5 ways to support a colleague with a hearing impairment

A teacher recently diagnosed with a hearing impairment explains what school colleagues can do to make life easier

Kate Jones

How to support a teacher colleague with a hearing impairment

If you have taught students with hearing impairment, it is likely you have received training and guidance as to how you can best support them in your role.

But what about working alongside a teacher that has been diagnosed with hearing loss?

How teachers can help a colleague with a hearing impairment

As someone who has recently been diagnosed with a hearing impairment in my left ear, which resulted in me now wearing a hearing aid, these are some useful ways teachers can support their colleagues with hearing impairment.

Say your colleague's name first and gain their attention

If you are aware of a colleague with a hearing impairment then make sure you have their attention before you start speaking to them – this can also avoid the need to repeat your points. 

Clearly say their name so that they know you are talking to them and when they are focused on the conversation with you, that will make it easier for all involved.

Follow up important information with written communication

It is standard practice to follow up a meeting with recorded minutes being sent out – this can be very helpful for someone with a hearing impairment, so that they can ensure that they didnt miss anything. 

If important information has been communicated verbally in a more informal setting then a brief follow-up email just emphasising and summarising key points can also be supportive and appreciated. 

There is no reason why a hearing impairment should prevent any teachers from seeking further development, progression and promotion. All opportunities should be open to all.

Be aware of the challenges brought on by Covid

Teaching lessons during Covid with students wearing masks and spread out to be socially distant has brought many challenges for all teachers. Teachers with a hearing impairment are facing new difficulties when trying to teach lessons or engage in staff discussions.

As such, when talking to a colleague try to be as close as you can to your colleague, within social distancing guidelines, to reduce the challenge. Leaders at all levels should also be aware and mindful of these issues so that they can offer support where possible.

Don’t share unless you know it’s OK

When you're wearing a hearing aid, it is not as visible or noticeable as wearing glasses – hearing impairment is often described as an invisible disability, not least because hearing aids are often very discrete now.

Whats more, every individual is different in terms of how they share their hearing impairment with others – many may be happy to share, whereas others may wish to keep it private.

As such, be mindful about how you share information if you are aware of a staff member with a hearing impairment.

If you do feel you need to tell someone – for example, if someone you line-manage has a hearing impairment and you think it is important that SLT know this (if they dont already) – then inform the person with hearing difficulties first.

And certainly dont tell their classes – that definitely has to come from the teacher themselves. 

Be kind and patient

Kindness and patience should be qualities that we demonstrate to all those we work with, but it is very important to be mindful of this with colleagues with hearing loss.

People can at times assume that they are being ignored or perhaps they can become frustrated at having to repeat their points – but snapping or shouting at someone who hasnt heard you in the first place can be very distressing for someone who is already struggling to hear as best they can. 

Furthermore, if someone tells you that they have a hearing impairment, it is not helpful to make comments such as I think I have hearing loss, too, but Im just used to it now” or I just deal with it”. This implies that a person is weak for having a hearing aid, and this can be hurtful. 

Hearing loss can occur at different times in people's lives for various reasons. I am in my early thirties and did not expect to be wearing a hearing aid. People asking questions or making comments related to age can be unkind and not pleasant to experience.

Kate Jones is head of history at The British School Al Khubairat, Abu Dhabi, and is author of Love To Teach, Retrieval Practice and Retrieval Practice 2. You can follow Kate on Twitter @KateJones_teach

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