by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A teacher asked,
I’m a high school teacher. I have a severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I wear 2 digital hearing aids. I’m trying to find a way to assist myself in my job. I’ve been researching and not having much luck. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on any technology that could help me?
You betcha! I’m assuming that your biggest problem is hearing your students in the classroom. There are a number of tricks of the trade that can help you.
Depending on the age of your students, you can:
1. Ask them to speak a bit louder, slower and clearer and look at you when they are talking.
2. Go right up to them to hear them, rather than just standing at the front of the room.
3. When you miss something, ask a student near the front (and one whose voice you know you can hear) to repeat the missing information.
I’ve done all three of these as the situation requires it.
However, you asked about technology to help you. One thing I recommend is a super-directional microphone that was designed for a teacher in just your position.
When you want a student to reply, you simply point the microphone at them. That is their cue. Because it is super-directional (+/- 15 degrees), it really cuts down any other sounds in the room. Thus you hear the student talking loud and clear.
Here’s how to use it. You will need hearing aids with good t-coils in them, a PockeTalker (or other personal amplifier), a neckloop or Music Links and the directional microphone.
(If you don’t want to wear hearing aids for whatever reason, you can dispense with the hearing aids, neckloop or Music Links and simply use earbuds instead. I do this quite often myself.)
Plug the microphone into the microphone jack, and the neckloop or Music Links into the earphone jack (the Music Links require a stereo to mono adapter), switch your hearing aids to t-coil mode, adjust the volume on the PockeTalker for the volume you need, point the microphone at the student you want to hear and voila—you hear him or her loud and clear.
To give you an idea of just how well this works, recently I was at a conference and was visiting the exhibit hall. With both my hearing aids on and their mics in the directional mode, I was having a tough time hearing the salesperson in the booth because of the cacophony in the background. I had to speechread and still strained to understand.
When I had enough of that, I took my hearing aids off, got out my PockeTalker, plugged in the directional mic and my favorite pair of earbuds, barely turned the volume on, aimed the mic at the salesperson and WOW–the salesperson’s voice was loud and clear while the background noise dropped dramatically. It was actually a pleasure to talk to people under those conditions, whereas a minute before, it was almost impossible.
I’d certainly give this arrangement a try. You may be thoroughly pleased with the results.
Here are the links to the various pieces of equipment I mentioned above.