Hearing Impairments
By: Melanie Tangunan

Thomas is in the second grade. His school year has been filled with many challenges. Thomas just moved to a new school and had to face making new friends. He has a had a tough time doing this. He seems to get left out during recess time. Many of the students in his class complain that Thomas "ignores them" and does not pay attention to what they are saying. In the classroom, Thomas seems to always be lost and unaware of what is going on. Often times the teacher has repeat directions and instructions. He has a short attention span. During a fire drill, Thomas continued to read his book when all of the other students were alarmed by the commotion. It was then that his teacher suggested that he get his hearing checked.

A hearing Impairment is the term used to describe one’s decreased ability to hear and discriminate sounds. Hearing loss can range from mild to total deafness. Hearing loss can be present at birth or happen progressively. Depending on the severity of the hearing impairment, corrective measures such as medical treatments and the use of hearing aids can help those with hearing impairments improve their ability to hear.

Experience what it is like to be Hearing Impaired: Hearing Loss Simulator

There are three types of hearing impairments:
  • conductive hearing loss – this term usually refers to a temporary interference with the reception of sound from the outer ear to the middle or inner ear
  • sensorineural hearing impairment – this term refers to something that is found to be permanently abnormal in cochlear hair cells of the inner ear, auditory nerve, or auditory center of the brain.
  • mixed hearing impairment – this term refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural impairments

Learn about the Different Types of Hearing Loss: Types of Hearing Loss

In America, approximately 12,000 infants are born each year with some degree of hearing impairment. Three out of every 1,000 children are born with significant hearing impairment. Of these children, about 65% of them are born deaf; 12 percent become deaf before the age of three. The rest have a measurable hearing impairment in one or both ears.

Continuum of severity or extent possible in youngsters
In individual with normal hearing has the ability to hear sounds in the range of 0-25 decibels (dB). Hearing impairments range from “mild” to “total deafness” and are classified in the following degrees:
  • Mild –refers to an individual who hears sounds from 25-40 dB. Distant sounds are difficult to hear. Usually speech and conversation are not affected.
  • Moderate –refers to an individual who hears sounds from 41–70 dB. One’s ability to form sounds and hear normal conversation is affected.
  • Severe - refers to an individual who hears sounds from 71–90 dB. In this case, a hearing aid would be necessary to hear conversations.
  • Profound – refers to an individual who can hear only hear sounds above 90 dB. A hearing aid may be helpful, but one’s speech and word articulation is affected.
  • Total Deafness – refers to an individual who cannot process any sound.

Characteristics of Students with Hearing Impairments
  • delayed language development: (slower vocabulary development)
  • social isolation (due to difficulty picking up social auditory cues)
  • responds to noises instead of words
  • uses gestures ear_check.jpg
  • lack of attention
  • difficulty in following directions
  • imitates others
  • reluctant to participate orally
  • delays in motor abilities
  • turning one ear toward the speaker

How is this disability identified? List assessments

  • Evoked Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test – This assessment detects an echo emitted by the inner ear in response to sound. This echo is produced only if the inner ear is healthy and is functioning normally.
  • Automated auditory brainstem response (ABR) test – This assessment monitors brainstem responses to sounds through the use of small electrodes that are taped to an individual’s head. Another name for this assessment is the Brainstem Auditory-Evoked Response (BAER) test.
  • The ears may be examined with instruments such as the otoscope.
  • Acoustical Impedance Tests identify if there are problems in the middle ear.
  • McCormick Toy Discrimination Test – In this assessment a child is asked to identify words that sound similar.

How do these learners receive their education?
Learners with hearing impairments can receive their education like any other student. Depending on the severity of the impairment, accommodations such as the use of assistive devices will be needed to be used and put into practice. Reliance on tactile/kinesthetic and visual methods is primary avenues used for learning.

What are best educational practices? Strategies for Curriculum and Instruction:
The best practices are those that involve using other available senses as a means to teach and experience the world. Here are some strategies that educators can apply to their curriculum and instruction: sign_language.jpg

  • - Using numerous methods of communication (guestures, lip reading, finger spelling,
  • American Sign Language, etc.)
  • - Use frequent tactile/kinesthetic experiences to teach.
  • -- Provide plenty of visual information (readings, text, charts, graphs, pictures, etc.)

Assistive technology

  • Wireless internet
  • CDs,DVDs, and ebooks
  • Large Print/Screen Magnification Hardware and Software function
  • Assistive sound amplification systems
  • Captioning displays ( Captioning allows viewers to follow spoken dialogue or narration by reading text)
  • Hearing Aids
  • Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD)- A The device that uses a keyboard and a small screen that allows students to communicate.

See how assistive devices are used in a classroom: Hearing Loss in the Classroom

Accommodations: teacher.jpg
  • Utilizing email for class discussions.
  • Use visual signals
  • Inviting a sign language interpreter
  • When speaking, make sure that students can see your lips move.
  • Avoid pacing and moving when teaching.
  • Speak clearly and at a normal rate
  • Use visual aids
  • Provide written material such as class assignments, deadlines, outlines, summaries, etc.
  • When explaining new concepts, write key words on the board.

Inclusive Practices
  • Provide for front-row seating
  • If an interpreter is used, speak directly to the student, not the interpreter.
  • Use the peer/buddy system.
  • Repeat questions/remarks of others.
  • Minimize loud or distracting noises.
  • Utilize assistive technology.
  • Create experiences

Special Challenges for General Education

For children with hearing loss, no matter how good the technology or the accommodations, they are dealing with a damaged hearing system. This communication, making friends, and learning a challenge.

Wraparound Services:
There are wraparound services available through community organizations, early childhood educational systems/local school districts, and health institutions. Organizations specifically designed to provide services for the deaf and such as teaching of American Sign Language or providing interpreters.

Impact: Is this a school issue or life issue - Why?
Since hearing affects how one learns and communicates with the world, it is both a school and a life issue. Hearing impairments can impact a child’s social development. Many children whose hearing is compromised have a harder time making friendships since communication relies so much on hearing. Many hearing impaired individuals choose not to cooperate in play or other social activities. Additionally, the educational process is a bit more challenging for students which can lead to low motivation to learn and succeed.
In the big picture of life, communication is a necessity. Hearing impaired individuals can face many challenges in areas that involve communication such as careers and relationships.

Successful Individuals with a Hearing Impairment:
  • Helen Keller - American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf and blind person who graduated from college. She became a well-known advocate for those with disabilities.
  • Thomas Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931)– An inventor, scientist, and businessman. Some of his inventions include the light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture camera. He holds 1,093 patents under his name.
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven – Born in the late 1700s, this German musical composer and pianist was one of the most influential of his time.
  • ======Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) – The 40th U.S. President. Also a former governor and actor.