What Do School Personnel Need to Know About Hearing?

Jane Madell
January 24, 2017

What do Children Need to Hear in the Classroom?

The majority of what children learn, they learn using audition. We learn by overhearing conversation around us. Children need to hear the teacher, but they also have to hear other children’s comments and questions. They need to be able to hear classroom discussion in order to participate. They need to hear their own voices so they can monitor how they sound and self correct. They need to be able to hear in the auditorium, on the playground, and around the lunch table. They also need to hear movies shown in class and to hear from their computers.


The importance of assessing auditory function

Hearing is a complex function. Hearing is more than knowing sound is present. It is important to be able to understand what is being said. We cannot assume that a child has normal hearing because they hear some things or turn to their names. School personnel need to know that a child may hear some sounds but not hear speech normally. A child may hear speech in quiet but may not hear when there is competing noise. Without a complete audiological evaluation which includes testing functional performance, it will not be possible to know what a child hears and to plan for management.

Children learn what they hear. Children can develop language and academic delays if they do not hear normally, if they hear a distorted signal, if they have inconsistent exposure to clear speech, and if they are in an environment in which their auditory brains are not exposed to auditory language/auditory information.


What happens if a child cannot hear well?

Hearing loss will affect language development and language skills, all academic areas, literacy, and social skills. Everything we learn in school has a language base. If a child’s language is not at grade level, the child will have difficultly learning in every subject.


Hearing for academic learning

Classrooms are noisy environments. Academic learning relies on hearing. If auditory access is not adequate language learning will be limited, and classroom learning will be limited.


Hearing for socialization

School staff may not recognize that social skills are directly related to language. Young children do not use complex language in play but as children get older, language becomes basic to socialization. When children are having problems with socialization, look to language. Children need to be able to pick up on tone of voice to get jokes, sarcasm and annoyance. They need to understand slang and idioms. Language is critical.


What factors affect auditory learning

Hearing is first. We need normal hearing (with or without technology) to enable children to access auditory information. Children who have hearing loss or middle ear disease will have problems accessing auditory information. Children also need good and constant language modeling. It is critical to control the auditory environment. Children will hear best when they are close to the person talking and when there is little or no competing noise. School personnel needs to understand need to control classroom noise. They also need to understand that the need for remote microphone systems.


Factors that impact access in the integrated classroom

The rate and pace of classroom instruction can be an important factor. Teachers who talk quickly will be more difficult to understand. The ability to learn using incidental listening will be a factor in learning. If language of the classroom is more complex than the child can understand, learning will be affected.


Auditory problems associated with learning

Children will have problems learning if they have

  • Inconsistent responses to sound
  • Difficulty understand speech information
  • Difficulty with auditory processing
  • Difficulties in response timing (it takes them a while to understand what is said – a listening delay.)
  • Short attention spans for auditory stimuli
  • Easily distracted by auditory stimuli
  • Have frequent requests for repetition
  • Have difficulty with phonics
  • Have difficulty remembering information learned through spoken communication
  • Difficulty with localization


What is needed for classroom success?

For a child to succeed in the classroom she needs to have language and literacy at age level, the ability to hear and understand the teacher, the ability to hear and understand peers, and good socialization skills.


What does school staff need to know?

In order to help children with hearing loss maximize their performance, teachers need to know the students level of competence in listening and conversational skills, the student’s ability in communication repair, suggestions for reinforcing in different environments and skills for supporting self advocacy.



School staff needs to know what kind of technology a child needs. They need to know how to check hearing aids or cochlear implants. They need to know when and how to use remote microphones. Staff needs to know how to confirm that technology is working and what to do if it is not. They need to know how to check listening EVERY morning to enable them to recognize if there are any problems with the technology. They need to understand that without fully functional technology, a child cannot learn in the classroom.


Final words

There is a lot involved in helping children with hearing loss succeed in a classroom. First, school staff needs to understand the effect of hearing loss and what children with hearing loss need. An educational audiologist and teacher of the deaf will be significant in accomplishing this. Then families need to be vigilant to be sure that children are getting what they hear. It is a team effort.



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