10 Misconceptions Teachers Should Know About Children Who Are Hard Of Hearing

Hearing loss is a spectrum. The child may hear some but not all sounds. A child should have their hearing tested who has delayed speech, responds to sounds inconsistently, is inattentive, displays behavioral changes or responds incorrectly to simple basic questions.
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1-A child who responds to sound does not have a hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a spectrum. The child may hear some but not all sounds. A child should have their hearing tested who has delayed speech, responds to sounds inconsistently, is inattentive, displays behavioral changes or responds incorrectly to simple basic questions.

2-Having a late-diagnosed hearing loss is the same as being born with a hearing loss.
There is a significant difference between hearing loss that occurs after versus prior to the development of language. Children whose hearing loss occurred before they developed language can develop coping skills such as lip reading, but they do not have the benefit of hearing normally while learning to speak. The sound of their voice may be different, their language may be missing in nuance, and learning vocabulary may not come naturally to them.

3-Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal.
A person does not obtain 'normal' hearing by wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant (CI), and using them is not the same as wearing glasses.

Hearing aids increase the volume of sound, but they do not significantly improve clarity nor do they function well in noisy locations. They can slightly enhance clarity by raising the volume in certain frequencies. The benefits of cochlear implants vary widely, from providing almost normal hearing to giving wearers access only to environmental sounds.

4-With hearing aids or CIs, children can usually hear everything that is said in class, and if they can't hear something they will advise the teacher.
Many children with hearing loss perform well in class, so teachers and staff sometimes forget the child has a hearing loss. This does not mean that the child hears everything, even when the child appears attentive. Students with hearing loss may sometimes respond correctly, yet still miss important information, especially in subjects such as science and math, where unfamiliar words may be used and the information cannot be gleaned from the context of the sentence.

It is tiring for children with hearing loss to listen intently for a prolonged period, so they should not be chastised for zoning out during a discussion. Children are unlikely to raise their hand voluntarily if they think they didn't hear something, and they may not realize if they miss critical information. It is burdensome to ask to have information repeated, so the student may simply smile and nod instead. A cold or allergies can further impact how well they hear.

Teachers and students need to face the child with hearing loss and not the blackboard when speaking. Directions should be repeated and written down. Speech should be at a normal pace, since speaking slowly distorts speech.

5-Increasing the sound volume will enable a child with hearing loss to understand what is said.
Increasing the volume is only part of the solution, since it can garble the sound quality. Yelling and over-articulating distorts the natural rhythm of speech and makes lip reading more difficult. A person who can hear cannot determine if speech is clear enough for a person with hearing loss to understand.

A student with hearing loss should be placed in a classroom with the least amount of background noise. Carpeting and other soft materials such as tennis balls on chair legs help to absorb echoes.

6-Children who wear hearing aids or a CI do not need an FM unit as well.
To obtain sufficient clarity, people with residual hearing may require sound to be transmitted from the microphone directly to their ear via an assistive listening system (ALS) such as an FM unit. Sitting close to the speaker can assist the listener (and facilitate lip reading), but is not a substitute.

FM-system microphones need to be passed to anyone who speaks. The child can only hear the person with the microphone and speakers who are very close to the microphone. The closer the speaker is to the microphone, the crisper the sound is.

The child may be able to hear without the FM system when the environment is quieter. But even in this setting, the teacher should have a signal to indicate to the child when it's his or her turn to read in a read-aloud situation. It can be difficult for a child with hearing loss to follow what other children are reading aloud, since he or she is reading the text and cannot watch the other children's lips at the same time.

Children with hearing loss sometimes pretend to understand so as not to draw attention to themselves.

A child with a more severe hearing loss may need real-time captioning (CART) or a note taker.

7-A child who can understand what's said in small group settings won't have a problem watching a movie or video without captions.
All films or video should have captioning AND be connected to the FM system. Providing sound to a child with residual hearing enables him or her to receive the benefits of sound (e.g., being able to recognize voices as loud, soft, angry, happy, sad, or singing voices).

A child with residual hearing has the right to hear the sound. They also need the captions in case they miss some of the dialogue. Captions will also benefit children with other learning disabilities.

8-People with hearing loss are dumb, stupid, mute, have intellectual limitations, and are bound to be unsuccessful.
People with hearing loss have the same range of intelligence as the general population. People with untreated or inadequately treated hearing loss or in noisy locations may respond inappropriately because they have not heard what was said.

9-Children with a hearing loss use American Sign Language (ASL).
Hearing loss is a spectrum. The majority of people with hearing loss do not use sign language.

10-People with hearing loss cannot learn other languages.
People with hearing loss are capable of learning another language.

Portions of this article were formerly published in 2012 on HearingHealthMatters.org.

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