Hearing loss can affect a child mildly or in a very profound way. Profound hearing loss may mean that a child is “deaf.” Kids are born with hearing loss or can lose their hearing through injuries, infections, or long exposure to loud noises.
Signs that a child has hearing loss include:
having limited or unclear speech
not following directions or paying attention
hearing only parts of a conversation; asking for information to be repeated
not being able to hear everyday sounds, like a school bell or morning announcements
Hearing loss can be temporary. But when it’s not, there are technologies, therapies, and other treatments to help. Devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants can improve a child’s ability to hear. Learning sign language or speech reading can also make it easier to communicate.
What Teachers Can Do
Educators, audiologists (experts who diagnose and treat hearing problems), speech therapists, parents, and students with hearing loss can work together to create an educational plan. This may include setting up an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan to help kids reach their full potential. Plans may include a classroom aide or interpreter to assist with communication and more. As a child grows, this plan will change.
To support students in your classroom:
Make seating changes. Kids with hearing loss may need to sit closer to the front of the class to speech read (read lips) or hear more clearly. Also consider arranging chairs in your classroom in a U-shape or circle so that students with hearing loss can better interact with classmates.
Minimize background noise when possible. This may mean finding quiet areas for a student to work.
Use an FM system. This device helps a child with hearing loss or listening problems hear their teachers better in a noisy classroom. To use the system, a teacher wears a microphone/transmitter and the student wears the receiver, which amplifies sound.
Face students when you speak. Most students with hearing loss can speech read to some extent. To help them, face them when you talk, talk slowly and clearly, and don't yell. As long as they have their devices on, you can speak in a normal tone.
Use lots of pictures, graphics, and text labels. Many students with hearing trouble are visual learners.
Use technology to make learning easier. This includes having real-time captioning on any videos used in the classroom and using voice-recognition software on computers. For more ideas, ask the student’s family, the audiologist, or special education teacher.
Have a plan for missed instruction, assignments, and testing. Students with a hearing difficulty may miss class time to go to doctor visits. Know how the student will make up for missed time.
Talk about and celebrate differences. Students with hearing loss want to be accepted like everyone else. But sometimes they’re targeted by others who see them as “different.” Talk about and celebrate differences, and focus on the interests that kids share. Be mindful of bullying, and keep a zero-tolerance policy for that behavior.
Encourage participation in classroom activities, physical education, and extracurricular activities.
By addressing special needs and offering support when needed, you can help students with hearing loss learn as best as possible.