Keeping Up With Tech to Help Hearing Even with favorable classroom acoustics, children with hearing loss may require extra auditory and visual support. It helps to know what’s available and plan how to use it. School Matters
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School Matters  |   June 01, 2015
Keeping Up With Tech to Help Hearing
Author Notes
  • Anne Oyler, AuD, CCC-A, is associate director of ASHA audiology professional services. aoyler@asha.org
    Anne Oyler, AuD, CCC-A, is associate director of ASHA audiology professional services. aoyler@asha.org×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   June 01, 2015
Keeping Up With Tech to Help Hearing
The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20062015.32
The ASHA Leader, June 2015, Vol. 20, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20062015.32
Students learn better when they have access to clear auditory information, especially those students with hearing loss. The human auditory system is not fully developed until children are 15 years old. Translation: Children experience more difficulty hearing and understanding speech in less-than-optimal listening situations than do adults with normal hearing.
By their very nature, noisy classrooms are “less-than-optimal” listening situations. Reverberation, background noise and distance from the speaker affect acoustics for all students. But loud classrooms cause difficulties for students with any degree of hearing loss, central auditory processing disorders, and fluctuating hearing loss due to ear infections or learning disabilities, and those whose native language is not English.
A +15 signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is considered necessary for children with normal hearing to receive speech in a clear, unfiltered way, meaning that the teacher’s voice should be 15 decibels above classroom background noise. Typical classrooms have can have an SNR of +5 to -7.
Personal devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants alone don’t provide adequate auditory access in less-than-optimal environments. Even with excellent room acoustics and favorable SNRs, children with hearing loss may require technology—in addition to their own devices—to hear clearly. Students with hearing loss also need differing degrees of visual support to participate fully in learning, depending on the fidelity of their hearing and their communication preferences and abilities.

Personal devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants alone don’t provide adequate auditory access in less-than-optimal environments.

Make a plan
Thanks to early hearing detection and intervention, plus advances in hearing aid and implant technology, many children with hearing loss start school with normal speech and language skills. They are ready to learn through auditory teaching strategies. However, these students may still require specialized accommodations for optimal learning.
If students with hearing loss don’t qualify for IEPs, consider 504 plans. The goal of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to education.
Students with hearing loss may also benefit from a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). An MTSS provides different levels of support depending on the needs of the student in the general education setting. Like an IEP, a 504 plan and an MTSS are developed and monitored by education teams. These plans provide access to classroom accommodations, such as FM systems, specialized seating, noise reduction and note-takers. Many students with hearing loss, however, do not have the benefit of formal support services.
An IEP, 504 plan and MTSS offer important opportunities to plan for the needs of students with hearing loss and to monitor efficacy of supports. A good list of accommodations and modifications for students with hearing loss is provided at HandsandVoices.org. Some states maintain their own lists of “approved accommodations,” so check them and advocate for expanding that list.
Keep up with tech
For students with hearing loss, access through technology is key. Auditory- and visual-access technology can include:
  • Personal hearing technology such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored implants and tactile devices (devices that convert sound into tactile sensations).

  • FM/DM (digital modulation) systems used with or without the student’s personal device.

  • Classroom audio distribution systems (soundfield systems that amplify sound through speaker arrays).

  • Speech-to-text software.

  • Classroom captioning—CART, CPrint or TypeWell, for example.

  • Visual alerting devices, such as flashing fire alarms.

  • Connectivity to computers and smart boards.

Today’s students with hearing loss are a widely heterogeneous group with varied access issues, whether they are on IEPs or 504 plans or in general education without a formal plan. However, with today’s technology—coupled with early identification and intervention—students with hearing loss are poised to meet the higher education standards and to graduate on par with their peers with normal hearing.
It’s critical for educational audiologists, speech-language pathologists, teachers of the deaf, classroom teachers, parents and even students themselves to continually seek the most appropriate tools to support this success.
Sources
ASHA’s Classroom Acoustics Portal Page
ASHA’s Classroom Acoustics Portal Page×
Acoustical Society of America - Classroom Acoustics
Acoustical Society of America - Classroom Acoustics×
Hands & Voices - IEP Checklist
Hands & Voices - IEP Checklist×
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J., (2000). Classroom Acoustics for Children with Normal Hearing and With Hearing Impairment, Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 31, 362–370. [Article]
Crandell, C., & Smaldino, J., (2000). Classroom Acoustics for Children with Normal Hearing and With Hearing Impairment, Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 31, 362–370. [Article] ×
DeConde Johnson, C., Cannon, L., Oyler, A., Seaton, J., Smiley, D., & Spangler, C. (2014). Shift Happens: Evolving Practices in School-Based Audiology, Journal of Educational Audiology.
DeConde Johnson, C., Cannon, L., Oyler, A., Seaton, J., Smiley, D., & Spangler, C. (2014). Shift Happens: Evolving Practices in School-Based Audiology, Journal of Educational Audiology.×
Nelson, P., Sacks, J., & Hinckley, J. (2009). Auralizing adult-child differences. Paper presented at Acoustical Society of America.
Nelson, P., Sacks, J., & Hinckley, J. (2009). Auralizing adult-child differences. Paper presented at Acoustical Society of America.×
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June 2015
Volume 20, Issue 6