Saturday, March 11, 2017

It's Happening, Part One

This week, a communications specialist from the Oklahoma Education Association came to my school to interview me for the article he is writing on hearing loss in students. About this time last year, my motions to educate educators on promoting and maintaining hearing-friendly classrooms and how to recognize hearing loss in students were unanimously adopted by my state delegation. They were also adopted by my national delegation last summer. Now my advocacy is coming into fruition. A national representative will be interviewing me by telephone next week.

While hearing loss is certainly less than epidemic in children of school age, it can significantly affect learning, communication, and behavior in the classroom. Because it is not easily recognized by teachers, it is often dismissed as lack of interest, poor listening, attention deficit disorders, second language learning, learning disabilities, and "bad attitude." Children with hearing loss are relegated to back rows, time out, detention rooms, behavioral or academic counseling, child study referrals, retention, and learning disabilities resource rooms.

The fact, however, according to the National Institute of Health, is that 1 in 10 school-aged children in our public schools have some form of hearing loss. That translates to a staggering reality -- in a typical classroom of 20 or more, there may be at least 2 children who have difficulty hearing and understanding oral instruction. And due to acquired environmentally-induced hearing loss, those numbers are growing. The ear bud generation is paying for their choices in the form of hearing loss.

We cannot afford to ignore the statistics. Nor can we excuse our ignorance about hearing loss anymore.

"What are some tips you would give teachers for recognizing hearing loss?" he asked.

"These things," I said.
  1. Don't assume that inattention or lack of interest in learning are related to a behavioral disorder. While ADHD, autism, and sensory disorders have consumed the spotlight in education circles, hearing loss is a real and possible cause of behavioral and learning problems. ALWAYS assume hearing loss first and have the child screened.
  2. Don't assume that a child's academic difficulties are because they are learning a second language. Hearing loss isn't selective about spoken language. It affects children who speak English, Spanish, Hmong, Arabic, and pig-Latin. If there is ANY problem in language development or communication, ALWAYS assume hearing loss first and have the child screened.
  3. Don't assume that a child's poor academic progress is related to a learning disability. A child with hearing loss may hear environmental sounds, including speech, but may be incapable of understanding speech due to their hearing loss. If a child is having difficulty achieving academically, ALWAYS assume hearing loss first and have the child screened. 
Above all, educators should remember that hearing loss is invisible. Unlike vision, it cannot be recognized by a student who squints or tells you they can't see the board. Children with hearing loss may not even realize they aren't hearing properly. So it is up to us, as their teachers and parents and caregivers, to be observant, educated, and aware of the signs. And to offer support and help.

Read more about my motions here:

My next post will address hearing friendly classrooms and schools.

Until then, hear well, my friends.

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