Hearing impairments can be caused by: the aging process, birth defects, certain medication, ear wax, head trauma or head injuries, heredity, middle ear infections, prolonged or repeated exposure to loud noises, tumors, or viral infections. Students with hearing impairments do not “overhear” directions that adults give to others with normal hearing ability. It is important to provide adequate auditory stimulation so that students with some auditory perception have a chance to develop their auditory skills.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
- Slight Loss: These students may have problems with faint or distant speech. They may miss teacher instructions if given too quickly or if the classroom is noisy. The lowest sounds students with slight hearing loss can perceive are 15-25 dB.
- Mild Loss: These students may have difficulty understanding normal speech. Their speech may be delayed, however, it can develop normally with proper treatment. These students may miss much of class discussions in noisy settings. They may use a hearing aid or FM trainer. The lowest sounds students with mild hearing loss can perceive are 25-40 dB.
- Moderate Loss: These students may have difficulty understanding loud normal speech. They will often have speech delay and articulation problems. These students may have a hearing aid and an FM trainer. They may also have speech and language therapy. The lowest sounds students with moderate hearing loss can perceive are 40-60 dB.
- Severe Loss: These students can only hear very loud speech. Their speech may be delayed and their vocabulary may be limited. These students may have abnormal speech, and will have articulation difficulties. They will have a hearing aid as well as speech and language therapy. They may need individualized instruction. The lowest sounds students with severe hearing loss can perceive are 60-90 dB.
- Profound Loss or Deafness: These students will not be able to understand speech, even with the use of a hearing aid. They obtain most information visually. They have severe speech and language differences and may need to use sign language. The lowest sounds students with profound hearing loss or deafness can perceive are above 90 dB.
Other characteristics of students with hearing differences
- The student is delayed in acquiring speech.
- The student has a history of ear infections.
- The student displays speech articulation problems.
- The student watches the teacher intently during instruction.
- The student often asks the teacher to repeat words.
- The student consistently turns one side of her head to the source of sound.
- The student speaks very loudly or softly.
- The student gives irrelevant or unusual responses to questions.
- The student holds her hand behind her ear when listening.
- The student does not seem to hear a person talking from behind her.
- The student does not turn in reaction to loud noise.
Teaching Strategies for students with hearing differences
- Do not touch a student with a hearing impairment to get his or her attention. If you speak to the student first, he or she will become conditioned to hear your voice as a signal. If you act as though you expect the student to hear, he or she will become conditioned to listen.
- Provide the student with an outline and vocabulary lists before introducing new material. Encourage the student to preview the information at home before the lesson is presented.
- Keep within a close range of the student. Sound decreases in power rapidly if the speaker is more than six to ten feet away. For good sound production, stay close to the student and speak in a normal, conversational tone.
- If the student is wearing a hearing aid or using an FM trainer, move closer to the student rather than raise your voice to be heard.
- Provide adequate auditory stimulation with many repetitions of the auditory patterns you wish the student to learn. For a child to perceive auditory patterning, the pattern must be repeated many times in a variety of contexts. This means that practice time should provide ample opportunities for the student to listen for new words, phrases, or sentence patterns you wish to teach.
- Give the student time to respond. Listening is temporal and requires auditory processing within the brain. Do not rush an answer if you think the student can respond correctly without help. If the student has trouble maintaining attention to what he or she has hear, however, guide the student to the correct response and then repeat the word (or phrase) again.
- Provide pictorial representations of material taught to facilitate learning for a student with a hearing impairment.
- Stand still and in clear view of students. This facilitates lipreading.
- Visually model instrumental and vocal techniques for students with hearing impairments.
- Let the student know when another student is talking by pointing to the speaker or saying her name.
- Repeat questions asked by other students, especially if they are sitting behind the hearing-impaired student.
- Periodically summarize main points of instruction during class.
- Have the student teach the class some sign language if that is a predominant form of communication.
- Find another student in the class to be a “buddy” or “helper” to the student with hearing differences. If notes are taken in class, have the buddy copy or photocopy notes for the student.
- Try to show videos/movies that are captioned or have an optimal sound system available. If these are not possible, providing the student with a script of the video/movie will facilitate understanding. Many FM trainers can connect to the audio output of a projector or VCR.
John Tracy Clinic - free services worldwide for parents and infants of preschool children with hearing loss.
Text to signs software at Comm Tech Lab, Michigan State University