Written By Deb Hopper, Occupational Therapist
In the classroom, you are likely to find that some of your kids may have a form hearing impairment.  Teaching students with Auditory/Hearing Difficulties can be a challenge if you have no previous experience.
This article will provide you some useful background knowledge and practical strategies to help you.

Teaching Students With Auditory/Hearing Difficulties

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a hearing problem that affects around 5% of school-aged children.
APD causes some sort of interference with the way the brain sends messages to the ears.  The lack of coordination between the brain and ears causes a difficulty in interpreting sounds, especially speech.
If you suspect that one of your class has APD, you will need to refer that child to an audiologist, as only they can make the diagnosis.
Symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Do noisy environments upset the student?
  • Is the student unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Does the student’s behaviour and achievements improve in a quieter environment?
  • Does the student have difficulty following simple or complex instructions?
  • Do they find conversations hard to follow?
  • Are they disorganised and forgetful?

If you pick up any of these symptoms in a student, refer them straight away.  You may also find our article on sensory processing disorders useful to look at.

Teaching Students with Auditory Processing Disorder

Strategies for In-Class Learning:

  1. Repeat or rephrase key information throughout your lesson.  (This not only helps APD students, ALL student benefit from repetition of key points)
  2. Seat the student close to the teacher and away from doors & windows to help them focus
  3. Speak clearly and slowly when teaching and delivering your lessons
  4. Provide a signal to indicate that a key point is being made
  5. Provide an assistive learning device to help the student to hear the teacher’s voice
  6. Use visual tools to support spoken lessons eg whiteboard or computer
  7. Teach through use of gestures and images to help the student to understand the important concepts of your lesson

Strategies for Classwork:

  1. For independent work, provide a quiet area for your APD student
  2. Assign a classmate to share notes with the student
  3. Ignore spelling errors in their work
  4. Give the student opportunities to show their strengths in class
  5. Make sure work instructions are broken down into clear, short, written steps
  6. Allow extra time for any tests or exams

Educating Students with a Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment has recently been in the news, as a 20 minute Short Film called The Silent Child won an Oscar in the 2018 awards.  This film highlights some of the issues around a hearing impaired child, within both the family and starting school.   As educators, it reminds us that we need to put in place a variety of strategies for each hearing impaired student to enable them to learn and thrive.
What’s the difference between APD & a Hearing Impairment?  
Check out this article from Understood to find out more.  The symptoms can be very similar and easily confused, this article will help you to work out which one your student may present with.
Strategies for Teaching students with a Hearing Impairment:
1. Personal Delivery

  • Speech – lipreading is exhausting and for this reason, speech needs to be clear and you will need to provide your student with adequate contextual cues to give them the greatest chance of success
  • Visibility – the student needs to be able to see your face, remember not to cover it with your hand or a pen.  Think about staying in the same place and not moving your head around too much
  • Face – remember to be face to face with the student wherever possible, speak clearly and check comprehension by asking relevant questions
  • Position – bring the student towards the front of the class and allow them to tell you where their ideal seat is
  • Distractions – wear plain clothes and keep shiny jewellery to a minimum
  • Gaining Attention – make sure the student knows that you are starting your lesson and provide them with an agreed signal
  • Equipment – the student may need a hearing aid or other type of assistive device to help them (check with the audiologist).  It may also be necessary for you to wear a device to help amplify your speech or have a sign language interpreter with you

2. Presentation

  • Context – provide contextual cues and be clear when you are changing the subject
  • Structure – follow a structured lesson plan to provide the student with a framework for learning
  • Pace – allow extra time for your hearing impaired student to give them chance to assimilate the information you are providing.  Also build in regular breaks in your lesson, this allows your student to have a rest from lipreading
  • Contributions – to enable your student to be included, always repeat any questions that come from behind them and only allow one person to speak at a time

3. Use of Visual Aids

  • Include into your lessons visual aids to help all of your students, including your hearing impaired student
  • Add things in like flash cards, posters, captioned images and captioned videos
  • Depending on which system of sign language your student may be learning – include captioned signs and symbols from the system to build up their bank of vocabulary

Remember, when you think there may be any type of hearing impairment, to initially refer to an audiologist.  In school, you may also have a specialist teacher you can contact to discuss the student you have concerns for.
It is vitally important to be provided with the correct equipment for each individual hearing impaired student and this can come from the specialist teacher or audiologist.
As professionals, we must also be in regular contact with parents so that all parties involved with the student can agree and contribute to helping the young person learn and progress, both at school and at home.


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