Helping Teachers Identify Hearing Loss

Teachers and educators are often among best positioned to help identify the presence of hearing loss in children. Spending a lot of time around kids, they’ll often notice firsthand if a child is having trouble listening or learning.

According to Healthy Hearing and the CDC, “approximately 2-3 of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable hearing loss.” Hearing loss (genetic and noise induced) in school aged children, from elementary school to high school, registers as high as 15 percent of all kids. If not treated, hearing loss can affect not only a child’s comprehension but his or her development. Hearing is closely tied with the brain, and if a child grows up untreated, everything from speech to academic achievement to social ability can suffer.

Since early intervention is so important, what should teachers look out for?

Healthy Hearing covers some major warning signs:

  • Failure to hear his/her name called
  • Constant requests to repeat what was said
  • Worsening grades
  • Loss of interest
  • Withdrawn behavior

Also, it can be beneficial to look out for the following:

  • Difficulty taking tests with only auditory information (such as a verbal spelling test)
  • Confusion hearing differences between similar sounding words (such as “thin”,” “fin”, and “tin”)
  • A history of complaints of stuffiness in ears
  • Difficulty understanding verbal, group instruction
  • Fatigue at the end of the day

If you think a student has hearing loss, what’s the next step?

First, its always be a good idea to see if your school has annual or one time hearing screenings. These could help find issues right away. If your school doesn’t participate in these events, it might be a worthwhile idea to float past administration.

For individual students who exhibit signs of hearing impairment, the first step would be to talk to both the school and the parents, to see what help IEP or 504 plans might provide. The student will probably visit their physician, who will then most likely refer them to an audiologist. The audiologist will rule out a medically correctable hearing loss such as related to middle ear infections. If a permanent non medically based hearing loss is diagnosed, he or she might get a hearing aid that would work in conjunction with school specific assistive listening devices.

Assistive listening devices are a big help. Many hearing aid manufacturers have FM systems and bluetooth technology that assist the hearing aid in optimizing the signal to noise ratio. The teacher wears a microphone that transmits his or her voice directly to the hearing aid, and the child can comprehend speech with less effort. More efficient learning results in a more successful student.

Remember, the sooner treated, the greater chance a child can develop on a level with their peers. For newborns, there have been studies showing that the earlier a hearing impairment is addressed, the better their vocabulary and learning skills can turn out. This holds true to all areas of development, whenever hearing problems first begin to manifest, and sometimes all it takes is the attention of a teacher to get a child with hearing loss the help they need.