A teacher's guide to recognizing hearing loss
Teachers are an important factor in children’s lives. Since kids spend as much time or more with school officials as they do with their mothers and fathers, teachers and coaches essentially become stand-in parents. As such, they’re not only role models and mentors, but guardians as well. Parents rely on you to inform them of any problems concerning their children’s behavior or performance, including potential medical problems like hearing loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate more than 5 million children between the ages of 6-19 suffer permanent damage from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). With regular exposure to loud sounds and general carelessness, noise-induced hearing loss is a real danger to children and teens. Knowing the symptoms of hearing loss can keep teachers vigilant when a student starts underperforming at school, and it’s important a child receives treatment for their hearing loss as soon as it’s noticed. Hearing loss can severely impact a child’s cognitive development and learning ability, not to mention make them confused and angry.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be sudden or gradual. If a child is exposed to a sudden noise, like an explosion, gunshot or foghorn, the noise can rupture the eardrum or rip through the sensory hairs in the inner ear, leaving the child with an immediate difference in his or her hearing ability. But hearing loss can also be gradual, occurring over time with repeated exposure to loud sounds, like music or construction noise. In that case, the difference won’t be immediately apparent. Some symptoms of NIHL include:
- Failure to hear his/her name called
- Constant requests to repeat what was said
- Worsening grades, especially those involving in-class lectures, in which the child cannot read the information being taught
- Loss of interest in class
- Increasingly withdrawn behavior
Any noise above 85 decibels is enough to cause permanent hearing damage. Potential causes for NIHL can include anything from being too close to a set of speakers or a megaphone, not wearing ear protection while on a hunting trip, being in an accident such as a car wreck or listening to music too loud.
Teachers should be aware of children’s environment and the potential hearing damage they could face on a daily basis. If a child starts showing the aforementioned symptoms, digging into the child’s recent activities could reveal the cause of the change.
Talking to the parents
If you think one of your students is suffering from hearing loss, you should notify the child’s parents immediately. While hearing tests are often administered by the school, a lot can happen in between testing. If you suspect hearing loss is present, you shouldn’t wait for the next test to confirm your fears. Parents will be able to schedule an appointment with a hearing health practitioner immediately.
If you discover one or more of your students have hearing loss, make sure to seat them toward the front of the class to ensure they hear as much as possible. Speak clearly and loudly, and be sure to face the students while you’re talking. If you’re speaking with your back to the class, if you’re writing on the chalkboard, for instance, students with hearing loss won’t have the additional aid of lipreading to help them absorb what you’re saying. Always be sure that your students who wear hearing aids have them in for the duration of the class. Failure to use their audiology equipment can hold children back from their full potential.
Students rely on teachers as much as they do their parents to help them grow into intelligent, capable adults. Being on the lookout for hearing loss can help you catch a problem before it truly becomes one.