There is no doubt that children with hearing loss need educational audiology services in schools. There is also no doubt that there are not sufficient educational audiologists out there to meet the needs of the kids. As school budgets get cut, special needs kids have their needs cut.
Some school districts share educational audiology services through cooperative services. Some consult with individual audiologists or clinics in the community. Any of these can work as long as everyone is clear about what the services are that need to be provided and as long as a system is in place to do so. It is not sufficient to have someone come in a couple of times at the beginning of the school year and not be available for the rest of the year. Children with hearing loss will need the help throughout the year.
What do educational audiologists do?
Educational audiologist provide support for children with hearing loss and other auditory disorders such as auditory processing. All of the following are in the scope of practice of educational audiologists
- Monitoring personal technology
- Selecting and monitoring Hearing Assistance Technology including remote technology systems
- Assisting school staff in understanding about hearing loss and the effect on learning
- Assisting school staff in monitoring technology using the Ling 6 sound test and Functional Listening Testing
- Monitoring classroom acoustics and using noise reduction techniques including footies on feet of chairs etc
- Participating in IEP and 504 conferences
- Providing support for children including running support groups for children with HL, building self-advocacy skills, counseling, listening skills development
- Work cooperatively with other team members to maximize success
How does an educational audiologist differ from a clinical audiologist?
Audiologists are all educated in the same programs but they can take different tracks when they leave school. Some choose to work in a clinic setting, some in CI programs, some in schools etc. While they all start off with the same academic training, the clinical practicum experiences they receive may focus them in different directions. Often it narrows down to interest. I knew before I started my undergraduate program that my focus was going to be kids. I had to decide between speech pathology and audiology and what kind of setting I would work in. My first job was as the Audiologist in the Deaf Nursery program that David Luterman started at.
Ideally, there should be an educational audiologist available to every child with HL as needed. What happens when there is no educational audiologist. The teacher of the deaf may be able to fill in some of the responsibilities (such as assisting school staff in understanding the effect of hearing loss) but other responsibilities require an audiologist. The clinical audiologist working with a child will need to take some of the responsibility. S/he will not likely be able to get to the school but Zoom and other digital technology can help.
The important thing to remember is that these things MUST happen so we all have to figure out how to get it done. Parents as well as all of the others working with a child with HL are responsible for making sure it happens. The kids can’t wait.