Eleven misconceptions teachers should know about children with hearing loss

Hearing Health & Technology Matters
August 15, 2012

By Janice Schacter Lintz


Janice Schacter Lintz

(1) People with hearing loss are older adults.

According to NIDCD and the Better Hearing Institute, of the 36 million people in the United States with some degree of hearing loss, only 30% are 65 or older.


(2) A child who responds to sound does not have a hearing loss.

Hearing loss is a spectrum. The child may hear certain sounds but not all sounds.

Any child who has delayed speech, responds to sounds inconsistently, is inattentive, displays behavioral changes, or responds incorrectly to simple basic questions should have his or her hearing tested. Parents know their children, and their concerns should be taken seriously. An audiogram, which is not an invasive procedure, should be administered. Newborn screenings are now required, but hearing loss can develop later or the newborn screening could have a false negative outcome.


(3) 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 developing 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.


(4) 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 or they do not 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. Communication ability depends on such factors as the individual’s hearing history, the length and onset of deafness, and age of implantation.


(5) 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 be missing 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. Children with a hearing loss who have a cold or allergies may have fluid in their ears that further impacts how well they hear.

To avoid some of these issues, 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 very slowly distorts speech.


(6) Increasing the sound volume on a hearing aid will enable a child with hearing loss to understand what is said.

Increasing the volume is only part of the solution, since doing this can distort the sound quality. Yelling and over-articulating do not help, because they distort the natural rhythm of speech and make lip reading more difficult. A person who can hear normally cannot determine if speech is clear enough for a person with hearing loss to understand.

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 such as an FM unit. Sitting close to the speaker can assist the listener (and facilitate lip reading), but is not a substitute for an assistive listening system for a child with residual hearing. A child with a more severe hearing loss may need real-time captioning (CART) or a note taker.

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.


(7) Children who wear hearing aids or a CI for their hearing loss do not need an FM unit as well.

People often incorrectly expect a child with hearing aids or a CI to hear normally and understand everything that is said. Therefore, they assume the child will not need an FM system or a teacher of the hearing impaired.

Many teachers do not realize that children with hearing loss sometimes pretend to understand so as not to draw too attention to themselves.

If a child misses something, the teacher may think he or she just needs to pay better attention. However, even with the best hearing aid or CI technology, additional support is often needed to create a level playing field for children with hearing loss.

When a child uses an FM unit, it brings the voice of a speaker who is equipped with a microphone directly into the child’s ear. This should enable the child to understand the teacher, who has a microphone. However, he or she but may be unable understand what other kids in class are saying, so 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.


(8) A child who can understand what’s said in small group settings won’t have a problem watching a movie or video without captions. If the film or video has captioning, the child does not need it hooked up to his or her FM system.

All videos and films should be ordered with captioning. This will also benefit children with auditory processing and other learning disabilities.

Even a child with hearing loss who can hear in small group settings will need the film’s sound brought directly to his or her hearing aids via an FM system to eliminate background noise.

Captioning alone for a child with residual hearing is not effective access. Providing a reasonable accommodation that allows a child with residual hearing to listen to the presentation 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).


(9) 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. They do not require slower classes just because they have a hearing loss.

Often the expectations for a child with hearing loss are too low. Children with hearing loss succeed, and may not require special education, when teachers and others provide appropriate and effective accommodations.

There are sometimes delays when the telephone relay system is being used due to the time needed for transcription. Those who are not familiar with relay service may assume that the additional time is required because the person with the hearing loss is not intelligent.

People with hearing loss often have difficulty obtaining employment because of the misconception that they are capable of doing only simple tasks. This attitude dates back to when remedies for hearing loss were few or nonexistent. Today, a person with a hearing loss is fully employable and should not be placed in vocational classes just because of a hearing loss. Many students with hearing loss attend top universities

Children with hearing loss may be self-conscious, embarrassed, or shy about their inability to hear well. Teachers should be supportive, and schools need to be sensitive to any stereotypes by students or teachers. Name-calling is bullying and should be handled accordingly.


(10) Children with a hearing loss are born to parents who have a hearing loss and use American Sign Language (ASL).

About 2 to 3 out of every 1000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing. Of these, 90% are born to parents who can hear.

Hearing loss spans a broad spectrum from mild impairment to complete deafness, and not all people with hearing loss communicate the same way.

Communication depends on a variety of factors, such as the degree of hearing loss, whether a hearing aid or cochlear implant is used, the age at which the hearing loss occurred, the level of auditory training received, and the nature of the listening situation. The majority of people with hearing loss do not use sign language.

Some people with hearing loss read lips and others do not. Lip reading, also called speech reading, is most helpful as a supplement to residual hearing, since many speech sounds are not visible on the lips. When speaking to someone with hearing loss, it helps to face the person. Many people can pick up visual clues even if they are not proficient at lip reading.


(11) People with hearing loss cannot learn other languages.

People with hearing loss are capable of speaking or signing in multiple languages. A person with a hearing loss should never be discouraged from learning another language.


Janice Schacter Lintz is the Chair of the Hearing Access Program, which she started in 2002 because of her frustration with the artificial barriers placed on children with hearing loss. She is the mom of Arielle Schacter, an 18-year-old with a severe to profound hearing loss who is about to enter her freshman year at Brown University. 

(Prepared and copyright protected by The Hearing Access Program, 8/1/12 Janice Schacter 917-975-5642, Jschacter@nyc.rr.com)

birdsong hearing benefits
  1. Janice, at last…I finally know what you look like. Great photo and great article. It should be required reading for classroom teachers.

    Eunice (retired educational administrator)

    1. Thank you. Although, the photo is a couple of years old so add a few more wrinkles….

  2. Thanks so much, Janice. So much of what you write about children applies equally to adults. My experience is that few people, no matter how caring, no matter how sensitive to others’ feelings and needs just don’t get it. Thank you for your work.

    Bill Skidmore

  3. Sometimes the child with hearing loss is placed in a “special” class with those who have other issues. This is wrong when their only disability is hearing loss. They are labeled a slow learner because child does not hear well and may not grasp instructions immediately if they miss some of the words. Thanks for the misconceptions Janice. I know because I was one of those children back in the late 40’s. Instead my mother gave me her support and I graduated from a university and retired recently afteer working 34 years as a microbiologist laboratory supervisor. I am advocate for speaking and listening for those who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

  4. Thank you Janice. This info should be TATOOTED onto every teacher’s brain. My childhood education was “potential wasted” because none of my teachers understood my limitations in the classroom even though I wore a hearing aid back then in the mid 1950’s. “It is a terrible thing to waste a mind” through teachers’ ignorance! You are one real “Ralphaela Nader!” (smile) Carol Granaldi

    1. You made me laugh. My advocacy comes on the heels of your incredible work. So, thank you.

  5. Thank you, Janice, for your concise article. Having been a hard of hearing student while earning two degrees, I know about the exhaustion of which you speak. Your article should definitely be required reading for all teachers.

  6. Great article Janice! Every parent of a child with hearing loss should print this out and hand it to their child’s teachers at the beginning of each school year. I believe most teachers are very well meaning, but it’s been my experience that they don’t fully understand the needs of children with hearing loss.

    1. I’m with Katy – I’ll be handing your article to my son’s new 4th class teacher in his mainstream school and also to his older brother’s secondary (high school) teachers – it’s easy for them to forget when there’s only one deaf kid in the class….thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work!

  7. I trust that your so informative and helpful article is in the hands of every educator.
    If not,why not?

    Thank you, Janice

  8. Thank you for a wonderful article! My daughter is hearing impaired and I feel so blessed that her school is one of the good ones. They have been open and flexible in every way with regards to making sure she gets a full education. She has a sign interpreter with her at school and uses a wireless FM system. For a winter concert my daughter was in, her interpreter worked with the other teachers to teach all the K-5 students how to sign the chorus to the songs in ASL. It was a beautiful sight that almost brought me to tears. Every day I run into parents around town who tell me how its cool that their kids have learned basic ASL signs because of my daughter. 🙂

  9. I find the information helpful to me. I am a severely hearing impaired older adult.
    Also, I am not a teacher. Your advice is relevant for everyone who has hearing problems. Your description of how the human voice is heard with hearing aids is accurate and has been my experience with them.

    Thank you for your good work.


  10. Bravo and well said!
    I have a very bright 4 year old who is profoundly deaf and has bi-lateral cochlear implants, although she does very well in her speech and listening skills, at the end of the day she is still my beautiful deaf daughter who loves to “talk with her hands”! She tells me she gets tired of listening all day.
    I pray that every teacher that comes in contact with her will read this and seek to truly understand!
    I am printing a copy to hand to all of them, for the next twelve years! Thank you Janice!

  11. I really enjoyed Kellie’s comments on how her daughter “gets tired of hearing all day” I think that is a very important thing for teachers, doctors, audiologists and parents to remember. I have two daughters with severe hearing loss, and yes, the oldest gets tired of having to listen with her BTE’s and FM systems and think hard all day at school and need to have that “veg out” time. My oldest likes to just watch the TV with the sound down and no closed captioning and just enjoy the show for what it is, pictures. It is one of those invaluable coping skills she has learned and that I am hoping that my youngest catches on to.

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