconceptions.


What is mild deafness?

  • Mild deafness typically sounds similar to wearing earplugs all day.
  • A child with mild deafness will often hear one-to-one conversation held in quiet surroundings quite well, but hearing well in a busy classroom might be difficult.
  • Overhearing helps build vocabulary and gives children a sense of grammar, as well as general knowledge. Children therefore need to be able to hear quiet conversation all around them, even though they aren't paying attention to it.
  • Most mild deafness is caused by a temporary condition called Glue ear, although some children have permanent mild deafness.


Signs to look out for

Many children with mild deafness seem to manage extremely well. Their speech and language development is normal in the early years and they do well at school.

However, for a significant number, mild deafness can have an adverse impact on their development and progress at school.

Look out for the following signs of mild hearing loss.

  • Delayed speech.
  • Mishearing and mispronouncing words.
  • Not hearing what's going on if there's background noise.
  • Problems with concentrating, tiredness and frustration that affects their behaviour.
  • Preferring to play alone.
  • Difficulties with reading and learning.
  • Wanting the volume of the TV higher than other members of your family.


What to do if you're concerned about your child's hearing

If you're concerned about your child's hearing talk to your doctor or health visitor about your child seeing an audiologist. The audiologist should confirm whether your child has a hearing problem, and what the options are for managing it.

Visit Your audiology service for information on visiting an audiology clinic and click on Hearing tests for explanations of the different hearing tests your child might have, and how to read an audiogram.


Next steps

  • There are things you can do to make listening and communication easier for your child. Visit the Communication section of our website for tips.
  • Talk to your child's playgroup, nursery or school so that staff are aware and can take steps to support your child. Visit the Education section of our website for helpful tools such as Personal passports and other resources for teaching professionals.
  • Speak to your local education hearing support service to find out if you can get advice from a qualified Teacher of the Deaf. They will be able to provide information on options for school placement and support in school.
  • Find out aboout technology that can help, such as radio aids and soundfield systems.


Will hearing aids help?

Using hearing aids is certainly an option, but it's important to remember that it's an individual decision for each child and their family. The type of hearing aid that wil be suitable will depend on the type of deafness they have, and if your child is still a baby when diagnosed there is plenty of time to think about hearing aids.

Some parents choose to have regular hearing tests and monitor their child's development before thinking about whether hearing aids would be helpful for their child. Other parents are keen to use hearing aids as early as possible.

 For more information visit our Hearing aids section.


Experiences of young people with mild to moderate hearing loss: Views of parents and teachers

Key findings from our research from parents and teachers, in conjunction with the Ear Foundation, on the experiences of young people with mild to moderate hearing loss:

  • Family adjustments are often required to meet the needs of the child or young person with mild/moderate hearing loss.
  • While hearing technologies are very effective for children and young people with mild/moderate hearing loss, they may appear not to need them, and appear to “hear” without them. This can lead to confusion for them, parents and teachers and possible non-use in later years.
  • Children and young people with mild/moderate hearing loss have to use greater levels of effort than generally realised.
  • Teachers often have a poor awareness of mild and moderate hearing loss and the steps they can take to minimise its impact. Parents may need to be particularly pro-active in ensuring their child is getting the support they need, including from specialists like Teachers of the Deaf and teaching assistants.

Download the full report: Research on experiences of children with mild and moderate deafness

We are calling for:

  • Parents and young people to have access to more information about the potential impact of mild and moderate hearing loss and the support available.
  • Teachers to have greater awareness of mild and moderate hearing loss and the steps they can take to minimise its impact.
  • Local authorities to ensure that services are sufficiently resourced to provide the necessary support for children with mild and moderate hearing loss.
  • NHS England to ensure there is a clear care pathway for children with mild and moderate hearing loss and appropriate, timely support for families.

We published the report in May 2015 during Deaf Awareness Week to highlight six common myths about children with mild and moderate hearing loss and what is possible with the right support.

 “With mild deafness others don’t realise they're not hearing well. No one took her hearing loss seriously until she had a hearing aid.”

Mum Tanya was shocked by the impact of her seven-year-old daughter Honor's mild hearing loss but had to fight to get the right support. Read about their experiences in Families magazine's autumn 2015 issue.


Myths about children with a mild or moderate hearing loss

Myth 1: All deaf children use sign language

Children with mild to moderate hearing loss use a wide range of communication approaches.

Every deaf child is different and will want to communicate in the way that works best for them.

Myth 2: Deaf children with mild or moderate hearing loss can hear everything with their hearing aids in

Children with hearing aids or unaided mild hearing loss may appear to hear conversation well, especially in one-to-one situations and when background noise levels are low. However children need to be able to hear soft speech and to be able to hear conversation all around them as well. In this vlog 16 year old Lucy talks about her mild hearing loss and how she has to overcome friends and teachers sometimes forgetting that she cannot hear everything.

Our factsheet for parents provides suggestions for improving listening conditions for learning in education, and a series of acoustics resources for parents to pass on to teaching staff.

Myth 3: Deaf children can’t enjoy music

A lot of deaf children love music, dance and playing instruments. Some children can hear the music very well with help; others may not hear the music fully but can feel the vibrations.

Hi-Fi systems, portable music players such as iPods and mp4 players, DVD players, gaming devices, tablets and laptops can be connected to various products that can help deaf children to hear them better, which are all explained here.


Myth 4: Deaf children can't make themselves understood

Deaf children can and do communicate highly effectively. Pass on these deaf awareness resources and videos to hearing friends and family to help them to communicate with your child.

The Look, Smile, Chat lesson plans, activities and videos are ideal if your child is aged 11–16 to pass on to their teachers to make hearing children aware of the issues around deafness.

Myth 5: Deaf children can't attend a mainstream school

80% of school-aged deaf children attend mainstream schools. (Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) 2013 UK summary report, amended in December 2014).

We have information for parents of deaf children in primary or secondary school about supporting learning, special educational needs, exams, making a complaint, bullying and more.

If you would like to give your child’s teachers - and other school staff such as teachers of the deaf and teaching assistants - help in supporting your child achieve their potential we have developed a range of Supporting the achievement of deaf children guides for you to pass on.

The Here to Learn video clips are also designed for mainstream school staff who have little or no experience of working with deaf children and aim to develop their understanding of the needs of a deaf child.

deaf students primary school

Myth 6: Deaf children won’t be able to get a job when they finish their education

Deaf people are successful in all sorts of jobs, especially when they have been supported to achieve their potential by their employers and colleagues. Our useful parents' guide will help your child think about the support they might need in order to fulfill their ambitions.

At least 35% of our family members have a child with mild or moderate hearing loss; find out more about the benefits of becoming a member of the National Deaf Children's Society.


Mild hearing loss, major impact: Information for teachers

Young boy in classroom (credit: NDCS)

Our Mild hearing loss, major impact resources are for you to share with your child's teacher.

The booklet and short, online video describe the impact a mild hearing loss has on a child in the classroom, and what teachers can do to make sure your child can hear as well as possible.