Hearing aid

4th May 2007 at 01:00
Pupils may struggle with varying degrees of sound loss and its impact on learning. Gill Moore continues our special needs series

Deafness can be very isolating and have devastating effects on children's education. A lot of information for teachers is available during Deaf Awareness Week, which runs from Monday, including about different forms of hearing loss and methods of communication that can help sufferers.

Schools where all pupils are encouraged to learn sign language are good for social inclusion. A child born deaf may learn words singly, and have difficulties learning grammar. When they learn to read, they will not be able to take advantage of syntactic clues. Neither will they be able to build up words phonetically, because they lack the necessary auditory skills. They will have a much more limited vocabulary than the hearing child.

Many more become deaf, either gradually or suddenly, and severity varies.

Some will have acquired grammar and a good vocabulary; those who do not can struggle with reading and may lose interest. Deaf school leavers have an average reading age of between eight and nine, but low reading age should not be equated with low intelligence.

Hearing aids can help with loudness but not with loss of pitch. A hearing aid will also increase the sound of background noises such as turning pages, coughing, or banging doors. Some users find them disorientating.

Partial hearing means that the child hears only certain frequencies, and may have to guess to fill in the gaps. With moderate loss, a pupil fitted with a hearing aid should pick up strong sounds, but it may be of little help to a pupil with severe loss of frequencies.

There are a number of sign languages, of which British Sign Language (BSL) is the most widely taught and preferred. It has its own grammar and syntax, which differs from conventional English. BSL users may use its grammar in their written work. Deaf people tell stories and enjoy jokes, as anyone who has watched a group of hearing impaired people socialising will know.

Lip reading usually only works if the person became deaf after acquiring language, and it is estimated that only 25 to 30 per cent of words are understood by lip readers. It is tiring and pupils cannot read lips and text simultaneously.

Other pupils will have temporary hearing problems caused by glue ear, which can cause them to fall behind at crucial stages of learning. It is vital to diagnose and accommodate such problems as early as possible

STRATEGIES

* Get the pupil's attention before speaking.

* Stand directly in front of them, between one and two metres away.

* Ensure your face is well lit.

* Reduce background noise.

* Keep instructions simple.

* Allow for difficulties with grammar.

* Provide a note-taker or an interpreter.

* Always address pupils directly.

* Give notes in advance and provide scripts for video material.

* Repeat or rephrase as necessary.

* Do not expect lip-readers to concentrate for more than 20 minutes.

* Do not walk about while speaking.

* Use diagrams, pictures and gestures.

* Indicate the speakers during group work.

More help

Deaf Awareness Week May 7 to 13 deafcouncil.org.ukdaw

Technology for deaf people www.bbc.co.ukseeheartechnology

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf rnid.org.uk

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