Educational audiology is a critical subspecialty in the field of audiology. The role of an educational audiologist is different in different settings but basically, the educational audiologist is responsible for managing audiological issues for children in schools. Large school districts may have a full time educational audiologist, others may have one part time, or one as a consultant who comes in as needed, while others contract with a local clinic or BOCES to provide services. Unfortunately, many school districts have no educational audiology services.
What might an Educational Audiologist do?
The job varies depending on the district. If I were in charge of the world every school district would have a full audiology center where all services could be obtained for children in the school district and in the community. Since this scenario is rare, it is obvious that I am not in charge of the world. At the very least, the educational audiologist should be available to monitor audiological evaluations for children with auditory issues, communicate concerns to the clinical audiologist from outside the district. She should help school staff understand the effects of hearing loss on academics and assist them in managing hearing loss in the classroom. Responsibilities will include managing classroom acoustics to eliminate background noise, teaching staff how to use FM’s appropriately, working on classroom accommodations for hearing loss including making sure only one person speaks at a time, extended test time etc.
What happens when there is no educational audiologist?
As finances become tight many districts are eliminating the position of educational audiologist and the responsibilities are assigned to others. The job of monitoring FM and teaching others to use it may fall on the teacher of the deaf who has academic training but is not a technology expert. Sometimes it falls on the speech pathologist who has no specific training in hearing loss or the school nurse who has even less training on hearing loss. If the clinical audiologist is interested he or she can take some of this responsibility and include educational recommendations in her report to the school and possible make a school visit to observe how the child is managing in the classroom. But the school is not obliged to follow recommendations of someone outside the school.
When I make school visits
I love visiting schools. I learn a lot every time I go. I am also frequently distressed by the problems kids are having which, I believe, would not be happening if there were an educational audiologist in the school. I see teachers who do not repeat comments of other kids into the FM mic so the child with hearing loss misses classroom discussion. I see classrooms where the hush-ups are missing from chair legs so the room is noisy. There is no one to explain to the staff the effect of hearing loss on academics and on literacy.
How does this affect our kids?
Kids with hearing loss need an advocate in the schools. And that advocate needs to be someone who really has information about hearing, it’s affect on learning and literacy, and can make recommendations about what needs to be modified. The audiologist from the clinic can come into the school and make suggestions but that person is not a part of the school team and does not have any rights as part of the IEP team that determines what a child will receive. Maybe the schools staff will accept the recommendations, maybe not. It is not a good situation. Every child with hearing loss or other auditory issues such as auditory processing disorder, needs an educational audiologist who is in the school, and part of the school team, and who can both educate the staff on an ongoing basis and provide services to children. Everyone with an interest in hearing loss in children should advocate for educational audiologists in all schools. In the meantime, parents and clinicians needing assistance for school issues might check out Karen Anderson’s website.