Children with Hearing Loss

Parents often have many questions when they learn that their child has a hearing loss. Among the most frequent is, “What happens with their education?” The answers to that question are dependent on several factors: the degree of the child’s hearing loss, the child’s age, and the effect of the hearing loss on the child’s life. The recommendations may include:

 
1.  Preferential Seating In School - This means that the child’s seat is at the most optimum place in the classroom for listening. The child should be moved to a location where he/she will be closest to the teacher for the majority of the time spent in the classroom. He or she should also be placed as far away as possible from the source of noise, such as a door to a hallway, open windows, noisy ductwork, humming computers, or pencil sharpeners.
   
2.  Establish A “Buddy” System - This may be more applicable to older students who have homework assignments, in class assignments, or projects that may be misunderstood. If the child has special “buddy” that he/she can double check the assignment with, the misunderstandings can be kept to a minimum.
   
3.  FM System / Auditory Trainer - These devices not only are extremely helpful to students who have a hearing loss that is not severe enough to justify wearing hearing aids. Students with more severe hearing losses wear these, as well. FM systems work just like the radio station in your car: a signal is picked up by a microphone, turned into a radio signal, and transmitted by antenna. The radio signal is then picked up by an antenna on a receiver, which turns the radio signal back into an auditory signal. The child’s teacher wears the transmitter, which is the size of a deck of cards, with a microphone that clips to the clothing, near the teacher’s mouth. The child has receiver that picks up the signal. There are several types of receivers. The most commonly used are:
 
  • Head set: These are just like the cushioned headsets that are on portable radio/tape systems (like the Walkman).
  • Speaker: The child has a small speaker, (about 5” wide, 9” high, and 7” deep) that sits on the desk. The signal then plays through the speaker.
  • Hearing Aid Neckloop: Students with hearing aids can plug a neckloop into the receiver and put their aids on a special setting that picks up an electromagnetic signal from the neckloop.

The main advantages of an FM system to the students are an increase in loudness and a reduction in background noise. The advantages to the teacher include the ability to maintain their natural teaching style and reduce vocal effort and fatigue.

4.  Teacher Education - Many teachers are uninformed about the effect of even a mild hearing loss on a child’s education and what they can do to help the child. An audiologist can speak to the teacher about better communication techniques in the classroom such as clear speech, preferential seating, proper use of an FM system, and getting the child’s attention before saying something important.
 
5.  Hearing Aid- This is an option that has to be carefully weighed. Many factors go into this decision. They include: the degree of the hearing loss, the effect of the hearing loss on the child’s speech development, social life, and education, the child’s age, in what situation that child is being educated (i.e. home schooling, preschool, middle school, private vs. public), the parent’s attitudes and feelings, and the child’s attitude and feelings.

No matter which option(s) are taken, there are some other things to remember. It will be important for the parents to monitor their child for signs of changing hearing levels, a decrease in academic performance, or a slowing of speech or language development. It is recommended that the child have his/her hearing tested at least once a year. Finally, it is important that the child be instructed to wear hearing protection when in an excessively noisy situation.


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