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Definitions

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act (P.L. 94-142), includes “hearing impairment” and “deafness” as two of the categories under which children with disabilities may be eligible for special education and related service programming. While the term “hearing impairment” is often used generically to describe a wide range of hearing losses, including deafness, the regulations for IDEA define hearing loss and deafness separately.

Hearing impairment is defined by IDEA as “an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

Deafness is defined as “a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.”

Thus, deafness may be viewed as a condition that prevents an individual from receiving sound in all or most of its forms. In contrast, a child with a hearing loss can generally respond to auditory stimuli, including speech.

Adapted from information published by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

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