Hard of Hearing and Deaf Students:
A Resource Guide to Support Classroom Teachers
Range of Hearing Loss and Educational Implications
You will be better able to help your student's learning process if you understand the nature and degree of the hearing loss and what the educational implications will be for your work together in the classroom.
'Hearing impairment' is a general term often used by professionals to describe hearing loss. In an audiological assessment, hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB),across a range of frequencies from low sounds to higher pitched sounds. You may wish to discuss the audiological information and the resulting educational, social and emotional implications with a qualified teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. Having similar audiograms does not always mean students' language skills and learning needs are the same. For example, you may find your student has difficulties with both spoken or signed, and written communication. Vocabulary development, idiomatic and grammatical English, or the understanding of abstract ideas are examples of areas which may be delayed due to hearing loss. A significant hearing loss may also lead to a need for specific strategies to address social skills development. Difficulty in initiating and maintaining friendships or evidence of low self esteem are examples of the effect of the isolation experienced by many students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Your own assessment of the student's learning needs and abilities, along with the two assessments, by an audiologist and by a qualified teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, can assist you and your student in the development of an effective individual educational plan. When you first meet with the student and her or his parents or guardians ask for these assessments to help you set and foster realistic, optimal goals. If there has not been an assessment done, this is a first step to arrange in consultation with your school team.
Most students with hearing loss in regular classrooms have enough residual hearing to process language through hearing with appropriate amplification. Knowing exactly what kind of assistance is required for your student in a variety of classroom situations helps the student to benefit from these experiences.
Hearing loss has been organized traditionally into five categories which consider the range of sounds used in speech; it may be helpful for you to know which category best describes your particular student:
1. Normal hearing:
Students can detect all speech sounds even at a soft conversation level. The student's hearing would be plotted in the -10 to +15 decibel range on an audiogram.
2. Minimal loss:
Students may have difficulty hearing faint or distant speech. Peer conversation and teacher instructions presented too rapidly, particularly in noisy classrooms, are likely to result in missed information. Loss is between 16 to 25 decibels.
Student may miss up to 50% of class discussions especially if voices are soft or the environment is noisy. Students will require the use of a hearing aid or personal FM system. Loss is between 26 to 40 decibels .
Classroom conversation from 3 to 5 feet away can be understood if the structure and vocabulary is controlled. Hearing aids and/or personal FM systems are essential. Specific attention will need to be directed to language development, reading and written language. Loss is between 4l to 55 decibels.
5. Moderate to severe:
Without amplification students with this degree of loss can miss up to 100% of speech information. Full time use of amplification is essential. They will probably require additional help in all language based academic subjects. Loss is between 56 to 70 decibels.
Students can only hear loud noises at close distances. They require individual hearing aids, intensive auditory training and specialized instructional techniques in reading, language, and speech development. Loss is between 71 to 90 decibels.
For all practical purposes these students rely on vision rather than hearing for processing information. If you have a student in this category, he or she is usually a candidate for signing systems and specialized instructional techniques in reading, speech, and language development. A loss of 91 decibels or more is described as profound.
It is also useful to remember that sometimes loss of hearing can be only at high or low frequencies. This can interfere with the ability to hear specific speech sounds. Also, hearing can fluctuate depending on the student's state of health or upon differences in the environment. These sample audiograms may help in further understanding your student's loss.