Tips for Hearing Well in the Classroom

By Yishane Lee

It’s hard to hear well in school. Between the hard surfaces, open spaces such as gyms and cafeterias, shouting teachers, and the children themselves who can be counted on NOT to be quiet, it’s hard for hearing children as well as children with hearing loss to always hear well.

TED Talk speaker Julian Treasure says children sitting in the fourth row of a classroom lose as much of half of what is being said.

“Now that's not just deaf children. That could be any child who's got a cold, glue ear, an ear infection, even hay fever,” he says. “On a given day, one in eight children fall into that group. Then you have children for whom English is a second language, or whatever they're being taught in is a second language,” Treasure says in his TED Talk on why architects need to use their ears.

Fortunately, there are ways you can hear better in the classroom. Here are some tips.

• Sit in the front of the classroom, and make sure the classroom is well lit, particularly the teacher or whoever is doing the talking.

• Don’t sit too close to air conditioners and other appliances or machinery that can make it difficult to hear.

• Use assistive devices. As 7-year-old Samantha Brownlie recounts in the YouTube video about how she hears better in school, “Samantha’s Fun FM and Hearing Aid Book” (which you can now buy), an FM unit can help. The teacher wears a microphone around her neck that transmits wirelessly to Samantha’s hearing device.

• Schedule time with the teachers to review how to use the FM unit. As the parents of Lily, who wears bilateral cochlear implants, note in their blog post about prepping for school, “Make sure there is a management plan in place, especially for the FM unit.... There are so many moving parts.”

• Bring extra batteries and cords.

• Encourage the school to use drapes, carpets, and soundproofing material to help dim noise and reverberation.

• Consider auditory training programs that can help your child hear better in noise. A recent study in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that auditory training boosted speech understanding in school children with hearing loss by 50 percent, even three months after the study. The training involved practicing the comprehension of speech in the presence of “interrupted” white noise—white noise with brief silences. Read about auditory training programs and other tips for hearing better in noise in the Spring 2012 Hearing Health magazine “Hearing Aids 101” column.

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