Anyone out there sick of hearing about Covid? I certainly am. I am one of the lucky ones who has had both vaccine shots. It is a great relief. But what is happening to people with hearing loss?
Adult friends who have hearing loss talk about how difficult it is for them to manage in many situations. Masks distort the speech signal and people who wear them (hopefully everyone) do not understand how much trouble it makes for the person with hearing loss. And, of course, they may not recognize that a person has a hearing loss.
I have a mild to moderate hearing loss and I can attest to how difficult it is. I think I am saying “What?” or “please repeat” 4 times more than I did before.
Obviously this is worse for kids. Virtual listening can be very difficult. The sound coming out of the computer is not as clear as it would be in person. In some cases, the teacher is also wearing a mask because other children are in school in person. I have had families contact me to ask for help. For children who read, it is possible use captions. If it is in a child’s IEP the school can provide a captioner. Otherwise there are some direct translators like otter.ai which can be used.
Some families have been able to convince schools to allow the child with hearing loss to be in school full time which works well for some children.
Virtual Learning for Children with Hearing Loss
A study from the North Carolina School for the Deaf reports that their children are having a great deal of difficulty. They report that 69% of their families use English at home and the school uses ASL. So the children are in a situation where they are not able to get help from parents who do not speak the language the school uses.
This problem is even more complex if the home language is not English. The school reports that only 43% of students use amplification (ASHA Leader March 2021). That means that 57% cannot hear parents talking. I have to say that this horrifies me. I know that I am a proponent of children with hearing loss using listening and spoken language.
Children who do not use technology and do not use spoken language will have limited choices as an adult. The immediate problem is that these children are not learning.
Families need to be vigilant during this time. In addition to everything else that is overwhelming families, they need to be absolutely certain that their child is doing well academically. And if they are not, families really need to figure out why–and get help.
The school can and must help. Ask for a new IEP meeting if necessary. Ask the clinic audiologist for help and ask anyone else who you think can help. Just don’t let it ride.
Stay safe everyone.