Last week I had the honor to give a full day workshop for the Educational Audiologists in Iowa. It was wonderful for a lot of reasons – not the least of which was the fact that there were 54 educational audiologists in Iowa who attended the conference. I am fairly sure there are not 54 educational audiologists in the state of NY, where I live, and NY has significantly more kids in the school system.
Why do we need educational audiologists?
Everyone who works in a school district has a different and an important job but the jobs are not the same. Audiologists do different things than teacher’s of the deaf and hard of hearing who do different things then speech-language pathologists who do different things than special educators. We are all educated differently, in different areas, and with different clinical experience. We cannot expect that we can all do each other’s jobs.
I am licensed and certified as an audiologist, speech-language pathologist and an auditory verbal therapist, but I am not a teacher of the deaf. It would be lunacy to place me in a classroom. I just don’t have those skills. I know a lot of things but not how to teach academic material.
Educational audiologists have special skills
There are a lot of things that educational audiologists do for school districts and for children with hearing loss and other auditory disorders.
Can anyone organize hearing screening? Is there any skill involved? A hearing screening program should be organized and supervised by an audiologist who has the skills to monitor equipment calibration, and screening protocols. Audiologists can manage follow-up of children who fail the screening.
Educate the school community about noise protection:\
Noise induced hearing loss is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Audiologists have the most information and are most likely be able to help students understand the need for hearing protection.
Monitoring hearing assistive devices
Audiologists are the only personnel who can monitor hearing assistive devices. While some teachers of the deaf and some other school personnel have some information about assistive devices, monitoring the equipment, teaching teachers how to use it appropriately, and helping students accept devices are complicated issues and require extensive expertise
Monitoring audiologic information
Someone has to keep track of audiological information for children with hearing loss. Information about degree of hearing loss and performance with technology is critical information. Someone needs to be sure that kids are hearing as well as they need to hear with technology so that they can manage in the classroom. Audiologists are the only people who can evaluate audiological information. In some school districts the evaluations will be carried out by the audiologist. In others, the audiologist will collect information from audiologists in the community.
Assess classroom acoustics and make recommendations for improving classroom listening
Again, audiologists are the only people who have these skills.
Train school staff in troubleshooting equipment
Since the educational audiologist is not likely to be available all day for every child with hearing loss, someone needs to train classroom teachers and other educational personnel about how to monitor equipment on a daily basis.
Provide support to students with hearing loss
Audiologists are in a unique position to provide support to children with hearing loss, to help them deal with issues related to accepting hearing loss, using technology, dealing with bullying etc.
Participate on IEP and 504 committees
Representing the needs of children with hearing loss and other auditory issues.
What will happen if there is no educational audiologist?
When there is no educational audiologist, either other school personnel will need to take over the responsibilities of the educational audiologist or the needs will go unmet. Some school districts will hire a consultant who will come into the school a few times per year. Coming in only a few times a year, it is not possible to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished. Responsibilities will be assigned to others in the school. Teachers will have to check equipment. Who will they contact if there is a problem with the equipment? Who will check to see if it is working? Who will monitor if teachers are using equipment appropriately? I have been in more than one classroom in which the FM microphone was not being used appropriately and in which the classroom teacher did not recognize when the student was not hearing with the equipment. Without an educational audiologist there is no one to monitor.
The role of parents
Parents need to advocate for their children. Parents need to insist that educational audiological services be available in their children’s schools. Only by advocacy can we get school districts to reorganize and provide true educational audiological services.