Classroom Accommodations for Children with Hearing Loss
In most cases, children with hearing loss require some accommodations in the classroom to maximize success at school. While there is no "one size fits all" IEP for children with hearing loss and many factors to consider when discussing classroom accommodations, here are nine common accommodations for children who are deaf/hard of hearing.
Environmental sounds that students with typical hearing can generally tune out, such as the hum of a furnace or the noise of traffic passing by an open window, can significantly impede the sound of a teacher or fellow student who is speaking. To the extent possible, effort should be made to reduce these background sounds in order to make the signal more audible. Some examples include closing doors and windows and using sound absorbing materials on floors and walls. For more on managing classroom acoustics, check out this blog post by my friend Deanna at Listening Fun!
Students with hearing loss should be seated in the most ideal location in the classroom for them, in order to improve their ability to hear and/or view an interpreter. Always consider whether or not the student hears better with one ear over the other, and be sure that the better hearing ear has the best access to the desired signal. Not only does the teacher's position in the classroom need to be considered, but also the location of lesson materials and how other students are situated in the classroom.
Many students with hearing loss may use speech reading as well as the teacher's eye gaze, gestures, and facial expressions to increase their understanding of what is being said aloud. Teachers and other professionals should be sure to face the class when speaking in a well lit room. They should avoid covering their mouth with their hands or standing against a backlight, in order to improve understanding for students with hearing loss.
Children with hearing loss often require multiple, direct exposures to new vocabulary and concepts in order to retain them. Because they do not often learn incidentally as their peers with typical hearing do, multiple opportunities for explicit instruction is usually needed for them to learn new information. Communicating with a student's speech-language pathologist or itinerant teacher of the deaf about what's being taught in the classroom will allow these professionals to integrate general education coursework into their service time with the child and supplement learning of key concepts.
Because children with hearing loss are much less likely to identify when a person at a distance has started speaking, always be sure that students with hearing loss are aware that you're talking before providing instruction. If addressing an entire class, a teacher may flash the lights a few times or verbally ask for attention and wait to ensure that all students are looking before providing information. When trying to get the attention of just a student with hearing loss, a teacher may lightly tap their shoulder, say their name, or give a small wave.
Information that is presented auditorily should be supplemented with visuals. Depending on the child, this could include any combination of the following: using gestures, displaying key concepts or word maps on a whiteboard, supplying typed notes or vocabulary lists, allowing another student to share notes, captioning videos, or providing access to sign language.
In addition to providing supplemental visuals, students with hearing loss may often need multiple opportunities to hear information. By providing repetition, the student gets another opportunity to hear words that may have been missed, as well as hear material explained in another way using different vocabulary and/or grammatical structures which may provide needed clarification.
Check in with a student with hearing loss to ensure understanding. Since students will generally answer "yes" when asked if they understood something, use other methods to assess comprehension, such as asking the student what they heard, to draw an illustration of the information, or to formulate their own comprehension questions or summary. Older students may develop a subtle gesture to signal to their teacher that they did not understand something during a class lecture.
Teachers and other professionals in the school that work with the child should become familiar with the child's hearing aid(s), cochlear implant(s) and/or FM system so that day-to-day troubleshooting is possible. Especially for younger children, school personnel must be knowledgeable in determining proper functioning of the hearing technology, so that there are not long periods of time without use of devices during the school day. Additionally, school staff should know proper use of FM systems and sound field systems in order to maximize their benefit.
Whether you're a parent or school professional, I hope this list gives you some things to consider for your students with hearing loss. Please download the mini-poster (below) to help support your students and their families and teachers, and share the link to this post with anyone else that you think could benefit!