The Use of Audiological Classification Systems

Barry Wright, Danielle Collingridge-Moore, Josie Smith, Tim Richardson


The classification of deafness is used in audiological departments internationally. Reports are made about the levels of deafness and profiles of individual clients. These are used in many services throughout the world as thresholds to boundary access to services. Thresholds are also commonly applied in research methodologies.

This paper highlights the large variation between classification systems of hearing loss. This has wide ranging implications for access to services and the interpretation of research findings. Six commonly used classification systems of hearing impairment use the same descriptive terms (e.g. ‘mild’, ‘moderate’, ‘severe’, and ‘profound’) but all six apply differing decibel threshold criteria to define these terms.

This paper argues that practitioners, researchers, policy makers and service users need to have greater awareness of these differences and how they are used to gate keep services. Improved systems for gate keeping services should be developed. Audiological thresholds should be a small part of more holistic approaches including assessments of communication, sensory profiles, environmental assessment and any quality of life consequences.

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