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Hearing loss has two basic causes. There can be a problem with the structures that carry the sound through the ear to the brain or there can be a problem with the organ of hearing or the nerve of hearing. You may lose your hearing as the result of illness, injury, aging, heredity, or by excessive noise exposure like listening to an MP3 player or iPod™ at high volumes.

Someone who is hard of hearing has mild to moderate hearing loss and is able to rely on hearing to communicate. They may use a hearing aide to help with hearing.

Someone who is deaf is not able to hear well enough to rely on hearing to communicate- a lower case d is used for the word deaf when talking about the definition of the hearing loss. Deaf with an upper case D refers to the group of people who are deaf and who share sign language and a culture and a community.

People in the News

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin is an actor who won an Academy Award for playing Sara in the movie, Children of a Lesser God and appeared on Dancing With the Stars. Marlee has been deaf since the age of 18 months. She is able to read lips and speak but she often has an interpreter who uses sign language to help her communicate.

Being deaf has never stopped Marlee from doing the things she wants to do. She says, “I have always resisted putting limitations on myself, both professionally and personally.”

Learn more about Marlee