6 things you can do to help a deaf child in your class.

Why is hearing so crucial to children’s development and their education?

It’s all about language and the ability to think.

If a child has good vision and is brought up in a signing environment at home and in school, it is true that she can learn language to a high level and think abstractly with signs as words in the head. However, not many deaf children have that opportunity.

The children we work with may also have physical difficulties making it difficult or impossible to sign, and have severe learning needs compounding their problems in acquiring language.

Makaton is not a language. It is a simple vocabulary and does not have the complexity necessary for abstract thought.

Why then are hearing aids relegated down the hierarchy of needs.

We focus on the need for physiotherapy but don’t check that hearing aids are working properly or are sometimes forgotten and left in the box. All the 1:1 interaction possible during the physio session, or being changed in the bathroom and all your carefully prepared lessons are lost or diminished.

It should be the parent’s responsibility to check the aids are working in the morning , but batteries can run down during the day and most of our children will not be able to tell you that, so a quick afternoon check is also necessary.

Also, not all, infact most children are not from perfect homes so you cannot assume that the check has been done.

So many opportunities are lost to develop language because children aren not able to use the residual hearing they have. So much teaching and learning is lost. What a terrible waste.

So what can you do?

Ask your visiting hearing support teacher for a listening stick and ask them how to use it or ask the parent to get one for you from the clinic when they go for hearing assessments

Connect the hearing aid to the listening stick, turn it on and listen to the hearing aid. It should sound clear though maybe a bit robotic.

Has the battery run down? Change the battery. Parents should give you a couple of packs of batteries. They or your hearing support teacher can show you how to change them.

Does it sound crackly or intermittent. The hearing aid is faulty and needs repair. Do not put a faulty aid on the child. Ring home and ask them to send it for repair and request a replacement.

Earmoulds. Children grow fast. Babies need new earmoulds every 6-8 weeks. Older children every 3-6 months. When they don’t fit snugly the hearing aid will feedback and whistle. Ring home, the parent should make an appointment for new impressions to be made. It can take a few weeks to receive new earmoulds

The earmould and tubing must be clear. If it is blocked with wax the sound wont go through properly. Pull the earmould from the aid and wash with hot soapy water. Sometimes you need to poke out the debris. Sweat can also make droplets inside the tubing which should be cleared with a puffer. Older children should be taught to look after their own hearing aids as much as possible. A part of their independence should include a designated person to support them to clean and dry their own earmoulds.

So don’t just hope the aids are working – check them.

Ask for a little kit with a listening stick, pack of batteries, and a puffer.

Two working hearing aids will give the deaf child good opportunities to hear speech more clearly, to enjoy music more, to interact with peers and adults and to get so much more from the lessons you prepare.

It does not have to be the teacher that does the checks. 15 minutes training by the parent or hearing support teacher is all that is needed for you and a designated adult to give this crucial support to the deaf child in your class.

Naomi Rosenberg 15 June 2016

Next blog: Why is the deaf child rejecting the hearing aids and what can I do to help.

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