Tips for Going Back to School with Hearing Loss

Going back to school with hearing loss can be daunting. There is a lot to consider, especially in regards to responsibility. What should the school do? What should the state do? What should parents and children do?

Parents should not be afraid to ask their school questions. The Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA) “insures that all children with disabilities have a free and appropriate education.” The rights of an education – regardless of ability or disability – are protected, as are the rights of the children and their parents in seeing that education enacted.

Different schools have different equipment, and students with different levels of hearing loss are often assigned to different levels of support based on their needs. FM systems are a popular method that allow the student to hear and participate in class. Schools might also offer interpreters or classroom assistance based upon the child’s hearing loss, mode of communication and academic level. The education department websites for New Jersey and Pennsylvania have more info.

What is important to remember is that every child is unique and what they need may be very different from what their peers with hearing loss need. The family should sit down with their school professional and come up with a plan that tailors to their child’s specific needs at that time. As the child gets older, this approach may need to be updated.

Specifically, there are some helpful devices parents may want to look into. The Phonak Roger Products, for instance. The Roger products include wireless microphones that connect to the student’s hearing aid. Some may also have a sensor that allows them to lay on the student’s desk, enabling the child to participate in group learning.

Outside of devices, many audiologists recommend a school walk through at the beginning of the year to in-service the teachers and staff about a child’s hearing loss and academic needs. During the school year itself, they recommend encouraging students with hearing loss to join extracurricular activities and participate in as many day to day activities as possible. Socialization is important to allow them to feel and be part of a group.

Testing Your Infant’s Hearing

We at REM stress the importance of early intervention quite a bit. That’s because the earlier a hearing problem is addressed, the greater the chance a child’s hearing and comprehension will develop naturally.

Put another way: “Your baby’s ability to hear is in large part the foundation of his ability to learn.”

The good news is that nowadays, many newborns will have their hearing tested before leaving the hospital. Hearing screenings shortly after birth are the standard of care in hospitals nationwide. These initial screenings will catch any major problems and provide a good baseline for future tests. The bad news is, they might not catch everything.

According to ASHA:

“Passing a screening does not mean that a child has normal hearing across the frequency range. Because minimal and frequency-specific hearing losses are not targeted by newborn hearing screening programs, newborns with these losses may pass a hearing screen. Because these losses have the potential to interfere with the speech and psychoeducational development of children…hearing, speech, and language milestones should receive ongoing surveillance and monitoring throughout childhood.”

It is then up to the parent to monitor their child’s hearing development, especially during the first three years of life. This is an important safeguard against late onset hearing loss. Not only might the initial tests fail to catch everything, but an infant with normal hearing at birth can lose hearing as they grow older.

Signs to look out for:

If your newborn to 3 month old is struggling with hearing loss, he or she might not respond or startle to sudden, loud sounds, be soothed by soft sounds, or become quiet (starting around the age of 2 months) among familiar voices.

4 to 8 months: seems to hear some sounds but not others, pays more attention to vibrating noises than spoken ones, and doesn’t try to imitate sounds.

9 to 12 months: doesn’t respond to name, doesn’t seem to understand or respond to single, commonly used household words.

Babycenter.com has a more complete list.

If you suspect your child has a hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your physician or an audiologist immediately.

MUSICIANS EARPLUGS

What are the benefits of musicians earplugs?

Musician’s earplugs are custom made. They fit better than conventional, over the counter earplugs, and they are easy to take in and out.

Also – and perhaps most noticeably important to the wearer – musicians earplugs help protect hearing without compromising music or sound. Flat attenuation preserves the fidelity of music — the relationship between the bass and high frequencies are not altered.

Can people who aren’t musicians benefit from musician’s earplugs?

Yes! Though specifically made for musicians and industry professionals, their custom design allows for wide use across many different fields. Keep in mind, though, that these earplugs are intended to keep sound at safe levels as well as preserve the sound’s quality. For earplugs that block out the most sound and frequencies, we recommend looking into other options.

Custom musician earplugs, however, are often safer than foam, disposable earplugs.

What type of musician’s earplugs are there?

There are many different types of musicians earplugs. Which version you opt for depends on your needs. Drummers, for instance, will opt for an earplug that has a higher rating of intensity reduction.

Ear monitors – while not quite earplugs – are also popular with musicians. Ear monitors block out the harmful levels of sound around you while also transmitting a softer, attenuated sound into your ears.

At REM Audiology we offer and fit for Etyomatic earplugs, and several brands of Ear monitors.

Our website has more info about both.

CHILDREN, MUSIC THROUGH HEADPHONES, AND HEARING LOSS

Many headphones marketed towards children highlight their safe hearing levels. Volume controls limiting audio intensity – anything above 85 dB is “blocked off” – are built in to avoid prolonged exposure to dangerous levels of sound. But Noisyplanet.gov asks, “Do their safety claims hold up?”

In a lot of cases, the sound emitted from earphones are dependent on not only the earphones themselves, but the device they’re being used with and the music they’re being asked to play. Unfortunately, many consumer devices were found to “bypass” the headphones’s restrictions. “Up to one-third of the headphones tested allowed volumes that exceeded 85 decibels,” concluded Noisy Planet.

That’s not to say these headphones shouldn’t be used. Some restrictions are better than none. But one should always research the product they’re planning to buy. More importantly, parents should also be prepared to monitor their children’s listening habits. It’s never too early to teach good hearing.

The louder something is, the greater the chance it can cause hearing loss. You add length of time into the equation, and you could have a potentially dangerous issue on your hands. Noise induced hearing loss can happen to anyone, and it happens in children and young adults frequently because of exposure to harmful levels of music.

A few tips to help prevent hearing loss in children via headphones include:

1. Don’t listen above 80 percent of the maximum volume, despite whatever claims your headphones makes. Some say 60 percent max is even better.
2. While listening to music, you should still be able to hear someone about an arm’s length away ask a question.
3. Limit your time. Or take a break at least every hour.

Widex also has a helpful blog on what type of headphones are the best: open, closed, or in ear.

Headphones are great. We all love them. Just be sure to talk to your kids about using them responsibly.

HIDDEN HEARING LOSS

You might not know about it, but hidden hearing loss is a crucial – and relatively recent – subject of study in audiology and healthcare circles.

“The more technical term for the condition is cochlear synaptopathy, and it is associated with difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments,” a recent ASHA article says. It’s termed “hidden” because standard tone audiometry doesn’t pick up its presence.

According to hear-it.org: “A hidden hearing loss doesn’t normally affect a person’s ability to hear quiet sounds, but it makes it harder to hear sounds when there is competing background noise.” A major cause of concern is that this type of hearing loss is possibly widely under-diagnosed, and without treatment or further preventative measures, one could see their hearing easily get worse over time.

The definitive cause is unknown, but evidence may point to loud noise (concerts, power tools, everyday above average sound levels) as the main culprit. Some scientists believe causes may also be due to genetics.

Hidden hearing loss may appear daunting, but there are steps to combat it, and we’re learning more about its characteristics every day.

REM can determine the presence of a “hidden hearing loss” during a diagnostic audiometric assessment. A speech in noise hearing test will determine a potential signal to noise hearing loss. People who have this loss are prime candidates for assistive listening devices that will help with enhanced comprehension.

EAR INFECTIONS IN YOUNG CHILDREN

According to a recent ASHA blog, “approximately two-thirds of children get at least one middle ear infection (otitis media) by age 3.” And with ear infections, especially at a young age, hearing loss may not be so far behind.

If your child has an ear infection is there any cause for concern?

It’s definitely something that should be looked at by a doctor or doctor of audiology as soon as possible. The younger the child is, there great the chance of future hearing problems. Under age 3, children with hearing loss are more susceptible to recurrent infections down the line, and recurrent ear infections are a big contributor to hearing problems.

How can you tell if your child has an ear infection?

There are many reasons why children might get or be prone to ear infections, including family history, allergies, asthma, or bottle feeding while an infant is on her back.

Symptoms include (according to the NIDCD):

  • Tugging or pulling at the ears
  • fussiness and crying
  • fluid draining from the ear
  • clumsiness or problems with balance
  • and more

How do ear infections cause hearing loss? Is is permanent?

Chronic otitis media can affect the middle ear for a long period of time, and the position of the Estachian tube – different in infants and children than adults – can inflame and swell due to a buildup of fluid.

“All types of middle ear infection can cause some degree or temporary hearing loss. In most cases, the loss is mild and doesn’t result in any long term damage to hearing ability,” says healthy hearing. But there’s one big caveat: “…infants and toddlers who suffer from chronic otitis media experience stretches of mild hearing loss during a crucial learning period for speech and language.”

For these reasons, among others, a middle ear infection should bet taken care of as soon as possible.

APHASIA AND HEARING LOSS

June is Aphasia Awareness month, and we at REM want to do our part to help spread awareness.

Aphasia is a communication disorder stemming from damage to the part of the brain containing language. Those afflicted usually have difficulty with speech. Though aphasia does not directly affect one’s hearing, hearing loss in combination with aphasia can add to the “language deficits” that make comprehending speech in noise difficult.

How should I approach those with Aphasia and Hearing Loss?

It may not be a wide ranging issue, but for the person who has both, it’s a big one. Being understanding is always important. Be patient, avoid extra noise where possible, and keep your speech as simple as possible.

Though not hearing loss specific, ASHA has an article about a family coping with aphasia that may be a good starting point with those who are going through something similar.

How can an audiologist help with Hearing Loss and Aphasia?

Patients diagnosed with aphasia need to have a comprehensive diagnostic audiometric assessment performed by an audiologist. The audiologist’s test battery consists of objective measures of auditory function. When these objective measures are analyzed in conjunction with behavior testing, the audiologist can begin to help with the patient’s comprehension problems.

The best results would come from working closely with both an audiologist and a speech language pathologist.

What can you do for Aphasia Awareness Month?

The National Aphasia Asociation (Aphasia.org) is a great resource full of articles and helpful tips.

First step — to help spread the word about apahsia, it’s important to understand what aphasia is beyond its clinical definition.

Aphasia.org reports that the 2 million people in the US who have aphasia have “lost all or some ability to use words.” They often have trouble speaking and understanding the speech of others. Despite these difficulties, aphasia does not “affect a person’s intellect.”

Second step — tell as many people as you can. Close to 90 percent of people don’t know what Aphasia is. And the more people who know, the more they can help in turn.

Third step — if you have a few extra bucks, you can always donate to the National Aphasia Association (NAA).

June and Aphasia Awareness month are almost over, but even beyond, there’s still lots you can do and people you can tell.

SUMMER TIPS FOR THE HARD OF HEARING

Summer vacation doesn’t mean a vacation from your hearing aids. Whether you’re traveling in the next few months or staying close to home, there is lots you can do to keep your hearing aids and your hearing health in tip top shape.

Healthy hearing – as always – has a good, practical breakdown on taking care of your devices away from home. Among their tips:

  1. Store your hearing aids and batteries in cool, dry locations
  2. Don’t allow your devices to get wet (especially moisture buildup via humidity)
  3. When traveling, don’t forget your “back-up supples” (extra hearing aids, cleaning tools, etc)

Summer is also a good time to strengthen your hearing. Among REM’s recommendations:

  1. Whether at the beach or outside a cafe with a cool drink under an umbrella, summer is a good time to read. And while you’re reading, why not grab the audio book and listen along? Auditory stimulation is important, especially for developing children.
  2. Wear your hearing aids in all social settings. You’ll probably be going out more. That doesn’t mean you should leave your aids at home. We’ve written about this before — relearning how to understand speech in noise is brain training, and you don’t want to be skipping sessions.

If you’re looking for more information, we just released our summer education newsletter. It’s full of helpful tips for both educators and students. You can sign up for any of our newsletters on our website.

Enjoy your summer!

COMMUNICATION DISORDERS AND HEARING LOSS

Communication disorders are wide ranging and can affect everything from comprehension to speech and language development. Sometimes their causes are unknown, sometimes they’re neurological, but sometimes they’re due to hearing loss.

According to ASHA, “a communication disorder is an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts of verbal…systems”. A hearing disorder – often understood as a type of communication disorder – may “limit the development, comprehension, production and/or maintenance of speech and language.”

It’s important to be able to identify the signs of hearing loss, especially in regards to children. If hearing loss is caught early, more effective intervention is possible. If caught early enough, children with hearing loss can “develop speech and language skills on schedule with their peers.”

For adults, unaddressed onset hearing loss can result in a decline in cognitive skills. Such a decline can result in speech comprehension problems.

No matter what your age, however, prompt attention is always recommended. A lot of hearing related communication disorders are very manageable.

MAY IS BETTER HEARING AND SPEECH MONTH

Hearing loss is a wide ranging concern that affects everyone from newborns to senior citizens. Communication disorders are health issues sometimes dependent on early intervention. Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) raises awareness of both.

BHSM addresses everything from autism and strokes to bilingual speech and language development. It’s a month that helps spread the word about the relationship and specifics of hearing loss and speech problems, as well as how to best combat their negative effects.

Why is Better Hearing and Speech Month important?

According to Johns Hopkins medicine, about “two to three of every 1,000 newborns in the U.S.” will have some level of hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports “approximately 15% of American adults…aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing” and “nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74” have some form of rehabilitating hearing loss.

With hearing loss, communication disorders are more likely to occur, especially in children. That’s why early intervention is so important (why any intervention is, really), and why helping get the word out about BHSM is crucial.

What can you do?

1. Social media is the quickest – and often most effective – way to let everyone know about BHSM.

2. If you have kids, let their school or the school’s counselor know.

3. Reach out to your local legislators.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has a helpful rundown as well as a document pageoffering press releases, web banners, and printouts.