Glossary of Audiological & Deafness Related Terms

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Term Definition
Acquired deafness

The loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during a person’s life but was not present at birth.

American Sign Language

A manual (hand, facial expression, body language) language with its own syntax and grammar used primarily by persons who are deaf. Each country has its own sign language, as with spoken language, and there are regional differences in ASL within the United States.

Assistive Listening Device (ALD)

Refers to hard-wired or wireless transmitting/receiving devices that transmit sound from the microphone directly to the listener, minimizing the negative effects of distance, noise, and reverberation on clarity. The devices transmit sound directly to the ear, but also can employ “teleloop” attachment accessed by the telephone switch in some hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Aliases: ALD

missing ear canal.

Audiologically Deaf

a term used to describe the fact of being deaf from a physical or audiological perspective; cannot hear. The term is normally used in contrast to the term "Deaf" (see below). The small "d" denotes the inability to hear clearly and the capital "D" denotes identification within the Deaf Culture and "d/D" refers to both.

Aliases: deaf

A university-trained professional with a masterís (MS or MA), doctorate (PhD or EdD) or Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree in audiology. The audiologist is responsible for assessing hearing and for providing rehabilitative services to increase the ability of people with hearing loss to function more efficiently in everyday life.


The electronic instrument used by the audiologist for measuring the threshold of hearing.

Audiometric Evaluation (AE)

The term used to describe a diagnostic hearing test, performed by a licensed audiologist. An AE is not just pressing the button when you hear a "beep". Rather, an audiometric evaluation allows the audiologist to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss, and it tells the audiologist how well or how poorly you understand speech. The AE also includes a thorough case history (interview) as well as visual inspection of the ear canals and eardrum.

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) Test

Also called Brainstem Evoked Response (BSER), Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER), and Auditory Evoked Response (AER), this test objectively measures hearing by placing electrodes on the scalp to record the electrical activity in the brain when sound occurs. It is used for newborn babies, infants, and young children who cannot respond reliably using standard procedures such as visual reinforcement audiometry, play audiometry, or picture identification.

Aliases: Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER); Auditory Evoked Response (AER)
Bilingual-Bicultural (Bi-bi)

Bilingual means being able to speak two languages. Bicultural means being part of two cultures, or 2 communities.

1) Bi-bi - children use 2 languages and learn about 2 cultures: 2) Children learn American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language. They learn ASL as their main way of communicating with other people. 3) They learn English as a second language. They use English mainly for reading and writing. They may also learn spoken English. 4) Children learn about and become part of Deaf culture and the Deaf community. 5) They are also still part of their family's culture and their family's community.

Aliases: Bi-bi

means listening with both ears.

Body Hearing Aid

A hearing aid in which the microphone, amplifier, and battery are housed in a small unit worn on the body. An earmold is connected to a receiver that is connected by a cord to the hearing aid. This type of hearing aid is capable of providing powerful amplification.


see Communications Access Realtime Translation (Captioning)


see Earwax.

Aliases: earwax
Closed Captioning (CC)

is a method of embedding subtitles within the video signal. The subtitles can be descrambled and viewed on the television/movie screen with the use of special decoding equipment.


The snail-like bony cavity that contains the delicate hair cells located in the inner ear. It is about the size of a dried pea.

Cochlear Implant (CI)

A Cochlear Implant is a device that helps some deaf people hear sound. A surgeon puts part of the implant under the skin behind the ear and inside the inner ear. The implant has four parts:

• The headpiece is worn behind the ear. Magnets hold it in place over the parts that are under the skin. It has a microphone that picks up sounds from the environment. A transmitter sends the sounds to the speech processor.

• The speech processor is worn on the body. It takes sounds from the transmitter and changes them into electrical signals. Then it sends the signals to the receiver.

• The receiver is placed under the skin behind one ear. A wire from the receiver goes to the electrodes.

• A surgeon implants the electrodes into the cochlea. The electrodes take signals from the receiver and send them to the brain.

Communications Access Realtime Translati

CART Reporters are trained court stenographers who use a computer program which translates steno into written English using a steno machine and a laptop computer. A person who is deaf or hard of hearing will read what is being said by others from a laptop, word for word, as it is being said. This service is used primarily if a person does not sign, uses cued speech, or has no other way to receive what is being said by the speakers.

Aliases: CART; Captioning
Conductive Hearing Loss

this is a hearing loss associated with the malfunctioning of the outer or middle ear.

Congenital Deafness

Loss of hearing present at birth.

Cued Speech

Some deaf and hard of hearing people have been educated in a system which uses 12 specific hand signals representing the sounds of the English Language. The cues, when used along with lip movements, can help a deaf or hard of hearing person to more clearly understand the numerous words which look alike on the lips.

Deaf Community/Deaf Culture

Deaf Community or Deaf Culture defines the cultural and communication norms of people with hearing loss. In the US, this refers to users of American Sign Language (ASL). However, not all people with a hearing loss or all users of ASL are members of the Deaf Culture or Deaf Community.

Deaf vs. deaf

The word Deaf with a capital "D" refers to members of the Deaf community who share common values, norms, traditions,language, and behaviors. Deaf people do not perceive themselves as having lost their hearing and do not think of themselves as handicapped, impaired, or disabled. They celebrate and cherish their culture because it gives them the unique privilege of sharing a common identity, history, and language. Deaf people are considered a linguistic minority within the American culture. They have their own culture and at the same time live and work within the dominant American culture.

The word deaf using the lower case "d" denotes the inability to hear clearly.

When d/Deaf is used it refers to both groups; those who cannot hear clearly and those who identify with the Deaf community and culture.


Refers to people who have significant, but not necessarily total, loss of both vision and hearing (dual sensory loss). Deaf-Blind people may be culturally Deaf, oral deaf, late deafened, or hard of hearing and his/her mode of communication varies accordingly.


Deafness is defined by partial or complete hearing loss. Levels of hearing impairment vary from a mild but important loss of sensitivity to a total loss of hearing. Age-related hearing loss affects 30 to 35 percent of the population between the ages of 65 and 75 years, and 40 percent of the population over the age of 75. The most common cause of hearing loss in children is otitis media, a disorder that affects predominantly infants and young children. A substantial number of hearing losses are caused by environmental factors such as noise, drugs, and toxins. Many sensorineural hearing losses result from a genetic predisposition.

Decibel (db)

A decibel is a unit for measuring the volume of a sound, equal to the logarithm of the ratio of the intensity of the sound to the intensity of an arbitrarily chosen standard sound interested in hearing loss.


The hearing organ. There are three sections of the ear, according to the anatomy textbooks. They are the outer ear (the part we see along the sides of our head behind the temples), the middle ear, and the inner ear. But in terms of function, the ear has four parts: those three and the brain. Hearing thus involves all parts of the ear as well as the auditory cortex of the brain. The external ear helps concentrate the vibrations of air on the ear drum and make it vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted by a chain of little bones in the middle ear to the inner ear. There they stimulate the fibers of the auditory nerve to transmit impulses to the brain.

Ear Wax (Cerumen)

A natural wax-like substance secreted by special glands in the skin on the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water, and traps dust and sand particles. Usually a small amount of wax accumulates, and then dries up and falls out of the ear canal carrying with it unwanted particles. Ear wax is helpful in normal amounts and serves to coat the skin of the ear canal where it acts as a temporary water repellent. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection.


The tympanic membrane of the ear, or tympanum, the membrane that separates the middle ear from the external ear.

Aliases: Tympanic Membrane; Tympanum

An earmold is a device worn inserted into the outer ear for sound conduction and/or ear protection. Earmolds are anatomically shaped and can be produced in different sizes for general use or specially cast as a custom-fit. As a conductor, it improves sound transmission to eardrums. This is an essential feature to diminish feedback paths in hearing aids and assure better intelligibility in noisy-environments. The main goal in wearing earmolds is to attain better user comfort and efficiency. Earmolds (and their tubes) often turn yellow and stiff with age, and thus need replacement on a regular basis. As children grow, their earmolds will have to be adjusted/recast, as well.

ENT specialist

An ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) is a physician trained in the medical and surgical treatment of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.


A term that describes what occurs when too much amplified sound escapes from the ear and is picked up by the microphone of the hearing aid causing a high-pitched whistling sound. The whistling persists until turning down the gain control reduces the amplification of the hearing aid.


The process of spelling words with the hand(s) using specific hand shapes that represent each letter.


Frequency is the number of sound vibrations per second; expressed in Hertz (Hz), corresponding to the pitch of sound.


Having to do with genes and genetic information.

Genetic Disease

A disease caused by an abnormality in an individual's genome (genetic makeup).

Hard of Hearing (HOH)

The term used to describe a degree of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound for which a person usually receives some benefit from amplification. Most people who are hard of hearing are oralists (communicate by using their voice), although a small number learn sign language. Usually they participate in society by using their residual hearing with hearing aids, speech reading, and assistive devices to facilitate communication.

Aliases: HOH
Hearing Aid

An instrument that amplifies sound to assist persons with hearing loss. They are distinguished by where they are worn: in the ear (ITE), in the canal (ITC), completely in the canal (CIC), behind the ear (BTE),or on the body.

Hearing Impaired

This term, considered politically correct, is used by the media and society in general to refer to people with a hearing loss. Within the Deaf Culture, the term “hearing impaired” is often thought of as offensive.
It suggests that Deaf people are “broken” or “inferior” because they cannot hear instead of simply being different.

Aliases: HI
Hearing Loss

The difference between the level of sound that can just be heard by an individual with hearing loss and a standard level that has been determined by averaging measurements from a group of young hearing people. It is usually expressed in decibels.


Of unknown cause. Any disease that is of uncertain or unknown origin may be termed idiopathic. For example, acute idiopathic polyneuritis , diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis , idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis , idiopathic scoliosis , etc.

Inner Ear

That part of the ear, particularly the cochlea, that converts mechanical vibrations (sound) into neural messages that are sent to the brain.


Refers to people who became deaf post-lingually (after learning to speak), and were raised in the hearing community. Most late-deafened people do not learn sign language.

Aliases: LD
Lip reading

see speech reading

Aliases: Speech reading
Manually Coded English

is a general term used to describe a variety of visual/manual communication methods expressed through the hands which attempt to represent the English language.

Aliases: MCE
Menier's Disease

a disorder of the inner ear that can cause vertigo, nausea, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and fluctuating hearing loss. Any of these symptoms, if severe enough, can cause a temporary or prolonged disruption of normal home, social, and work activity.


Missing or deformed outer ear.

Middle Ear

That part of the ear that conducts sound to the inner ear, consisting of the eardrum (tympanic membrane), middle ear bones (ossicle), and the cavity containing them.


see oral hearing loss

Oral Deaf

This term refers to people who are born deaf or become deaf prelingually, but are taught to speak and do not typically use American Sign Language for communication.

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