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May is Better Speech and Hearing Month

May 23, 2016

Over the course of the last 3 years working as an itinerant Deaf Educator for ESU 10, I find myself serving far more students with mild to moderate hearing loss compared to my former job working in a center based program. Since I now cover a comparatively larger area of school districts, I have had the privilege to meet and serve students with a far wider range of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. Since May is Better Speech & Hearing month, here are a few things to consider about the impact a mild to moderate hearing loss can have on a student.

When a student’s hearing loss falls in the 16-25 dB range, their initial day-to-day conversational behaviors may seem quite typical to those around them…and they seem (as a lot of people will assume) “just fine.” However, the impact of a hearing loss that is approximately 20 dB can be compared to the ability to hear when index fingers are placed in your ears. A student with this loss will have difficulty hearing faint or distant speech under even the best classroom listening conditions. Even at 16 dB…a student can miss up to 10% of the teacher’s speech signal when the teacher is at a distance greater than 3 feet! A 20 dB or greater hearing loss in the better ear can result in absent, inconsistent or distorted parts of speech, especially word endings (“s,” “ed”) and other un-emphasized high frequency speech sounds. In addition to the impact of the hearing loss…consider the associated background noises found in any typical classroom that will further interfere with a student’s ability to hear.

When a student with mild to moderate hearing loss misses out on subtle conversational cues, they are often viewed by others as immature, confused, defiant, or socially awkward. By missing out on the rapid give and take of fast–paced peer interactions, students with mild to moderate hearing loss become fatigued due to the extra effort needed for understanding speech. In time, this struggle takes a toll on the student’s social development and overall self-concept.

Since May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, this is a good time to be reminded of the negative impact hearing loss(even a mild to moderate hearing loss) can have on children and students birth to 21.

by Brad Czaplewski, Deaf Educator/H.I. Consultant