Contributed by Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing
Gearing up for another school year? Now’s the time to help your child with hearing loss successfully transition to a new classroom or school. Like with so many things, a little preparation goes a long way.
Before school starts
There are also a few things you can discuss with school staff to make sure your child gets the most out of the classroom learning environment:
- To give them adequate time to gather necessary equipment or train staff members, let your child’s teacher and other school staff know of your child’s specific hearing needs.
- Consider meeting with the teacher to show how your child’s hearing aids work.
- Ask about any hearing assistive technology, such as FM systems, the school offers (see “assistive technology,” below).
In addition to the usual school supplies, you may want to include these items in your child’s backpack on the first day of school:
- Extra batteries for sound processors or hearing aids. If your child is older and can handle basic maintenance, you might also want to include an earwax removal tool and cleaning brush.
- Adhesive to keep sound processors or hearing aids in place. During active times like P.E. and recess, equipment is more likely to fall out and get damaged. Some parents use fabric tape, toupee tape or body glue. But your child’s device may come with body clips, or you can get a mic lock, which is a small plastic tube that attaches to the ear hook and bottom of the sound processor to form a loop. Also, a cord clip ensures that if the processor falls off, it will stay attached to your child instead of falling onto the ground.
- A notebook for notes to and from the teacher or classroom aid.
- Hard, labeled case for all hearing supplies.
- Cheat sheet or notecard for child’s teacher with basic information about the hearing aid or C.I. processor.
Getting used to new hearing aids
If your child is relatively new to hearing aids, it will be vital to help her understand how important the hearing aid is for school. It’s a good idea to ask your student’s teachers to help monitor whether or not your child is wearing the hearing aid at school, as well.
If your child is struggling or reluctant to wear them, it’s understandable: Wearing a pediatric hearing aid all day is a major adjustment, especially for a child or teenager who has to deal with staring and questioning from other kids in school. As a result, your child might resist wearing the hearing aid, at least at first. Teachers should be aware of the transition period, and know that not only is your child adjusting to the feel and sound of the hearing aid, but to the reactions from classmates as well. Your child’s hearing care provider, such as an audiologist, may have some great tips for getting over this adjustment period.
Schools required to help in many cases
Parents aren’t the only ones with a responsibility to make sure certain children with hearing loss have an equal opportunity to learn; schools have responsibilities as well. For example, if your child has a 504 plan or IEP in place, during the school day it is the school’s responsibility to make sure that the hearing aids or C.I. sound processors are functioning properly. Schools are responsible for seeing the teachers are properly trained to assist students when necessary.
To help your child, teachers should be able to check the functioning of hearing aids or sound processors during the school day. There are several kinds of testing equipment available, so check with your hearing healthcare professional or cochlear implant manufacturer to see which one is best for your needs. A testing stethoscope, for example, can be used to see whether the device is receiving and transmitting sound by allowing teachers to hear the sounds that the device is producing. Teachers should also know how to change batteries in hearing aids or sound processors, if your child is too young to do so himself.
Teachers should know how to change batteries in hearing aids or sound processors, if your child is too young to do so herself.
Assistive listening devices
In addition, hearing assistive technology must be provided at no charge to the family if the student has a 504 or IEP plan. Examples of hearing assistive technology include:
- Sound field system: Helps cut through the background noise by amplifying the teacher’s voice through a microphone and broadcasting it through a speaker in the classroom.
- FM system: Like a sound field system, but instead of broadcasting sound through a speaker, it broadcasts sound directly into the student’s sound processor or hearing aid.
- Loop system: The teacher speaks into a microphone and the signal is fed to a loop that encircles the listening area. Useful for those with hearing aids that have integrated telecoils, these systems are inexpensive and easy to install.
- CART system: Short for Communication Access Realtime Translation, CART is like closed captioning for the classroom. A specially trained CART operator uses a transcription machine to record all spoken text. The text is then displayed on a monitor or screen. It is more expensive due to the need to pay an operator, so CART is generally only used at colleges or universities.
It’s important your child continue to live a normal life with hearing aids. Encourage them to continue any sports or extracurricular activities they enjoy, including intensive activities like swimming and soccer.
Keep the necessary sporting equipment for their hearing aid, such as a sport loop, splash guard and drying container. Educate your child’s coaches on his or her hearing impairment and request they help your child care for the hearing aid, if necessary.
What about teasing?
Your child will probably be sensitive to his hearing loss, and conscientious of how noticeable a hearing aid is to those around him. She might feel like everyone is staring at her, and whether that’s true or not, she should be able to feel comfortable with her new hearing aid. Ask the teachers to be on the lookout for teasing and bullying from other students, and to keep you in the loop if any problems arise.
If an issue does occur, try to set up a meeting with the bullying student’s parents. Chances are they’re not aware of their child’s behavior and they might even have someone in their family who also suffers from hearing loss. Letting a child know that a loved one has the same condition could make him or her realize the harm their behavior causes.
School can be a scary place for any child, what with the expectations of teachers and the pressure to fit in with classmates. Hearing loss adds another layer of complexity, so your child needs you and schoolteachers to help ease the transition as much as possible.
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