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Classroom accommodations for children with hearing loss

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Hearing loss in children can vary from minimal  to profound. Unfortunately, some children struggle in classroom settings for years due to undetected hearing problems. If you’re a teacher or work with groups of children, you can facilitate learning success for your hard-of-hearing students by equipping them with the tools they need to learn. Here’s a guide to the subtle signs of hearing loss and some techniques to support your hearing-impaired students.

Signs of hearing impairment in children

Hearing impairment involves more than just experiencing sounds at a lower volume. Some forms of hearing loss can make normal background noises more distracting and overwhelming. Teachers and other adults working with children should be able to detect behaviours that indicate a child has trouble hearing. Some common signs of hearing impairment include:

  • Unclear or minimal speech
  • Failure to follow directions or apparent lack of attention
  • Requests to have information repeated
  • Inability to hear sounds like the school bell or public address (PA) system
  • Learning difficulties

Children with profound hearing loss often get support more readily than those with lesser degrees of hearing loss. Although minimal to moderate hearing loss may seem less problematic on the surface, failure to detect it can lead to more widespread complications for the child’s educational progress and social development.

How does a hard-of-hearing student feel in the classroom?

If a child is born with hearing difficulties, they may not even know that they perceive sounds differently from their classmates. Without a proper diagnosis, they may experience learning difficulties and lack the understanding to explain to their teachers and parents that the problem is with their hearing.

The signs listed above make it clear that many indicators of hearing loss can be mistaken for behavioural problems. A hard-of-hearing child may go a long time without having their hearing problem detected. The perception of a child as inattentive or difficult can cause the child to feel isolated and potentially even make them a target of bullying. These formative experiences can lead to long-term social and emotional challenges.

Teaching students with hearing loss

When you know you have a student with hearing difficulties — or even if you suspect it — you can then make accommodations in the classroom to create an environment more conducive to learning for the student who is hearing impaired. Here are a few tips.

  • Reduce background noise. Environmental sounds like street traffic or furnace blowers can create outside interference for a hearing-impaired child and make it impossible for them to hear your voice. Keep windows and doors closed and turn off unnecessary appliances to minimize background noise.
  • Add visual aids. Incorporate strategies to supplement your spoken teaching with visual cues and materials. Use resources like whiteboards, charts and typed notes to accompany your lectures. Ensure your face is visible to the hearing-impaired student, and use expressions and gestures to emphasize your words. Before starting to speak, be sure to get the student’s attention.
  • Allow for adaptive seating arrangements. To enable more accurate hearing and better visibility, give your students with hearing loss the freedom to sit wherever they feel they can best receive the information.
  • Repeat and rephrase. Give the student multiple ways of receiving verbal information. Repetition gives a student the opportunity to become familiar with critical words and phrases. Rephasing information in various verbal formulations helps make concepts more accessible to the student and lets them hear the same information presented in different ways.
  • Pre-teach new ideas. Preparing a student for new concepts is an excellent way to equip them for their classes. If your classroom has a support person like a speech-language pathologist, provide them with the lesson material so they can integrate it into their one-on-one work.
  • Do comprehension check-ins. Don’t simply ask whether the student understands — that question gets an easy “yes.” Formulate questions to elicit a concrete demonstration of their understanding. Ask the student to tell you what they’ve learned or provide their own questions about the topic. To help the student feel safe, you could agree on a signal they can use to discreetly indicate when they need a little extra help understanding.

In addition to incorporating these modifications for a hard-of-hearing student in your classroom, it’s important to be familiar with any assistive technologies they use. Learn how to use, verify and troubleshoot their devices correctly.

Hearing supports for students of all ages in Alberta

Whether you’re a student or the parent of a school-aged child, the audiologists and hearing aid specialists at Soundwave Hearing Care are here to help you maximize your learning experience. We conduct hearing tests and comprehensive hearing assessments for adults and children and can recommend assistive technologies to improve your hearing experience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

All the blogs are reviewed and edited by our clinic's lead audiologist, Dr. Anne Wooliams. Dr. Woolliams is an experienced audiologist specialized in pediatric audiology, auditory processing, and tinnitus/sound sensitivity therapy. She is dedicated to providing top-notch hearing care and helping her clients improve their language and communication abilities. Dr. Woolliams' expertise in literature and linguistics, combined with her passion for helping people improve their language and communication, make her an incredibly valuable asset in the field of audiology. Learn more about Dr. Woolliams.