Hearing impaired classmates: Making your child aware of their reality

September 10, 2015 by Jessica Tremblay

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Nowadays classrooms are filled with students from all walks of life. When your child heads back to school, he or she will meet new classmates and may very well come into contact with a hard-of-hearing student.

The challenges hearing impaired children face

Deafness has no physical signs, so it will likely be “invisible” to your child. Because he might not understand the difficulties facing hard-of-hearing classmates, these students could end up being isolated. To help prevent this, you can explain that despite any hearing difficulties, your child’s friend is just as smart, and there are other ways to communicate to make sure that his or her friend fully understands and becomes integrated in the classroom.

Living with hearing loss

There are several types of hearing loss; it is not simply a matter of “hearing everything” or “not hearing at all.” Based on the type and level of hearing loss, a child may hear well one-on-one but have a hard time in a group (e.g., in the classroom). He or she will most likely use specialized devices, such as hearing aids and FM systems. In an FM system, a receptor receives the sound signal from a transmitter (worn by the teacher or placed in the centre of a table) and sends it to the hearing aids. More simply, you can tell your child that his or her friend needs a special microphone to help his ears hear sounds.

Interacting in class

While hearing aids may greatly improve a child’s hearing, some situations might still be challenging, and this is why he or she will usually sit in the front row. The teacher may repeat instructions directly to the student more often, give him or her a little more time to take exams, and excuse him or her from activities like oral presentations. It is important to explain to your child that this is not because the hearing impaired classmate is not as smart or is the teacher’s pet, but rather because some things have to be adapted to his or her needs.

Tips and tricks for talking with your hard-of-hearing friend

  • Make sure to face your friend when you’re talking.
  • Do not stand in front of a window, because the light will be too bright and your friend won’t see you. Seeing your face and your mouth makes it easier for your friend to understand.
  • If you say your friend’s name and he doesn’t turn around, he is not ignoring you on purpose—he doesn’t hear you! Get his attention by waving your hand or gently touching his arm or shoulder.
  • Do not cover your mouth with your hand. Your friend will understand better if she can read your lips.
  • Do not speak too fast or too slowly, and do not yell.
  • If your friend has a hard time understanding and asks that you repeat, do not get impatient. Say things another way, using different words, instead of simply repeating the same thing.
  • If you don’t know how to act, you can ask what she prefers. Good communication goes both ways!