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Devices for the Hearing Impaired

written by: Mayflor Markusic • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 1/5/2012

You've found yourself teaching a classroom that includes one or more students who have a hearing impairment. Before joining that IEP team, you should have a background knowledge of what assistive technologies and devices will be needed by students with hearing impairment.

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    The Teacher's Role

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified deafness and hearing impairment as disabilities that are serious enough to cause significant economic and social problems. Economic problems can result from the inability to keep a job because a person could not meet the demands of the job due to a hearing impairment. Social problems can result from isolation and difficulties during social interactions. The economic and social problems can be avoided by the hearing-impaired if sufficient education is acquired. Here lies the importance of the special education teacher. The teacher plays a crucial role, which is to provide students with disabilities the opportunities to live a better and fulfilling life. The teacher is tasked, not only in teaching the subject matter, but also in developing confidence within the special students.

    When teaching either an inclusion or self-contained classroom where some of the students are suffering from hearing impairment or deafness, the teacher will find that seating a hearing-impaired student near the teacher is not enough. The classroom walls must have sound-absorbing panels. The floor must have a carpet and the teacher must consider the possible benefits from the advances of technology. These advances are referred to as the assistive technologies for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Some of the assistive technology devices that will be useful in the classroom are the following listed in the next section.

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    The Assistive Devices

    Here are some of the assistive technologies and devices that would be helpful for the students with a hearing impairment.

    • Hearing Aid - The hearing aid is probably the simplest assistive listening device that can be placed on the ear of the hearing-impaired students. The typical hearing aid, which is shaped to comfortably fit the ear, is an electronic device with three parts: microphone, amplifier, and receiver. The capacity of the hearing aid can be augmented by a personal FM unit. The downside of the personal FM unit is that it drowns out the noise of other students, which may lead to difficulty in social interactions among students.
    • Sound Field System - This is a wireless system of two parts: the teacher’s wireless microphone and the speakers (usually four of these) that are placed strategically inside the classroom. The microphone transmits the voice of the teacher to the speakers, which amplify the sound. The sound field system, which is sometimes called the phonic ear, is also useful for students who suffer from ADHD.
    • TDD - This is the acronym for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf. It is a modified telephone that allows people who are deaf or hearing-impaired to communicate using the text capabilities of the device. The device has a QWERTY board and a small screen that will be useful for students who suffer from speech impairment. With the TDD, students can use shortcuts for certain words, such as PLS for "please" and BRB for "be right back."

    The above devices are just a few of the tools that special education teachers can use to provide assistive listening. With assistive listening, the special students will no longer be placed at a disadvantage. When the hearing-impaired students are no longer disadvantaged because they can clearly hear lessons and instructions, their academic performance will greatly improve.