Staefa, Switzerland, February 20, 2014
Being able to hear the teacher clearly is vital to learning and academic success. This is no small feat for children with hearing loss. If a hearing impairment remains undiscovered in a child of school age or if the learning environment is not adapted to the hearing challenges, then not only can this impede learning, but it can also affect the child’s emotional well-being. It is therefore important that hearing loss is detected and treated early in school children.
If hearing loss is not detected and treated, the affected students face huge challenges every day: “They will experience difficulty in hearing and understanding their teachers, which in turn will be a barrier to educational progress in line with their peers,” said Christine Jones, AuD, who is the Director of Pediatric Clinical Research at Phonak. the global leader in hearing technology, This is not surprising when you consider that, with a noise levels of 60-80 decibels in the classroom , even children with normal hearing sometimes find it difficult to make out what their teacher is saying.”
Along with comparatively poor performance at school, headaches and emotional stress are also symptoms associated with undetected hearing loss. “Children with undetected or untreated hearing loss may exhibit behaviors wrongly associated with attention issues or discipline problems, just because they are not hearing well,” explained Jones. “Children may unnecessarily feel isolated and misunderstood because of it.”
Choosing the right school for my child
“There is no single “right” educational path for children with hearing loss, this is something that parents should seek professional advice on,” says Max Dimpflmeier who teaches both inclusive and mainstream classes at the Gisela-Gymnasium school in Munich and who himself has profound hearing loss. Hearing care support is available from schools, state education and advisory centers, associations and self-help groups, among others. Parents are encouraged to also seek the opinion of a pediatric audiologist, a pediatrician or an ENT physician. “When choosing a suitable school, parents should consider the different options and individual needs of their child as well as the degree of hearing loss, since both overloading and under-stimulation can lead to frustration. It’s also important to give the child a say in the decision,” explained Dimpflmeier.
Children with hearing loss may be supported in various types of educational environments. In the United States most children with hearing loss are educated in an inclusive or mainstream environment. This means that while they may receive supplemental aids and support services, the child attends school with typically developing classmates. In some cases students in the mainstream classroom may receive sign or captioning support, they may only be mainstreamed for certain classes during the day and may use the wireless microphone system to improve access to auditory instruction.
While the Individual with Disabilities Act in the United States requires that children are educated in the least restrictive environment, some children’s needs are best met in a special school or classroom. In this case the child may attend school where the room, equipment and skills of the teacher are specialized for children with hearing loss. For example, if the child primarily uses manual communication such as American Sign Language, their goals may be best met in a classroom with a fluent teacher and other children communicating through the same modality.
What kinds of technological aids are available for students?
If a child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, child-friendly hearing aids can help: they are particularly robust and tailored to the needs of children at different stages of their childhood. Wireless Microphone systems can be used in the classroom to enhance the effectiveness of hearing aids. They consist of a microphone, which is worn by the teacher, and a receiver attached to the child’s hearing aid. This allows the child with hearing difficulties to understand their teacher well from a distance, even in classrooms with background noise. Soundfield Systems offer another solution for improvement in a classroom. They amplify the teacher’s voice through a speaker to improve classroom acoustics and overcome background noise. For those students wearing personal FM systems, they can use a FM microphone to enhance their hearing ability.
“Thanks to the range of educational opportunities and modern technical solutions, children with hearing loss today have the possibility to actively master school life despite their hearing loss,” says Jones.
Helpful tips for parents of students with hearing loss
- Parents should identify unusual behavior at school or concentration difficulties as soon as possible and determine if hearing loss could be the cause.
- If a hearing impairment is diagnosed, hearing aids should be fitted promptly by a pediatric audiologist. These should be equipped with an FM/Roger function.
- If opting for a mainstream school, a few points should first be clarified with the classroom teacher: the student in question should sit as close to the front as possible (for better comprehension / lip reading where applicable) and the teacher should use an FM/Roger system.
- Speech or music therapy can also provide additional support for the child. As well as enhancing the child’s verbal and communication skills, this can also promote reading and writing skills.