7 Insightful Tips for Teaching Kids with Hearing Loss

Students with disabilities can face a variety of academic and social hurdles. This can make school a difficult experience, even for children who love to learn. It's critical that teachers comply with federal laws as well as 504 plans and individualized education plans (IEPs) for legal reasons. It's also considerate of instructors to mold their teaching strategies to ensure that all class members can work to their full potential.

Hearing impairments in kids and teens is more common than many teachers realize. Some children are born with hearing loss; others experience it later in life. The degree of hearing loss can vary dramatically from person to person. Some people are unable to hear at all while others have partial hearing loss in one or both ears. Hearing impairment severity can also vary from ear to ear. Background noise and several other variables can also affect hearing.

Although hearing impairment itself doesn't affect a person's intelligence or his or her ability to learn, it can complicate the communication necessary (both inside and outside the classroom) to effectively convey information. The following suggestions may help assist teachers who have a student with hearing loss in their class.

1. Give the student preferential seating with a direct view of your face and mouth.

Some students prefer to sit in the front of the classroom rather than the back. Research has even found that those who prefer front-row seating often score higher on exams, reports The Collegian. This is most likely because students in the front of the room become more engaged with instructors, which subsequently encourages better note taking and overall class participation.

If a child with hearing loss is a member of your class, be sure to assign him or her a desk that is front and center. This will provide a clear, direct view of your face and mouth while you are standing in front of your students. Even if the student is not yet a master lip reader, your facial expressions are important for hearing impaired students.

2. Speak clearly, but do not yell.

A student with hearing loss is not necessarily completely deaf. In fact, many deaf people have some type of residual hearing and can hear some sounds. Yelling or screaming is unnecessary and considered somewhat offensive. Speaking too loudly will do little if anything to help the situation; you'll likely also annoy your other students in the process.

3. Always use Hearing Assistive Technology (HATS) if your student has it.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, HATS technologies can help maximize a child's hearing and learning abilities. Hearing Assistive Technology may include cochlear implants, hearing aids, frequency-modulated (FM) systems, and sound-field systems in which a teacher speaks into a microphone and his or her voice is projected through speakers in the classroom. Frequency-modulated systems are one of the most common HATS for children. If a member of your class is using an FM system, be sure he or she wears the amplification device and make sure you are wearing your microphone. This will allow your voice to be heard at an appropriate level and more clearly than ongoing background noise.

4. Don't speak while writing on the board.

Speaking with your back to the class as you write on the board can muffle your voice for all of your students, making it difficult for them to hear what you're saying—particularly students with hearing impairments. It also makes it impossible to see your facial expressions. Make a point to always face the class while you are talking.

5. Use many pictures and graphics while teaching.

Students with hearing loss are, by necessity, more visually-based learners. The use of posters and charts, photographs, PowerPoint presentations, and other graphic items can help teachers get their point across better.

6. Clearly define requirements, due dates, and other pertinent information verbally and in writing.

If possible, distribute handouts that list assignment objectives or project requirements and due dates that reinforce information mentioned during class.

7. If your student has an interpreter, give him or her a copy of the lesson in advance.

Some hearing impaired students have interpreters with them at school. If possible, provide the interpreter with a copy of your lesson plan before class. Remember: there is no need for you to talk to the interpreter; he or she is a professional who will relay your spoken words to the student.

Most teachers enter the profession to help mold the lives of young people. Implementing the suggestions listed above and discovering others can help ensure that kids with hearing loss benefit just as much as every other student in the classroom. Above all, remember to be flexible!