Hearing-impaired children

The terms 'hard of hearing', 'deaf' and 'hearing impaired' cover a wide range of conditions, which affect a child's listening ability and often their educational and social development. There are two types of hearing loss prevalent. Firstly, Conductive which is caused by problems in the outer or middle ear which prevent the sound from being 'conducted' to the inner ear and hearing nerves. The hearing may fluctuate and may affect one or both ears to varying degrees. Conductive problems generally affect the quantity (loudness only) of the sound that is heard. It is usually medically or surgically treatable. A common cause of conductive loss in children is middle ear infection. And secondly, Sensorineural hearing loss which occurs due to a problem in the cochlea or the hearing nerve. It can be acquired or be present at birth. There is usually a loss of clarity as well as loudness, i.e. the quality and the quantity of the sound is affected.

Unilateral vs. Bilateral

Unilateral hearing loss characteristics are that only one ear is affected. Also it causes great difficulty in hearing in background noise. It also makes localizing the source of a sound very difficult. Bilateral hearing loss characteristics are that both the ears are affected through it. In addition to hearing speech at reduced loudness levels, bilateral sensorineural hearing losses can cause the sounds to be distorted. Putting sounds together meaningfully can be a difficult task. Medical intervention is not usually possible and the loss is permanent. Hearing aids are frequently fitted to assist the child to hear, depending on the degree of hearing loss.

Support strategies

The following suggestions may help teachers overcome some of the difficulties hearing impaired children typically experience in the classroom situation. Seat the hearing impaired student close to the teacher for the best sound reception and visual information. However, don't restrict them to only one location. Allow the student to move to a better listening position if they wish. Check whether the student has a clear view of the whole class for participation in-group activities if possible. If one ear is better than the other, ensure the better ear is directed to class and teacher. Seat the student away from noisy areas. It may be necessary to change the seating arrangements for particular activities.

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