Also Known As: Hearing Loss, Deafness, Loss of Hearing
Hearing sensitivity is indicated by the quietest sound that an animal can detect, called the hearing threshold. In the case of humans and some animals, this threshold can be accurately measured by a behavioral audiogram. A record is made of the quietest sound that consistently prompts a response from the listener. The test is carried out for sounds of different frequencies. There are also electro-physiological tests that can be performed without requiring a behavioral response.
Normal hearing thresholds within any given species are not the same for all frequencies. If different frequencies of sound are played at the same amplitude, some will be perceived as loud, and others quiet or even completely inaudible. Generally, if the gain or amplitude is increased, a sound is more likely to be perceived. Ordinarily, when animals use sound to communicate, hearing in that type of animal is most sensitive for the frequencies produced by calls, or in the case of humans, speech. All levels of the auditory system contribute to this sensitivity toward certain frequencies, from the outer ear's physical characteristics to the nerves and tracts that convey the nerve impulses of the auditory portion of the brain.
A hearing loss exists when an animal has diminished sensitivity to the sounds normally heard by its species. In humans, the term hearing impairment is usually reserved for people who have relative insensitivity to sound in the speech frequencies. The severity of a hearing loss is categorized according to the increase in volume that must be made above the usual level before the listener can detect it. In profound deafness, even the loudest sounds that can be produced by an audiometer (an instrument used to measure hearing) may not be detected.Totally Deaf comes next after profoundly deaf, these will have no reading at all.
Another aspect to hearing involves the perceived clarity of a sound rather than its amplitude. In humans, that aspect is usually measured by tests of speech perception. These tests measure one's ability to understand speech, not to merely detect sound. There are very rare types of hearing impairments which affect speech understanding alone.