by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A new teacher with a profound hearing loss wrote:
I am a hearing impaired student teacher. I have a profound hearing loss with a speech recognition of 12 percent. I was wondering if you could assist me with some strategies for teaching normal hearing students in a Middle School environment. I would need procedural and instructional strategies that work. Can you assist me with this, as I do not know of any hearing impaired educators locally.
Since your discrimination is so poor, my first suggestion is to consider getting cochlear implants.
As for coping strategies there are many. In truth, many of the coping strategies you used as a student are the same ones you need to use as a teacher. After all, hearing loss is hearing loss.
For example, continue to use your speechreading skills that I’m sure you have used all your life. If you want to improve your speechreading skills, may I suggest the Seeing and Hearing Speech CD program. You can get it at https://www.hearinglosshelp.com/products/seeinghearingspeech.htm.
I assume that you know many of the tricks to help you hear better such as get close, have the light on the speaker’s face, cut out background noise, etc. My short book, “Talking with Hard of Hearing People, Here’s How to Do It Right!” gives a lot of help in this respect..
Do you use any assistive devices? I think you’ll find the super-directional microphone plugged into a PockeTalker, will help you hear your student’s better. In actual fact, this microphone was originally designed for a hard of hearing teacher. I find it most useful. To use the PockeTalker with your hearing aids, plug in a neckloop instead of ear buds.
Another great microphone is the Voice Tracker that was designed to pick up students voices anywhere in the classroom. You could couple it to a PockeTalker, or an FM transmitter and wear the FM receiver such as the Comfort Contego FM system. That way you are free to move around the room and still hear well.
To learn more, read the article I wrote called “Hearing in the Classroom: An Assistive Device for Hard of Hearing Teachers“, and another article along the same line called “Hearing in the Classroom or in Other Noisy Places“.
If you have trouble hearing your student’s replies, then I’d tend more to written answers, rather than verbal ones.
If you can’t hear a student there are a number of strategies you can employ, such as:
1. Arrange your classroom so the soft-spoken students all sit near the front of the room so they are closer to you. That way you can hear them better.
2. Walk down the aisle so you are closer to the student you are trying to hear. That way you can hear him/her better and speechread better too. Combined with the Super-directional mic/PockeTalker combination, this can really work well.
3. Have a student who you can hear well sit at the front of the room and “interpret” what someone said that you just can’tget. At times I do this when speaking to groups. I ask someone that I know I can hear/understand to repeat what someone just said. Don’t do this too much as you are imposing on the goodwill of the person doing the “interpreting”. It is better to learn to cope on your own, rather than “using” other people as much as possible.
4. Pass a wireless FM microphone around and anyone who wants to speak, talks into the microphone. You wear the FM receiver and pipe their voices directly into your ears via a neckloop and the t-coils in your hearing aids.
5. Have a student you can’t hear/understand come up and write key words on the blackboard.
6. Teach your students how to fingerspell so they can fingerspell any key words you miss.
7. Give out a sheet at the beginning of each year that explains your hearing loss and what you need the students to do. One hard of hearing teacher did just that. You can read this sheet in my article, “Coping Strategies for Hard of Hearing Teachers“.
So there are 7 things you can do to help yourself successfully live with your hearing loss in the classroom. They may “prime the pump” and now you’ll think of other things you can also do in addition to using all the assistive devices mentioned above.