The terms 'hard of hearing', 'deaf' and 'hearing impaired' cover a wide range of conditions which affect a child’s listening ability and often their educational and social development.
This is caused by problems in the outer or middle ear which prevent the sound from being ‘conducted’ to the inner ear and hearing nerves. The hearing may fluctuate and may affect one or both ears to varying degrees.
Conductive problems generally affect the quantity (loudness only) of the sound that is heard. It is usually medically or surgically treatable.
A common cause of conductive loss in children is middle ear infection.
This type of hearing loss is due to a problem in the cochlea (the sensory part of the ear) or the hearing nerve (the neural part). It can be acquired or be present at birth. There is usually a loss of clarity as well as loudness, i.e. the quality and the quantity of the sound is affected.
NOTE: It is possible to have both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss. This type of loss is called a mixed hearing loss.
The following suggestions may help teachers overcome some of the difficulties hearing impaired children typically experience in the classroom situation.
Make sure the hearing impaired student is attending (not just listening) when you begin new work, when you ask a question, or when you give out a job.
Check that the student has understood instructions, e.g. by repeating what was just said.
It may be helpful to have a responsible peer share their notes with the hearing impaired student and to fill the student in when some direction or discussion is missed.
People with a hearing impairment cannot block out background noise like those with normal hearing.
Take steps to reduce the amount of noise in the classroom, such as minimising movement around the class and encouraging the students to be quiet during important teaching times. Try to seat the student away from noise (e.g. a noisy child or open window).
Reading ahead on a topic or some other form of preparation will allow the hearing impaired student to 'tune into' the subject and follow discussion more easily.
If the student did not understand, try saying the same thing another way. Encourage the student to admit when they don’t understand, as many will be reluctant to do so.
Don’t expect continuous attention on the hearing impaired student’s part. Remember, they have to work harder to listen than their normal hearing peers and the concentration required to hear can be very tiring.
Watch the socialisation of the hearing impaired student with their peers. Encourage a positive acceptance of the student by other children.
Support the use of hearing aids or other listening systems that may be used. Routinely check they are being worn as recommended and that they are working correctly.
If the child wears a hearing aid, they will be under the care of an Australian Hearing audiologist who is there to offer support and advice to teachers. The audiologist can help you understand the child’s hearing loss and aided ability, explain how to best communicate with the student, discuss hearing aids and other devices which help them hear, and provide inservice training and informative reports.
Last Reviewed: 17 August 2005