Pediatric hearing loss is sometimes the undiscovered root cause for challenges in the classroom. However, aside from having profound hearing loss or being deaf, a broad spectrum of students are hard of hearing due to prolonged or short-term causes. Often students are mislabeled as having attention or behavior disorders long before their hearing is questioned. Find out how hearing loss can impact communication and learning and how educators can support students to reach their full potential.
Hearing Loss in the Classroom
Hearing loss is increasingly common among students, with nearly 15% of school-age children experiencing it. When students are impacted by hearing loss, intervention and support services are often required early on to prevent learning gaps and delays in development. Specialists suggest that before labeling a student needing special assistance or having a potential behavior disorder, always have hearing evaluated as a first step.
Hearing Loss in Social Development
As students struggle to grasp basic sounds, communication is also impaired. Social relationships vital to development often come much later for children who have unidentified hearing loss. Being a late bloomer socially is something that most children will get over, but developing inferior feelings based on the inability to have healthy interactions might require additional support if left untreated.
Hearing Loss in Misdiagnoses
Hearing loss is often unknown to students and their families, despite nearly three out of every 1000 children being born with some hearing loss in one or both ears. They will miss integral aspects of learning simply because they could not hear the teacher in another part of the room or turned in a different direction while speaking. Misdiagnosis is problematic, but it may result in frustration, restlessness, and acting out because the student cannot grasp the concepts.
Hearing Loss in Schools
Whether a student has temporary or long-term hearing loss or another challenge that prohibits learning, school systems have measures in place for support. For the most part, educators are adequately trained to check for hearing test results before requesting services for a student. If there is no hearing evaluation on file, school systems will require one for enrollment. Other federal support services are also available.
IEPs and 504 Plans
Legally binding educational support plans are in place to help children whose day-to-day learning in the classroom is challenging without support due to a disability. Nearly 14% of all public school students received services in the 2019-2020 school year.
Hearing Loss in Teaching
Any classroom strategies that increase hearing opportunities are ideal. In addition to the mandatory adherence to both 504 and IEP plans, teachers can also implement strategies beneficial for pediatric hearing loss. Simple adjustments to regular routines can also make all the difference:
- Facing students while you speak
- Providing visuals to accompany audio materials
- Adding closed captioning to videos
- Minimizing background noises
- Including scaffolds for visual learners
- Using adaptive tech in the classroom
- Celebrating differences
- Encouraging participation
While no one strategy will best support deaf and hard-of-hearing students, the best way to ensure that the learning gap is lessened and increased communication is to identify the issue. Teachers can start by checking on a hearing evaluation as a first resort rather than a last and then adding simple solutions to classroom instruction.
For more information on hearing evaluation and how to support students who have hearing loss, contact the HEAR Center.
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