by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
There are many coping strategies that teachers can use in the classroom to make communicating with students easier and less frustrating. However, teachers need to be up-front and proactive about their hearing losses if this is to happen.
Following is what James, a hard of hearing teacher, gives to his students at the start of every school year. It contains a wealth of wisdom (and it is not just for teachers only—but for all hard of hearing people and those that communicate with them).
Working with a Hard of Hearing Teacher
This is probably the first time you have had a teacher with a hearing loss. Understandably, being hard of hearing can be a difficult handicap for a teacher and his/her students to cope with. With this in mind, I have put together the following guidelines which I hope will make the year go smoothly for both you and me. Please read these carefully and discuss them with your parents. Then, keep this in your binder as a reference.
1. My particular hearing loss makes it difficult for me to hear consonant sounds. Often I can tell that a student is speaking, but I cannot make out all the words that he/she is saying. Words that have similar vowel sounds or that rhyme will sound alike to me.
2. To help me understand you, you must remember to do the following: Speak a bit more slowly than you normally do. Pronounce each word clearly. Speak more loudly than you normally do, but please do not shout. Shouting causes you to speak less clearly and will not help. Do not speak out of turn. Extra background noise will make it impossible for me to hear the speaker. Raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged before speaking. If I have not called on you directly, I may not be aware that you are trying to participate. Do not assume that I have heard you unless I have directly acknowledged you. This is especially true at the start of class before everyone has settled down.
3. Please be patient with me. Most people become frustrated when talking with someone who is hard of hearing and give up. If what you have to say is important, then it is important enough to repeat so that I will hear it correctly.
4. Laugh with me, but not at me. Often it is comical when I misunderstand what someone is trying to say, and it is important for all of us to keep a sense of humor. But, many times the misunderstanding is very frustrating and confusing. Be aware of the difference between the two situations and do not make fun of me when it is obvious that I am struggling to understand something.
I hope these basic guidelines will help us all this year. The school has provided me to with technology to help in the classroom. With their help and yours, the effects of my hearing loss can be minimized. I thank you for taking the time to read this and discuss it with your parents. Please sign below to indicate that you understand all that is written. If you or your parents have any questions or concerns, feel free to talk to me about it.
Excellent advice James! I hope other hard of hearing teachers, presenters and trainers will do something similar.