Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012

Misconceptions about Childhood Hearing Loss

Picture of Janice Schacter Lintz Chair of the Hearing Access Program

12,000 babies are born each year with hearing loss; making childhood hearing loss the number one birth defect in the United States. Hearing loss is also on the rise among children and adolescents, including a noticeable increase in noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). As Janice Schacter Lintz Chair of the Hearing Access Program explained in a recent interview on Hearing Health Matters, children with hearing loss are often overlooked or mistreated due to misconceptions about their abilities.

Eleven Misconceptions Teachers Should Know about Children with Hearing Loss
By Janice Schacter Lintz
Reposted with permission from Hearing Health Matters.

  • People with hearing loss are older adults.
  • According to NIDCD and the Better Hearing Institute, of the 36 million people in the United States with some degree of hearing loss, only 30% are 65 or older.

  • A child who responds to sound does not have a hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is a spectrum. The child may hear certain sounds but not all sounds. Any child who has delayed speech, responds to sounds inconsistently, is inattentive, displays behavioral changes, or responds incorrectly to simple basic questions should have his or her hearing tested.

  • Having a late-diagnosed hearing loss is the same as being born with a hearing loss.
  • There is a significant difference between hearing loss that occurs after versus prior to the development of language. Children whose hearing loss occurred before they developing language can develop coping skills such as lip reading, but they do not have the benefit of hearing normally while learning to speak. The sound of their voice may be different, their language missing nuance, and learning vocabulary may not come naturally to them.

  • Hearing aids and cochlear implants restore hearing to normal.
  • A person does not obtain “normal” hearing by wearing a hearing aid or cochlear implant (CI). They can slightly enhance clarity by raising the volume in certain frequencies. The benefits of cochlear implants vary widely, from providing almost normal hearing to giving wearers access only to environmental sounds. Communication ability depends on such factors as the individual’s hearing history, the length and onset of deafness, and age of implantation.

  • With hearing aids or CIs, children can usually hear everything that is said in class, and if they can’t hear something they will advise the teacher.
  • Students with hearing loss may sometimes respond correctly, yet still be missing important information, especially in science and math, where information cannot always be gleaned from sentence context. It is tiring for children with hearing loss to listen intently for long periods, so they should not be chastised for "zoning out." Children are unlikely to raise their hand voluntarily if they think they didn’t hear something, and they may miss critical information. Teachers and students need to face the child with hearing loss when speaking. Directions should be repeated and written down. Speech should be at a normal pace, since speaking very slowly distorts speech.

  • Increasing the sound volume on a hearing aid will enable a child with hearing loss to understand what is said.
  • Increasing the volume is only part of the solution, since doing this can distort the sound quality. Yelling and over-articulating distort the natural rhythm of speech and make lip reading more difficult. To obtain sufficient clarity, people with residual hearing may require sound to be transmitted from the microphone directly to their ear via an assistive listening system. A child with a more severe hearing loss may need real-time captioning (CART) or a note taker. A student with hearing loss should be placed in a classroom with the least amount of background noise. Carpeting and other soft materials such as tennis balls on chair legs help to absorb echoes.

  • Children who wear hearing aids or a CI for their hearing loss do not need an FM unit.
  • Even with the best hearing aid or CI technology, additional support is often needed. When a child uses an FM unit, it brings the voice of a speaker directly into the child’s ear. The child can only hear the person with the microphone and speakers who are very close to the microphone, so FM-system microphones need to be passed to anyone who speaks. Note: It can be difficult for a child with hearing loss to follow what other children are reading aloud, since he or she is reading the text and cannot watch the other children’s lips at the same time.

  • A child who can understand what’s said in small group settings won’t have a problem watching a movie or video without captions.
  • If the film or video has captioning, the child does not need it hooked up to his or her FM system. All videos and films should be ordered with captioning. This will also benefit children with auditory processing and other learning disabilities.

  • People with hearing loss have intellectual limitations and are bound to be unsuccessful.
  • People with hearing loss have the same range of intelligence as the general population. People with untreated or inadequately treated hearing loss or in noisy locations may respond inappropriately because they have not heard what was said. They do not require slower classes just because they have a hearing loss. Often the expectations for a child with hearing loss are too low. Children with hearing loss succeed, and may not require special education, when teachers and others provide appropriate and effective accommodations. Teachers should be supportive, and schools need to be sensitive to any stereotypes by students or teachers. Name-calling is bullying and should be handled accordingly.

  • Children with a hearing loss are born to parents who have a hearing loss and use American Sign Language (ASL).
  • About 2 to 3 out of every 1000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing. Of these, 90% are born to parents who can hear. Hearing loss spans a broad spectrum from mild impairment to complete deafness, and not all people with hearing loss communicate the same way.

  • People with hearing loss cannot learn other languages.
  • People with hearing loss are capable of speaking or signing in multiple languages. A person with a hearing loss should never be discouraged from learning another language.

    People Hearing Better would like to extend a sincere than you to Janice Schacter Lintz for sharing this valuable information for teachers and parents.

    Janice Schacter Lintz is the Chair of the Hearing Access Program, which she started in 2002 because of her frustration with the artificial barriers placed on children with hearing loss. She is the mom of Arielle Schacter, an 18-year-old with a severe to profound hearing loss who is about to enter her freshman year at Brown University.
    (Prepared and copyright protected by The Hearing Access Program, 8/1/12 Janice Schacter 917-975-5642, Jschacter@nyc.rr.com)

    If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

    Articles may have been edited for content or length.

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