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Supporting a child with a Hearing Impairment


What is the definition of a hearing impairment?

What are the signs and symptoms of a possible hearing loss?

What strategies can be put in place to help my child?


What is the definition of a hearing impairment?

Hearing loss varies and may range from a very slight impairment to profound deafness, affecting either one or both ears.

When hearing difficulties are  identified early on, appropriate support can be put in place to limit the impact of the impairment on the child's speech and language development and early education.

There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensori-neural.

A conductive hearing loss occurs when the transmission of sound from the outer to the inner ear is disrupted. This can be caused as a result of damage to the ear or congestion such as the build up of fluid, as in the case of 'glue ear'. Damage to the ear could be permanent or as with 'glue ear', temporary, where an infection causes fluid to build up in the middle ear cavity. Glue ear can cause difficulties for children when learning their letters and sounds as they struggle to hear sounds clearly. If glue ear persists for some time and fails to clear, it is often necessary to see an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) or audiologist whereby in some cases grommets are fitted to help drain off the fluid causing the congestion.

Conductive hearing loss, whereby sounds appear much quieter, can be treated or alleviated with medicine, surgery or hearing aids. However, despite hearing aids being useful in amplifying sounds, it is important to note that background noises are also amplified which means environments need to be adapted to take account of this. As parents and carers, it is necessary to be aware of the need to limit background music and noise as these sounds are all amplified by your child's hearing aids.

The other type of hearing loss, sensori-neural loss is far less common but it often likely to be permanent. With this type of hearing loss, sounds are often distorted and some sounds are not heard. For example a high frequency hearing loss affects the child's ability to hear most of the consonants, so speech is heard as a string of vowel sounds, with word endings indicating plurals and tenses, not being picked up. Far less common is low frequency hearing loss which limits the child's ability to hear vowel sounds. Although hearing aids are highly beneficial in helping a child to hear the missing consonants or vowels depending on their type of hearing loss, the distortion is still there.  Children who have a sensori-neural hearing loss will need more support to acquire speech and their language development and ability to acquire new vocabulary is often delayed.


What strategies can be put in place to help my child?


  • Speak clearly and slowly, but without over exaggerating or over pronouncing words.

  • Reduce background noise as much as is possible.

  • Avoid using single words, but instead try to explain the context.

  • With very young children use visual cards or pictures to aid understanding

  • Incorporate facial expressions into your speech

  • Use Makaton signing to aid communication if your child has little or no language.

  • If your child struggles to understand re-phrases your sentence, rather than jut repeating it

  • Encourage your child to look at you and make eye contact before you start speaking  as all hearing impaired children do lip read to a certain extent.

  • Find out what your child's strengths are and focus on these so your child develops a strong self image and finds it easier to mix and make friends with others.

  • When your child starts school make sure you make the class teacher or your child's key person is aware of their hearing impairment and the support mechanisms you have in place. Provide them with details of your child's speech and language therapist so they can request up-to-date reports on your child's progress and support strategies currently in place.

  • Request that your child is seated near the front of class during lesson times.

  • Play auditory discrimination games such as 'Sound lotto' or perhaps identifying the sounds of musical instruments from inside a bag.

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net




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