What Is Hearing Impairment?
Hearing impairment may vary from mild degrees to moderate or severe levels of hearing loss. Children who have a mild hearing loss often use visual cues to help them gain information during conversations; they may supplement their hearing with lip reading, observation of body language and input from a hearing aid. Children with moderate to severe hearing loss will also use similar strategies, and are quite likely to use sign language (such as American Sign Language, Makaton, key word signing, or Auslan), a hearing aid or have a cochlear implant to assist with communication.
The educational services available to hearing impaired children will vary depending on location and the types of services available in general, as well as waiting lists and so on. Educational services for hearing impaired children may include:
- Signing interpreter
- Teacher's aid or integration assistant
- Small group teaching in a mainstream setting
- Specialist teaching support to teach signing
- Information and training for classroom teachers on teaching deaf children
- Multidisciplinary approaches to help children and their families to understand and manage hearing impairment
Strategies to Consider
In the classroom, strategies for teaching deaf children can include the following:
- Always face towards a student who has a hearing impairment
- Don't yell – it won't help!
- Speak clearly and normally, using your regular speaking voice
- Consider the effects of background noise, particularly during classroom discussions
- Encourage your school to invest in technology that will assist children with hearing impairment
- Brush up on your knowledge of hearing impairment by doing some professional reading or attending a conference
- Teach your hearing students some signing using American Sign Language or other languages relevant to your teaching location
- Seat a deaf child with a hearing buddy who is able to support their learning from time to time, as well as focus on their own
Not all learning takes place in the classroom. Teaching deaf children therefore takes some extra consideration during activities such as physical education classes, excursions, community education programs and visits to other venues. Remember that a child with a hearing impairment will not:
- Respond to an auditory signal if it is made from behind, or without any visual signal to go with it.
- Hear auditory signals and warnings such as alarm bells, traffic noise, car horns or telephones.
- Come back to you when you call them from behind.
They will, however:
- See visual cues, particularly if you have agreed with them beforehand about what those cues will be (such as using a few signs from American Sign Language to give basic instructions).
- Respond to your body language, gestures and non verbal cues.
- Be able to learn alternative communication methods for outdoor settings, such as visual checking of where you are, or being paired with a hearing buddy.