Classroom adjustments: Hearing loss
This podcast is part of a series that highlights adjustments that can be made in the classroom to enable students with disability to access and participate in education on the same basis as their peers.
In this episode, we talk about adjustments that teachers can make in the classroom to support students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing There are various types of hearing loss, but all refer to a partial, or total inability to hear. Students may either have genetic hearing loss, or acquired hearing loss, which may be due to illness or an accident. Hearing loss can be in one or both ears; it can be temporary or permanent, and it occurs along a broad spectrum. The impact of hearing loss can affect a student’s ability to learn. Many students with hearing loss may find the acoustics in a classroom challenging and may experience problems with literacy. Students with hearing loss may also benefit from using assistive technology to participate in class.
Year 4 student Maya has two cochlear implants, and she talks about different strategies her teacher uses to help with her learning, such as including captions when using video resources. Her mum Rebecca talks about the importance of teachers establishing effective communication to ensure a student with hearing loss understands what’s required of them in the classroom. Primary school teacher Susan Perrins warns against asking closed questions to test comprehension. Principal Audiologist Alison King says hearing loss can affect all aspects of a student’s classroom experience – from concentration to confidence.
Top five takeaways
- Reducing reverberation should be the first step you take to managing noise levels in the classroom. To help absorb unwanted sounds in the classroom, start by installing carpeted areas. Remove reflective surfaces by using soft foam, and populate the room with pin-up boards and soft displays.
- Remember that following instructions can be challenging for students with hearing loss, especially as learning environments can be noisy at times. Monitor the acoustics in your classroom and take steps to eliminate background noise. It’s not just about the level of noise made by students – consider things like the air conditioner, foot-traffic, and proximity to major thoroughfares. By minimising the level of noise overall you will reduce the possibility of a student with hearing loss mishearing instructions.
- Students with hearing loss are likely to fatigue given the effort it takes to concentrate on tasks and to communicate. This may cause them to disengage or be distractible. Help students with their concentration by using assistive technologies, for example, a microphone or sound field amplification system which may help amplify a single voice over ambient classroom noise.
- When giving instructions, introduce new concepts in small steps and deliver the lesson at a measured pace. It is also important to keep directions concise and simple and to support your verbal instructions with visuals. Write instructions up on a board, so there is a point of reference for the student. Provide them with printed notes or electronic materials that they can reference via a computer/ device. This will help students to stay organised, as well as aiding their comprehension.
- Encourage self-advocacy and independence in students, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for their own assistive hearing technologies, such as FM technology. If students are taught to make equipment checks, this will help avoid unexpected setbacks in their learning caused by preventable issues such as flat batteries.
- What environmental changes can I make in my classroom to help support the learning of a student with hearing loss?
- Why should I avoid asking a student with hearing loss closed questions?
- What kind of visual cues can I use to complement my verbal instructions? Why should I adopt this approach with students who have hearing loss?
- How can I incorporate assistive technology into the learning environment to help students with hearing loss?
- Why is a whole-school approach crucial when it comes to supporting a student with hearing loss?
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Approximately 21 minute run time.
Susan Perrins, Primary School Teacher and Hearing Unit Coordinator, Brighton Primary School
Alison King, Principal Audiologist for Paediatric Services, Hearing Australia
Maya, Year 4 student
Rebecca, Maya’s mum
Thanks also to
Linda Ballam-Davies, Head of Communications, Hearing Australia
Serpil Senelmis, Written & Recorded
James Brandis, Written & Recorded
Find further resources at Deaf Australia, Deaf Children Australia, Hearing Australia and the NCCD Portal. Download a transcript of the podcast episode.
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