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Monitor Your Child’s Hearing Loss in School

Know What to Look for and What to Ask

Has your child been diagnosed with a hearing loss? Has he been prescribed hearing aids to be worn at school? Does her teacher know how to make the appropriate accommodations so she will achieve the same academic level as her peers?

Studies have indicated that teachers tend to underestimate the needs of children with hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found that teachers rarely receive enough training to work with such students, including monitoring amplification devices. Children who are hard of hearing are at risk for language delays – the more severe the hearing loss, the greater risk of language and communication difficulties. Teachers and other school personnel need to be well educated about the needs of children with hearing loss, and they must have the same high expectations for the success of all children.

hearing loss

What must parents and teachers be aware of in the school environment? Why are we seeing language delays in many children who wear hearing aids? Because not all children with hearing loss have adequate access to hearing oral language at school. Research has identified three primary factors influencing this:

  1. Hearing aids must boost audibility (the ability to hear speech) enough, beginning as soon as the hearing loss is detected. Teachers must watch, listen and monitor each child closely, looking for signs each day that will give clues as to whether the child is listening and hearing adults and peers. If a child with hearing aids is not listening, the problem may be as simple as changing the batteries in the amplification device.

  2. Children must wear their hearing aids more than 10 hours each day – this means throughout the entire school day. Many young children fuss about wearing aids, but it is essential that parents and teachers monitor hearing aid use and stress to the child the importance of hearing all sounds.

  3. Adults (parents, teachers and caregivers) must speak to children with hearing loss with the same complexity of language that they would use with other children. Using simplified, directive talk (“sit down,” “come,” “get ball”) is not modeling and expanding the language the child needs for good linguistic development.

Even with adequate acoustics in the classroom, your child needs extra visual supports. Classrooms can be noisy, with reverberation and background noise that makes it difficult to hear even without a hearing loss. Your child should be seated in the quietest area of the classroom, and teachers need to make instruction more visible.

  • When giving directions, teachers should also write instructions on the board.
  • Teachers should face the child and make sure the teacher has the child’s attention.
  • There should be enough light on the instructor so the child can easily pick up on gestures, facial expressions and visual aids.
  • Videotapes and films should be closed-captioned and/or the child should be given notes or other visual representations of the content.
  • Teachers should use chalkboards, smart boards, overhead projectors, diagrams, charts, photos, objects, etc. in addition to clearly spoken language.
  • One person at a time should speak during discussions, and that person should wait to make sure your child is attending to the speaker.
  • Teachers should allow extra time for the child to transition from attention to a speaker to finding written material during lessons.

Also, if your child wears hearing aids with caregivers, in preschool, or in elementary school, be sure to have regular conferences with the adults in that setting. It is not enough for teachers and caregivers to know that a child wears hearing aids and that the aids should be amplifying sound at the correct level for learning. Daily monitoring by parents and other adults is crucial for learning and language development. Don’t feel funny about being overly watchful and vigilant during the critical early years. It’s what great parents do.