In the last few months I had questions from three different people asking what I thought about children changing their hearing aids when they get to school – listening with different equipment at home and at school. This can be a critical issue.
Why would we consider having children change technology when they get to school?
It is critical that children hear well in school. Critical for language, literacy and academic learning. In order for children to do well they need to hear well. Ideally, the child’s permanent, or home, technology, should work well and children should be able to wear it at home and at school. Ideally, the child should be wearing the same technology all waking hours. For a child with hearing loss to try and listen to two different signals during the course of the day is courting disaster. Think about how much trouble people with hearing loss have adjusting to changes in technology when they get new technology. How can we expect them to adjust on and off during the day?
But what if the home technology is either not good, or the family cannot afford good technology, or the technology is broken? If the home technology is not working than the school needs to provide technology that will allow the child access to school. Education law requires that the school meet the child’s academic needs and appropriate technology is certainly part of meeting that need.
When should school provide technology?
Schools should provide technology if the home technology is not available or not working. We should assume that a good pediatric audiologist is in the school who can assure that the child is hearing well in school. That would mean that the child gets a technology evaluation and appropriate technology is selected, adjusted and fit. But sometimes a hearing aid will be taken off the shelf and it may not be optimal for the child. That is not meeting the child’s needs.
What does the school need to do about helping the child hear at home?
School is only part of a child’s day. For a child to succeed she needs to hear all day long. That means, the school has some responsibility to help assure that a child is hearing outside of school too. If a child doesn’t have home technology, ideally, the school should allow the child to take home the school technology. I know very few schools which would permit this. But the school has the responsibility to help the family get home technology. The audiologist or school social worker should be working with the family to try and understand what the problem is, to help them understand the critical need for technology full time, and to help them get financial assistance if needed. Families want to help their children. If a child does not have home technology that is working, they need help.
Ideally children should wear the same technology all day long every day. If the family has obtained good technology and it is working, that is what should be used all day long. If the home technology is not working or not available, school needs to provide appropriate technology. If the school is providing the technology, the child should be allowed to take it home some she can hear all day long. If the family cannot afford technology or cannot afford to keep it in good repair, the school has a responsibility for helping them find appropriate funding sources to get the necessary technology. Kids need to listen. Good enough is not good enough.