The Psychology of Hearing Loss

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The psychology of hearing loss brings together many different subdisciplines of psychology, including neurophysiology, perception, cognition, and mental health. Hearing loss is defined clinically in terms of pure-tone audiometric thresholds: the lowest sound pressure levels that an individual can detect when listening for pure tones at various frequencies. Audiometric thresholds can be elevated by damage to the sensitive hair cells of the cochlea (the hearing part of the inner ear) caused by aging, ototoxic drugs, noise exposure, or disease. This damage can also cause reductions in frequency selectivity (the ability of the ear to separate out the different frequency components of sounds) and abnormally rapid growth of loudness with sound level. However, hearing loss is a heterogeneous condition and audiometric thresholds are relatively insensitive to many of the disorders that affect real-world listening ability. Hair cell loss and damage to the auditory nerve can occur before audiometric thresholds are affected. Dysfunction of neurons in the auditory brainstem as a consequence of aging is associated with deficits in processing the rapid temporal fluctuations in sounds, causing difficulties in sound localization and in speech and music perception. The impact of hearing loss on an individual can be profound and includes problems in communication (particularly in noisy environments), social isolation, and depression. Hearing loss may also be an important contributor to age-related cognitive decline and dementia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology
EditorsIngrid Johnsrude
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9780190236557
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2022


  • Hearing loss
  • Ageing
  • Noise exposure
  • Auditory temporal coding
  • Speech perception
  • Tinnitus
  • Mental health
  • Dementia


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