What is hearing impairment?
There are different types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss
This means any cause or condition which affects the progress of sound into the ear canal or across the middle ear. Conductive problems can often be treated by medicine or by surgery – for example, glue ear, which occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear, can be treated by an operation to insert a grommet.
- Sensori-neural hearing loss
This means defects in the fine structure of the inner ear or sound pathways to the brain. Usually the high-frequency sounds are most affected. This hearing loss is more likely to be permanent.
- Mixed loss
This when the child has both types of hearing loss. It is not enough to know that a child has a hearing loss, you need to know which sounds are affected and by how much.
- Slight loss
A slight loss is outside the normal range (greater than 25dB and less than 40dB). This would mean a child having difficulties in hearing faint or distant speech, difficulties listening in a classroom, difficulties in concentrating, and some delay in speech and language skills.
- Moderate loss
A moderate loss is 40 to 70dB. This means significant difficulties for most children with speech and language and they generally need to use hearing aids.
- Severe loss
A loss measured at between 70 and 95dB means speech may not be understood without hearing aids or lip-reading. Speech and language are severely affected.
- Profound loss
A profound loss (96dB and over) means no speech is heard without hearing aids.
If a child is born deaf, or acquires a hearing loss before learning to talk, then their speech is severely affected. If a child goes deaf after learning to talk, then their ability to talk is not lost; however, their speech may be impaired because of their inability to hear their own speech. The earlier a hearing loss is recognised the sooner its effect can be reduced by treatment or by using hearing aids. Children who have a severe or profound loss do benefit from hearing aids, and some benefit from cochlear implants – electronic devices which by-pass the damaged inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve directly.
What are the learning implications?
- The pupil will find it difficult to know where sound is coming from, and a high level of background noise will make things worse.
- He or she will need to be close to the teacher to lip-read effectively.
- The pupil may not always have understood the task.
- The pupil may find it difficult to communicate with classmates.
- Signs of frustration often accompany hearing impairment because of difficulties in communication.
- Certain aids and technological supporters are needed for the pupil to get maximum access to the curriculum.
How might the TA give support?
A TA can:
- make eye contact and get the full attention of the pupil before speaking
- use lively gestures and facial expressions
- give the pupil time to process information and respond
- give plenty of encouragement
- ensure the pupil is sitting where they can clearly see the teacher
- be clear about how to use any aids
- encourage social communication with classmates
- check understanding.
Where can more information be found?
- The LEA is likely to have specialist teachers and educational psychologists who provide information or advice
- The National Deaf Children's Society, 15 Dufferin Street, London, EC1Y 8UR; www.ndcs.org.uk
- The Royal National Institute for Deaf People, 19-23 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8SL; www.rnid.org.uk
- Hearing Impairment (PDF document)