The emphasis of deafness research has been to understand the consequences of permanent hearing loss. However, auditory processing deficits are associated with even a transient period of hearing loss during childhood, and these deficits may persist for years, long after normal audibility is restored. One explanation for the persistence of auditory processing deficits is that transient hearing loss causes irreversible changes to cellular properties within the central auditory system that lead to degraded stimulus encoding. I will present evidence supporting these assertions. Following a transient period of mild hearing loss during development, we find long-lasting impairments of synaptic and membrane properties within the gerbil auditory cortex, and an identical manipulation leads to cortical encoding and perceptual deficits. However, perceptual performance can improve with training, suggesting that these neural deficits may not constrain perceptual abilities. In contrast, we find that transient hearing loss increases the risk of persistent deficits, even in trained animals. One possibility is that transient hearing loss leads to long-lasting impairments to areas downstream of auditory cortex that are associated with learning. In fact, synaptic transmission in one such downstream target, the auditory striatum, fails to develop properly following a brief period of hearing loss. Taken together, the results suggest that both sensory and non-sensory mechanisms are disrupted by a brief period of deprivation, and these neural deficits increase the likelihood of long-term behavioral problems.